In the Spring of 1972, the first Women’s Studies class was taught on Ball State University’s campus. By 1980, the Women’s Studies minor was introduced to the University, with enrollment beginning in 1981. The Women’s Studies major launched in 2004 and was renamed “Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS)” in 2009. The program currently supports 30 majors and more than 100 minors on campus. It connects its graduates to networking events, educational resources about the feminist landscape, and jobs.
“The Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Ball State has given me the tools to think, research, and communicate my ideas to the larger public sphere,” Olivia DeSalvo, ’19, said. “I have been exposed to a variety of feminist scholars, theories, and literature that have revealed many different feminist research paths for myself. I owe the Women’s and Gender Studies program so much for giving me the confidence in myself to succeed in higher education. I always felt validated and that I belonged in each WGS classroom.”
DeSalvo is a WGS alumnus who spends a lot of her time devoted to further the program’s mission. She has been a volunteer with Planned Parenthood since January 2017. And in October 2019, she traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to present at the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender on an autoethnography she wrote about ending relationships and how it can empower women.
“My current research interests involve reproductive justice and the impact of social movements,” DeSalvo said. “Specifically, the main focus of my research is understanding the intervention of women’s policy agencies, on behalf of women’s movements, in opening up the political process to women. I have connected with intelligent women throughout Europe that have contributed valuable research and wisdom to the field, and I am eager to begin the process as well.”
Many alumni stay involved with the program by donating to various funds. Most notable is the Andrea Scamihorn Memorial Award. Andrea was the first student to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from Ball State and was the recipient of the 2005 Women’s Studies Outstanding Student Activism Award. The award is not an endowed fund—therefore, it is dependent on ongoing contributions to further its mission.
Opportunities like these are unable to happen without support from alumni. The Women’s Week Speaker Fund and the Women’s and Gender Studies Speaker Fund allow the program to continue to provide the Ball State community with feminist programming all year. The Women and Gender Studies Program will be hosting their Women’s Week virtually this year on March 22–26 due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and to better engage alumni throughout the week.
Ball State alumni and friends can give to the Women’s and Gender Studies Program on One Ball State Day, this year on April 6, 2021, or year-round to any of their established funds. To further support the WGS Program and its activities, visit their fund page. For more information about the WGS community, visit their webpage.