Dr. Phil Wagner of USFSM and Dr. Emily Fairchild of New College, are teaming up to help create an introductory gender studies course.

USF Sarasota-Manatee, New College team up for gender studies program

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 06, 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (Feb. 06, 2017) In a sign of collaboration among local colleges, two professors from USF Sarasota-Manatee and New College of Florida have teamed up to lead a faculty seminar aimed at creating a college-level introductory course in gender studies. The two applied for a grant in December and last month received $10,000 from the Mellon Initiative to support their effort.

Dr. Phillip Wagner, an instructor of communication studies at USFSM, and Dr. Emily Fairchild, director of gender studies at New College, say the seminar will help faculty collaborate to build a cutting-edge curriculum to bring back to their respective colleges.

Comprised of six sessions running three hours each, the seminar will cover potential content areas, study materials and other instruction-related matters. Additional input will come from conversations with local non-profits and arts organizations. The first session, a meet and greet with selected faculty, is set for Tuesday, Feb. 7, at New College with follow-up sessions every few weeks or monthly at different colleges in Southwest Florida.

Dr. Wagner said the timing is right for such a class, noting that while many colleges lack freshman- and sophomore-level courses devoted to gender studies, recent political changes have pushed gender issues squarely into the spotlight.

“There’s amazing scholarship coming out of the field right now,” he said. “We want to put that scholarship into action and showcase the powerful potential of the field.”

He and Dr. Fairchild want the classes to adapt easily to each college and involve the arts, particularly the dramatic arts, as a device to communicate gender theory to students. Overall, they’re aiming to create a community-engaged, arts-based class.

“I think this really fits with who we are here on the ‘Creative Coast,’” Dr. Wagner said.

USFSM does not offer a separate gender studies program. However, the proposed course fits within the campus’ Pillars of Intellectual Engagement curriculum, an interdisciplinary program that includes classes that explore gender issues.

Pillars of Intellectual Engagement exposes students to ideas beyond the content of their degree programs. This aids students’ critical thinking and leadership skills, commitment to diversity and broadens their understanding of how to apply their degrees to community concerns.

“These courses are always filled to the max with students wanting to learn more,” Dr. Wagner said. “This a great way to meet that demand without adding any extra requirements to students’ degree sequence.”

The Mellon Initiative grant will go toward teaching and study materials. The funding was derived from a $750,000 grant last fall from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a five-year New College initiative entitled, “Connecting the Arts and Humanities on Florida’s Creative Coast.

This latest collaboration comes as USFSM, New College, the Ringling College of Art and Design, FSU/The Ringling, Eckerd College and State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, are seeking areas of cooperation.

They’ve formed a higher education collaborative in recent years called the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast, C4. Through this effort, the institutions are partnering in areas such as cross registration, faculty research and grant writing.

Dr. Jane Rose, dean of USFSM’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, said the gender studies course is important because of how “our new understanding of gender” has significantly impacted our culture.

“New knowledge related to gender is reshaping what we thought we understood about the human experience – biologically, socially, psychologically and politically,” she said.

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