The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has approved The University of Texas at El Paso’s request to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in women's and gender studies, effective July 31. It is the 71st bachelor’s degree offered by UTEP.
“UTEP's Women's Studies Program has experienced enormous growth over the past six years,” said Director of Women’s Studies Brenda A. Risch, Ph.D. She said the program has added 21 new courses to the curriculum and developed 11 courses that can be offered online.
“All of this growth in the curriculum has increased the number of students we are serving, from an average of about 35 students per semester to over 600 students per semester,” she said. “This increase represents a 1,900 percent growth in enrollment.”
The new major is designed to develop students’ expertise in two major pathways: the theory and subject specifics necessary to prepare for a variety of graduate degrees; and the pragmatic social justice training to work in careers with nonprofits, NGO's and government services. The program has already attracted wide interest – the first two students to declare intent to sign up for the new major are both male.
Recently, the Women’s and Gender Studies program has added courses in epidemiology, women's health, and mental health issues, which attract students from outside of the College of Liberal Arts as well as those interested in the social and behavioral sciences.
The program strongly encourages curriculum components that allow students to put their theoretical knowledge to work in the community. Other coursework trains and supports students in community-based paid internships with partners throughout the El Paso region, including the Boys and Girls Club of El Paso, Center Against Family Violence, El Paso County Sherriff's Department Crime Victims Response Unit, Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, and many more.
“The outcomes for students have been literally transformative,” Risch said. “Students have reported that their internship experience has provided them with concrete confirmation of their chosen career path, and helped them clarify specific career goals, such as focusing on women's economic empowerment, or providing services as a social worker to families and children in crisis.”
To date, women's studies minors have gone on to careers as varied as nonprofit management, social work, medicine, politics, filmmaking, education and entrepreneurship. The program graduates about 17 minors each semester with an average of 80 Women's Studies minors attending UTEP each academic year.