The theme of this spring’s National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Chairs and Directors meeting was “Gender Studies Under Fire.” At this conference, leaders in the field described and analyzed targeted attempts to delegitimize gender, sexuality, and women’s studies (some highly publicized over the past year). Equally troubling, these colleagues delineated institutional systems, decisions, and actions that intentionally or unintentionally constitute a pattern of undervaluation of women’s studies, often manifesting as minimal allocation of faculty lines, student support, and staff resources to women’s studies units across institutions.
The sessions also included strategies for counteracting these patterns, mainly that the context of devaluation compels unit leaders, faculty, staff, and students to persistently (re)show institutions, administrators, and others that women’s studies is a robust and vital field and warrants institutional investment. For example, in many institutions, women’s studies fosters rigorous inter- and multidisciplinary scholarship, is at the forefront of experiential learning, is a key contributor to high quality general education courses, and importantly, attracts and supports students and faculty from underrepresented backgrounds (across ability status, gender, race, sexuality, immigration and first generation status). Nevertheless, the NWSA presenters noted that the uphill climb of making the case for investment in women’s studies is all too familiar and requires our collective persistence.
Resonant with this theme, when I asked our two former center directors who retired this year, Dr. Angel Kwolek-Folland and Dr. Judy Page, to share their reflections for this newsletter issue, they both offered inspiring accounts of the project of women’s studies as an act of persistence, resistance, and claiming power in the face of ever-present obstacles. I read these thoughtful reflections and considered the discussions at NWSA and was reminded of the recent feminist mantra, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
This newsletter issue, like prior issues, is filled with evidence that gender, sexualities, and women’s studies is persisting and thriving at UF. This issue highlights the accomplishments of our students and faculty who are garnering national awards and honors and disseminating their scholarship to national and international audiences. It showcases our students and graduates engaging in meaningful scholarship and work that advance social justice. It highlights the engagement of affiliates and friends in lectures and programs from over fifty events focusing on gender, race, sexuality, and social justice that the center supported this year. Most importantly, it shows our collective persistence in pursuing transformative scholarship, learning, and action.