Gerard Albert/Contributing Writer
Chances are, you may have never met a student in the Women’s and Gender Studies program at FIU; there are only 182 active students as of the last query. They come from different backgrounds, races and sexual orientations, but what unites them all is their passion, according to the program’s director.
Created in 1982, the Women’s and Gender studies program was formed to promote scholarly inquiry related to women and gender, and has transformed into something much more, according to Yesim Darici, the program’s director.
“The program gives students the awareness and knowledge necessary to take action towards social justice,” said Darici.
The interdisciplinary program offers classes from other majors like psychology and sociology, and is usually a student’s second major or minor, according to Darici. Kaylin Diaz, a freshman, is pairing the degree with psychology and a pre-law certificate, and aspires to practice law dealing with gender discrimination. Diaz said the classes she has taken have not only improved her writing and analytical skills, but has also given her the knowledge to make a difference in the world.
The degree does not need to be supplemented by another major, but is “easily managed” because of the nature of the interdisciplinary requirements, according to Dairici. It also gives students a step up when searching for jobs. Major companies have a need for diversity in the workplace, and there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to LGBT and other minority issues, according to Darici, which is why students in the program will have an advantage over other applicants.
“If two psychology majors apply for a job and one of them has a certificate from us, which is so easy to get, he or she is already miles ahead of the other one,” said Darici.
Jacqui Foskey, a sophomore majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies, is minoring in psychology. Many of the classes overlap, making the degree easier to obtain for students in more popular majors like psychology. Foskey plans to work with at-risk LGBT youth and said the classes she has taken have helped her gain a more in-depth look into society.
“You need to be aware about what is going on in the world, not be oblivious to it,” Foskey said.
Equality is one of the foundations of the program and is something that isn’t represented in the University’s faculty demographics when compared to the undergraduate population, according to Darici. However, it’s something she hopes to fix.
FIU’s current student population is 54.4 percent female, which compared to the rest of the nation is normal. However, 75 percent of full-time professors at FIU are male—a statistic that Darici is trying to change with a grant from the National Science Foundation. Along with Provost Kenneth Furton, she is attempting to increase the number of women and minority faculty members at FIU.
Common themes were present in conversations with students and faculty in the program; awareness, diversity, equality and activism were among them. The latter is something that junior Alyssa Pepio focuses on.
In a course titled “Sex Trafficking: Building Solutions,” Pepio learned hands-on skills and started her own non-profit called H.E.A.R.T.. Her organization provides training and resources to educate healthcare professionals and educators on the signs and prevention of human trafficking. The classes she have taken, she said, have allowed her to see the world through a lens that isn’t her own, and recommends that people from outside the program take some of the courses.
“You want everyone to have equality, and this major helps you identify those gaps in society where our country is failing people,” Pepio said.
The Women’s and Gender studies program can be taken fully online or in person and offers classes open to all students such as “Understanding and Preventing Campus Sexual Assault” and “Sex Trafficking: Building Solutions.” They are also hosting a “Zero Discrimination Day” on March 1, 2018 in Graham Center room 355.
Feature Image retrieved from Flickr.