Women’s studies celebrates 25 years at BYU

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This chart shows a brief timeline of important events and people in the history of BYU Women’s Studies. The timeline was created by Connie Lamb, who serves as the Women’s Studies librarian. (Women’s Studies)

Herstory is just as important as history for BYU students and professors celebrating 25 years of the women’s studies minor. The minor was established in 1991 to focus on women’s lives around the world and throughout history. The program has come a long way since then.

Women’s studies minor Kristin Perkins said the program creates a better sense of the world and helps students broaden their perspectives on life.

“It allows us to recognize systems of injustice in the world and encourages us to take active steps in minimizing that injustice,” Perkins said. “The women’s studies minor can help anyone with any major expand their worldview.”

Gianluca Cuestas
Jessica Judd is the Women’s Studies Honor Society president. She transferred to BYU in 2014, specifically for the women’s studies program. (Gianluca Cuestas)

The official minor has only been around for 25 years, but research about women has been important at BYU for a long time. The Women’s Research Institute was established in 1978 to provide resources on women’s issues. While there was some disappointment when the institute was shut down in 2009, BYU said the change increased the amount of funding available for women’s issues research and spread the workload across several departments, creating a broader perspective and a wider variety of resources.

Associate professor of Spanish literature and women’s studies coordinator Valerie Hegstrom said the program has grown considerably in the past five years. This includes celebrating Women’s History Month every March with multiple events, establishing an honor society, publishing a student journal and creating the Susa Young Gates award.

Hegstrom said the minor helps students become more sensitive to issues regarding inequality, race and gender.

“That sensitivity helps students make more informed choices about their own lives and families, and in their careers and communities,” Hegstrom said. “Students with this background are more likely to work to change and improve the world in which we live.”

This year’s annual fall conference focused on the 25th anniversary and featured former directors of the Women’s Research Institute, women’s studies alumnae and Marie Cornwall, who founded the minor.

Health science assistant professor and women’s studies executive committee member Brianna Magnusson said she believes it is important to be educated about the differences between men and women. Since women account for half of the world’s population, she said the issues affecting them are things all people should be aware of.

“In general I believe that understanding another person’s experience helps us to be kinder, more generous and more Christlike,” Magnusson said.

Perkins said she has enjoyed learning through the program so far and looks forward to what it still has to offer.

“I love knowing that there were strong, motivated, amazing women that came before me and were interested in helping young women like me succeed,” Perkins said.

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