NIU center focuses on study of women, gender, sexuality

Kristen Myers
Kristen Myers

The Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality (CSWGS) might be the new kid on the block, but it arrived at NIU with a rich Huskie history.

“Before this, we were just a program, which didn’t have the same institutional clout or recognition as other diversity centers,” said Kristen Myers, Presidential Teaching Professor of sociology and the center’s director. “This put us on par with other centers.”

Since March 2015, the CSWGS has provided students with interdisciplinary academic programs that focus on the contributions and status of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people; understandings of love and sexuality in relationships; the dynamics of sex roles and gender ideals, past and present; and the impact of race, ethnicity, age, social class, sexual orientation, ability and other factors on women’s experiences and the experiences of LGBTQ people.

“We realized we needed to stay as current as possible, and really ensure that LGBT studies were protected and also that women’s studies stayed on the cutting edge,” the director said. “So we proposed to create the center and expand our focus a little to allow us to be as critical as possible about all genders.”

The center was founded despite limited available resources, said Myers, who is extremely proud of that fact.

“We worked really hard on this,” Myers said. “We have about 40 faculty associates, people who are invested in the program. Our budget is really small but we make it work, largely because people are committed and passionate. A lot of work people do is labor of love.”

Female NIU students in MLK Memorial CommonsBy all accounts, the center has been worth the wait.

“It raises our national profile and our research profile too,” Myers said. “We are not just here to offer courses, but we are also here to make an impact on the field that you would expect at a research university.”

The CSWGS provided members of the NIU community with tools to help them develop both personally and professionally. For students preparing for careers in business, communications, the arts, education, health, humanities, social sciences and human services, the center’s emphasis on social justice, global awareness and an appreciation for human diversity are increasingly valuable.

Outside the classroom, the CSWGS supports a variety of educational and outreach programs and activities, including performances, visiting speakers, talks by current students and alums, film screenings and other events. Additionally, internships are available to those who qualify.

“The center is necessary for student development,” Myers said. “Without the center, students might find their way, but having an academic home is really important. We have a diverse group of students of all majors. They are Huskies – and they believe in their institution – and they want to make things better for everyone. That is really nice to see.”

The Center for the Study of Women, Gender & Sexuality is located in Reavis Hall 103. For more information, call (815) 753-1038 or email wgs@niu.edu.

by Jane Donahue

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