Program History

In the fall of 1982, a group of 60 faculty from across the disciplines, administrators, and librarians from Wake Forest University decided it was time to share their interest in feminist pedagogy, scholarship, and community advocacy for women and minorities. Calling themselves the Women’s Studies Committee, they held monthly meetings in Scales Fine Arts Center and wrote a proposal for an interdisciplinary minor, a proposal that was approved by the Curriculum Committee in the spring of 1983. They designed their interdisciplinary curriculum around a new core course, Humanities 121: Introduction to Women’s Studies, and new and existing courses across the disciplines.

A few years later they decided to apply for a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities so they could establish a series of summer faculty workshops for integrating gender research and pedagogy into the undergraduate curriculum. They were denied because they had no office, no phone, and, as suggested by NEH, no program. Undaunted, this group of faculty and staff got themselves a phone, an office, a part-time assistant, and began to search for a program coordinator.

Mary DeShazer, Professor of English and Women’s Studies, was hired as the first Women’s Studies Coordinator in 1987; Linda Nielsen, Professor of Education, joined the faculty, teaching in the program and establishing internships for students in 1991. Susan Borwick, Professor of Music and one of the founding members of the program, served as director from the fall of 1996 through the fall of 2000; she was followed by Cheryl Leggon, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Interim Director, Dean Linda McKinnish Bridges. Anne Boyle, Professor of English, began her term January 1, 2003 and completed it at the end of June 2005. The name was changed to Women’s and Gender Studies Program in April 2003 to reflect not only its continuing commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching in the field of women’s studies, but also its growing interest in masculinity and gender studies.The current director, Prof. Wanda Balzano, who had been hired in the Fall of 2004 as a Visiting Scholar, and who came from University College Dublin, Ireland, was hired in July 2005. Beginning in Fall 2006, the program has a new revolving core faculty, comprised of six faculty members, with a portion of their time dedicated to Women’s and Gender Studies for a period of three years.

Visiting Scholars

Fall 2008 – Present

Dr. Patricia Willis, B.A. East Carolina University, M.A. Florida State University; M.A. State University of New York, Albany; Ph.D. State University of New York at Albany
Research Areas: Women’s Human Rights using U.N. conventions & Local and Global Social Movement

Spring 2008

Dr. Penny Weiss, Ph.D.: University of Notre Dame, M.A.: University of Notre Dame, B.A.: University of South Florida.
Research Areas: Political Theory, Judicial Politics, Women’s Studies, and Special interest in feminist theory and women and the law

Spring 2007

Dr. Patricia Willis, B.A. East Carolina University, M.A. Florida State University; M.A. State University of New York, Albany; Ph.D. State University of New York at Albany
Research Areas: Women’s Human Rights using U.N. conventions & Local and Global Social Movement

Spring 2006

Dr. Rose Stremlau, B.A University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign; M.A. UNC Chapel Hill; Ph.D. UNC Chapel Hill
Research Areas: Ethnohistory of Native American Women; Gender in Native North America; Sexual Violence in American History

Fall 2004

Dr. Wanda Balzano, Laurea (Naples, Italy); M.A. (Dublin, Ireland); Ph.D. (Dublin, Ireland)
Research Areas:Feminist Critical Theory; Gender and Religion in Irish Literature and Film; Representations of Women in Comparative Literature