As I reflect on my time at UNH, I can’t help but think that I have had a well-rounded education that included a plethora of courses in a variety of disciplines complemented by my involvement with The New Hampshire and proud membership of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. This is due in large part to UNH’s Discovery Program.
But the program is missing what I believe is a necessary element of truly achieving a higher level of education: requiring the completion of a course in the women’s studies department that addresses gender and/or race. I can’t help but feel that without having taken a course in that department, my education was somewhat incomplete.
I strongly believe that requiring students to take a course in this department would better prepare us students to be more knowledgeable, understanding and socially aware when we graduate from UNH and prepare to take on jobs, pursue higher education, or serve in the military. Discussing the otherwise invisible impacts of gender and/or race dynamics in the classroom setting creates an area for students, regardless of gender and race identification, where they can edify one another by sharing experiences.
Information found on the women’s studies department’s website indicates that courses in the program explore gender dynamics, privilege, race and more.
While I thoroughly enjoyed taking the classes that satisfied my requirements for the various discovery requirements over the last eight semesters, having taken a course in the women’s studies department would have further enhanced my education tremendously by allowing me to explore ideas that are generally glossed over in other courses.
That isn’t an indictment of any instructors or courses. The point of a given class in any department is to master the material covered, which is exactly why requiring the completion of a women’s studies course that explores the aforementioned topics in the previous paragraph specifically would ensure every student is exposed to these values.
I have been fortunate enough to have been taught several classes by lecturer Meg Heckman, whose classes not only expected my peers and me to demonstrate a level of competence in writing and reporting the news, but also treated the classroom as though it were a professional setting. A major part of success in a professional setting, as Heckman so often pointed out, is communicating effectively and making everyone feel as though they have an equally empowered voice.
I’m enrolled in an English class with Dr. Reginald Wilburn this semester, where he creates an environment similar to Heckman’s. Dr. Wilburn reminds my peers and me on a daily basis to speak with power and authority. It’s all a part of Wilburn’s Soulful Pedagogy.
Both instructors utilize their class time to stress the importance of having at least a mild understanding of gender dynamics in the professional settings many of us will find ourselves in after graduation.
But it shouldn’t be up to educators like them. Leaving a women’s studies course out of the discovery requirements robs other students who may not have the opportunity to take a class with Heckman, Wilburn or other professors using a feminist pedagogy of that kind of powerful experience in the classroom.
The benefits to taking this type of class would be tangible after graduation and would help ensure that our graduates are prepared to be leaders in society. I implore all students to enroll in a women’s studies course before graduation. You will reap some serious benefits.