By Alexandra Salerno
Despite St. Bonaventure’s overall admissions declining (fall 2013 total enrollment was 2,259 down from the previous year’s 2,336), its small women’s studies major has seen a growth in declared students since 2011, when there was only one minor and zero majors. The program currently holds one first major, one second major and seven minors.
Alva Cellini, director of women’s studies, stressed trying to make the program more known to students.
“We are doing a lot of work to try to be visible,” said Cellini. “We are working to be on the first page, more or less.”
For Cellini, being visible means an array of planned events throughout the year. This semester alone included an annual women’s studies information session luncheon, a Women Building Communities panel discussion on women’s issues and a presentation about women’s mental health issues and SBU Theater play “The Walls” by social worker Tammie DeYoe.
The Women Building Communities panel discussion held on Nov. 14 included Heather Shultz, director and career counselor of Every Opportunity Women’s Center Inc., Tommi Shaw, store manager at Kohl’s Department Store, Vanesssa Castano, family law at Legal Assistance of Western New York and adjunct professor and Sonya McCall, director of clinical services at Council on Addiction Recovery Services and adjunct professor of sociology.
The panelists each shared experiences about being a woman in the workplace and answered questions posed by students and other audience members. Cellini hopes events such as the panel discussion will attract Bonaventure students who may not know about the women’s studies program.
“It sometimes seems like we recruit the strong programs that we already have, but nowadays you are worth twice as much for a job when you have double majors and minors,” said Cellini. “With cross-listing courses you will be ahead of the game.”
The women’s studies curriculum includes mostly cross-listed courses taught by faculty spanning various departments. The program has four non-cross-listed courses which include the introduction and capstone class.
“(For) some of the classes where we have women’s studies, now we have students who are actually taking that class with the prefix of women’s studies instead of the cross listed course. We do have the numbers.”
In addition to faculty members, Cellini says the department counts on current students to help publicize the program.
“My students help out with the publicity of the program,” Cellini said. “They participate in the programs and help me with the PR.”
One of those students helped secure a panelist for the event by inviting management from Kohl’s to talk about being a woman climbing the retail ladder.
“As a program and university, we reach out to the community,” Cellini said. “We involve members of the community to reach out and participate and to be panelists.”
Despite having one of the smallest department budgets, the program receives support from other departments as well as university officials and sponsors like the Damietta Center, according to Cellini.
Next semester, the department will host ‘Ain’t I a Woman!,’ a theater production that will present vignettes about the lives of Sojourner Truth, Zora Neale Hurston, Clementine Hunter and Fanny Lou Hamer. A question and answer period with the performers will also be available after the program to take place in Feb.
St. Bonaventure has offered women’s studies since 1993 evolving from an on-campus gender equality committee. During 2004, the state of New York granted the program its accreditation and accepted its first declared major three years later. Competing University of Pittsburgh at Bradford offers women’s studies as well, although only offering minor degrees. Canisius College’s program also only offers a minor and certificate.