Next fall, the reigns of the women and gender studies program will be handed over to the history department.
The transition comes after Miglena Sternadori, program coordinator and associate professor in the media & journalism department, accepted a job at Texas Tech University. She is training Sara Lampert, an assistant professor in the history department, how to run the program.
“I know a lot of the people (in the history department), and I think it’s a good place, so I’m excited,” Sternadori said.
In her six years as the women and gender studies program coordinator at the University of South Dakota, Sternadori hoped the program would eventually expand from a minor to a major, but that did not happen.
“I’ve learned a lot since 2009, so it’s been good for me, as well as I hope for the program,” Sternadori said.
Lampert said she approached colleagues when she realized the position would be open and sold them on a vision she had for the program.
“We thought it was a great opportunity for the department,” Lampert said.
She will be teaching the core course of the minor — WMST 247 — in the spring of 2016, where she will introduce issues, critical strategies and methods related to the minor.
The program coordinator is responsible for working with students and colleagues to establish events pertaining to the minor, such as guest speakers and films.
Sternadori said she is happy and proud to look back on the change in the biennial women and gender conference, as it has gone from merely a local gathering to a somewhat national one.
“It’s still a small conference — I think it’s just the research standards are a little higher, and we have more people presenting a lot of different topics and so forth,” she said.
Lampert will help with the conference, held April 9-10 this year. It is among opportunities the program offers to students to interact with others interested in the same issues as a way for their voices to be heard.
“It seems to me there’s an opportunity to strengthen what we have but think about other directions that we can take, (to) take the minor in relation to where the field is going,” Lampert said.
One area to explore in particular, she said, would be sexuality studies. Bringing the study of sexuality more into the program would be a way for people to understand how to interact among diversity.
She said the fact that the minor is interdisciplinary is a positive aspect for academics at USD.
“We’re drawing on a lot of different disciplines and courses in communication and media studies, in psychology, in criminal justice, art history, sociology, that deal with questions about the construction of gender, the intersection between gender and other forms of power and identity,” she said.
Lampert would like to get a conversation going among students and faculty regarding questions in a classroom community and then expanding to community engagement.
“If we’re going to think about the direction of the minor, it seems to me that we should all be participating in a conversation about what we as a sort of community of scholars, of students, want to learn about and talk about,” she said.
Senior Katelyn Troastle, majoring in sociology, took the women and gender studies foundation class last year with Sternadori after transferring to USD.
“She’s one of those professors who’s just so passionate about the classes that she teaches — it kind of reminds you why you want to (minor) in things like that,” Troastle said.
Since then she has taken more classes and is on the road to earning a minor from the program. Sternadori is sponsoring Troastle in her IdeaFest project and has been mentoring Troastle’s research.
“I just casually mentioned (IdeaFest), and she got super excited about even the possibility of it…,” Troastle said. “She was just super supportive and really excited about it, and it’s great to have that kind of enthusiasm from your sponsor.”
Both Troastle and senior Britta True, who is majoring in kinesiology and sports science and minoring in women and gender studies, said they wish there were more class offerings included in the program — something Lampert is hoping to grow.
True said has always been interested in feminism, and taking the first class of the women and gender studies program affirmed her passion.
“Miglena just totally opened my eyes to the world of feminism,” True said. “I got really inspired, and then I declared a (minor) that sophomore year because I enjoyed the class so much.”
With only 10 students minoring in women and gender studies, True said the small class atmosphere allowed for more self expression.
True hopes to take what she has learned from the program and use that knowledge to open a gym where sexism does not exist, and women could be free to act without judgement.
She said Sternadori and her passion will be missed within the program.
“She’s always like a beacon in the department, I thought of her, so I’m sad to see her go, but she’s gonna do bigger and better things,” True said.
Sternadori is confident in Lampert’s abilities to take over the program and keep expanding it.
“She’s a very passionate person who deeply cares about this, and this is what it takes,” she said. “Also, Sara has a lot of support, I think, from the history department.”
(Photo: Sara Lampert, an assistant professor in the history department, discusses the ins-and-outs of the women and gender studies program with Miglena Sternadori, associate professor in the media & journalism department Feb. 13 at Cafe Brule. Lampert will be the new program coordinator starting this fall. Trent Opstedahl / The Volante)