Since its inception at UNK in 1989, the Women’s Studies Program has made an important interdisciplinary contribution to the University's academic curriculum. In 1987, Kearney State College President Nester called for an ad-hoc committee to consider women's issues on campus and asked Dr. Kate Benzel (English) to chair this committee. The committee subsequently recommended the creation of a Women's Studies Program to meet the needs of students, a majority of which were women in fields that typically employed women, such as education and the social sciences.
After 18 months of discussion, the committee created a proposal for a Minor in Women's Studies that involved all aspects of campus--academics, students’ services, and extracurricular groups. This interdisciplinary program was initiated by the Women’s Studies Advisory Council which included faculty members from each college including Dr. Kate Benzel and Dr. Liz Peck (English) from the College of Fine Arts and Humanities (FAH) and Dr. Ann Young (History) from the College of Natural and Social Sciences (NSS). The Dean of FAH, Dr. Betty Becker-Theye and the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr. Gene Koepke, were helpful in promoting the program which was housed in FAH until it moved to the Vice Chancellor’s office in 1994. Kate Benzel was appointed the first Director of Women’s Studies in 1989 and she remained in that position until Liz Peck took over the directorship in 1992. In 1994 Dr. Kay Hodge (Business) served as Director until 1997. From 1997 to 2000, the Women’s Studies Program was directed by Dr. Carol Lilly (History). Support for the program was increased tremendously by Dr. Mike Schuyler (History), the Dean of NSS and Dr. Jim Roark (Chemistry), the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs (VCAA).
In 2000, Diane KholosWysocki (Sociology) became the program's director. Support from the new Dean of NSS, Frank Harrold (Anthropology) and the VCAA continued. In 2003, Women's Studies received additional support from Dr. Finnie Murray (Biology) Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Life (SVAASL), and Dr. Glen Powell (Education) Faculty Assistant to the SVCAASL. In the Fall 2005, Diane Wysocki and Carol Lilly co-directed the program for one year. Trudy de Goede (Library) served as interim director for 2006-2007 and Dr. Linda Van Ingen (History) assumed the directorship in 2007. While the program continues to receive wide support from the College Deans throughout the campus, it is now administratively housed under Dr. Murray and the Faculty Assistant to the SVCAASL, Dr. Deborah Bridges (Economics).
The Women's Studies Program continues to grow with the support from students and faculty across the disciplines. Students graduating with a Women's Studies Minor have majors in such fields as History, English, Criminal Justice, Political Science, Sociology, Social Work, Art, Family Studies, Communications and Business. Over twenty affiliated faculty from fifteen departments teach courses for Women's Studies credit. The Women's Studies Advisory Council, which helped launch the program in 1989, works regularly with the director to meet the needs of our women’s studies students. Council members for 2007-2008 include Dr. Patricia Cruzeiro (Educational Administration), Dr. Darleen Mitchell (Music), Dr. Deborah Murray (Business/Management), Dr. Janice E Fornczak (Theater), Trudy de Goede (Library), Dr. Beth Wiersma (Criminal Justice), Dr. Diane Wysocki (Sociology), Dr. Nyla Khan (English), Dr. Marlene Kuskie (Education/Counseling), Dr. Tami Moore (Family Studies), Amy German (Academic Advising), and two student members Rachael Broadwell and Sarah Elger.
Dr. Carol Lilly (History), Dr. Liz Peck (English), and Dr. Kate Benzel (English) celebrate the Women’s Studies Program’s 10th Anniversary in 1999.