Students and faculty started the Women's Studies Program in the 1970s in response to the absence of the study of women's lives and experiences in traditional curricula. In this respect, the students and faculty were echoing discontent with university curricula nationwide as Women's Studies Programs emerged on campuses. Women on this campus met, conducted a survey of needs for women on campus, and generated a list of concerns that they took to the President. A priority on the list was the need for a history course focusing on women in U.S. history.
Professor Betty Joe Wallace offered the first Women's Studies course, "Women in American History," in 1978. The program was first housed in the History Department, and coordinated by Professor Wallace. In this time frame, six courses were listed for the Women's Studies Minor, of which four were offered on a regular basis.
In 1993, Dr. Susan Calovini became the coordinator of the Women's Studies Program. Under Dr. Calovini's leadership the program increased in number of courses within the curriculum, number of classes offered per semester, number of students being served, and responsibilities of the coordinator. In Fall 1994 when the first introductory course was offered, eleven students were enrolled. Beginning in Fall 2008, the introductory course is a choice in the social science requirement as part of the general education requirements. Two sections of the introductory course (one in the classroom and one online) are now offered each semester. The capstone seminar course is offered every other year in Fall Semester.
Dr. Jill Eichhorn began directing the program in Spring Semester of 1999. The Women and Gender Studies Program is a special program in the College of Arts and Letters.