Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Amy Levin
Amy Levin


Amy Levin leading national discussion
on the discipline of women’s studies

October 22, 2007

by Tom Parisi

NIU’s Amy Levin will lead a National Women’s Studies Association audio conference for the purpose of discussing her new report on the discipline of women’s studies at universities across the country.

Students, faculty and staff are invited to participate in the audio conference at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in Room 305 of the Holmes Student Center.

Levin is director of the NIU Women’s Studies Program and former chair of the NWSA strategic planning committee. She performed the assessment – the first of its kind since the mid-1990s – at the request of the organization’s executive director.

The report, titled “Questions for a New Century: Women’s Studies and Integrated Learning,” is available online.

“I examined what students are learning in women’s studies courses and programs and identified common elements of programs throughout the country,” Levin says.

“The report also poses new questions for women’s studies practitioners to consider in the next decade,” she adds. “For instance, what’s the relationship between women’s studies and learning in science, technology and mathematics? And how can women’s studies be involved in promoting digital literacy among women?”

Levin says her research turned up several surprises.

“The general belief has been that programs such as women’s studies are expensive for universities to run because they’re small,” Levin says. “In fact, I found that because women’s studies programs now offer large general education courses that serve the entire university, often their credit-hour costs are very low.”

Levin also found that women’s studies courses and programs already are accomplishing many of the goals that large national associations are recommending, such as connected and real-world learning.

She suggests in the report that students should play a larger role in assessments of women’s studies programs to teach them critical assessment and evaluation skills required in the workplace. “When I teach feminist research methods, I have students design the course evaluation themselves,” Levin says. “That in itself is a research method.”

Major contributors to the field of women’s studies will be among the participants in this week’s audio conference. They include:

  • Caryn McTighe Musil, vice president in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Global Initiatives for the American Association of Colleges and Universities.
  • Beverly Guy-Sheftall, founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center and Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College
  • Kristine Blair, chair of the Department of English at Bowling Green State University and co-editor of the book, “Feminist Cyberscapes: Mapping Gendered Academic Spaces.”