The Program in Women’s and Studies at Texas A&M University (TAMU) was founded by four members of the faculty in the College of Liberal Arts. Dr. Sara Alpern, Dr. Harriette Andreadis, Dr. Elizabeth Maret, and Dr. Charlene Muehlenhard sought to incorporate their scholarship on women’s lives, challenges, and contributions in Texas A&M classrooms by creating cross-listed courses that worked across disciplinary lines from Women’s Studies through History, Literature, Sociology, and Psychology. The first of these courses, Women’s History, was offered by Dr. Sara Alpern in 1979. Throughout the 1980s course offerings expanded and cohered into a minor. As faculty across the university began to affiliate with the program, Women’s and Gender Studies created visible precedents for acknowledging and rewarding serious, interdisciplinary research and pedagogy across the university. Women’s and Gender Studies also supported retention of women students and faculty and leadership development. While our efforts were sometimes controversial, we usually found ample support in the college and among deans and associate deans. In these founding years, the curriculum and scholarship were thoroughly international, interdisciplinary, and intersectional.
The Women’s and Gender Studies Program remains consistent with its founding principles and commitments to women’s experience while developing vibrant research on gender and sexuality as transnational, transgendered, and transdisciplinary within an inclusive unit committed to supporting student and faculty research, offering an extensive curriculum at all levels, and working closely with centers across campus to bring research, services, and education to the Texas A&M community as broadly conceived and inclusive intellectual and social practices.
As a program, the faculty and students serve the college’s mission of providing critical intellectual practices at the undergraduate level and fostering the creation of knowledge in individual and collaborative graduate and faculty efforts. The program serves the university at a particularly critical moment in its history by bringing a long history of multidisciplinary research, curricula, pedagogy, and education infrastructure to an institution that is only recently, and under new leadership, recognizing the urgent need to work across disciplinary borders to address the problems and opportunities of twenty-first century community, culture, and society. Additionally, in a moment of incendiary dispute across cultural, social, and political difference, Women’s and Gender Studies remains a thoroughly informed, established, intellectual base working at the cutting edge of cultural and social research to address difference within community; our resources, both educational and institutional, are critical to the well-being of the university as it strives to build a climate welcoming to the kinds of perspectives from which contemporary life must be understood and built.