Research And Education On Women And Gender to Be Focus of New Institute At UB

Release Date: January 8, 1998 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has established an Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender that has a mandate to expand and coordinate intra- and interdisciplinary scholarship, research and teaching related to women and gender issues.

The institute is co-directed by Isabel Marcus and Margaret Acara, and reports to the Office of the Provost.

Marcus, professor in the UB School of Law and noted human-rights scholar, will assume responsibility for the institute's teaching functions. She recently was named director of UB's Women's Studies Program.

Acara, professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, will direct the institute's research arm.

A 10-member executive committee, as well as a steering committee with more than 30 representatives from each faculty and professional school, are helping to formulate and review the institute's programs.

The directors say their mandate is to promote exponential growth in disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and teaching options associated with gender studies. The institute, they added, will encourage and assist faculty and students in developing new teaching and research directions. It also will work with them to find new sources of grant money to fund some of these projects.

The institute had its origins in a proposal made more than six years ago by the university's Graduate Group on Feminist Studies (GGFS). Noting the rapid growth of, and interest in, research and teaching on women and gender among faculty and graduate students, it called for the university to support, promote and facilitate these efforts.

The proposal, studied by committees for several years, was mentioned by Provost Thomas E. Headrick in his academic planning report issued in February. It went through a review process this past summer. The university is underwriting the institute's first three years of operation with a $240,000 grant.

"I think the institute is going to be extremely attractive to UB students and faculty," Marcus said. "It is going to have a pro-active, expansive program, not a reactive one -- a program that we think will eventually have national and international connections."

Marcus and Acara plan to consult with all faculties and professional schools to assess and encourage faculty interest in women and gender issues. They also will suggest connections with colleagues in other disciplines at UB and elsewhere who share similar concerns.

A productive relationship between the new institute, the GGFS and the Women's Studies Program is critical, Marcus said, and that connection is being fine-tuned. She said the institute will fully incorporate the activities and members of the GGFS, currently directed by Carolyn Korsmeyer, professor of the philosophy.

The Women's Studies Program, located in the Department of American Studies, will assume the teaching mandate of the institute.

"Women's Studies has been quite successful in cross-listing courses and encouraging interdisciplinary scholarship," Marcus noted.

"The institute will support those programs," she added, "but we also intend to build into the institute a broad-based affiliation with scholars, researchers, teachers and graduate students in many other fields as well. These fields include, but are not limited to, nursing, pharmacy, occupational therapy, law, art, medicine, architecture, biology, research and clinical psychology, sociology and classics, to name a few.

"We have a dazzling array of basic intellectual resources," she added. "There are many talented women, as well as some men, interested in gender as a relevant area for their work."

Acara said five "research clusters" have been identified to date based on research interests of faculty members. They are gender and violence, women's health, the impact of changing welfare laws, education on women and gender in the schools and feminist topics in the humanities.

She said that she and Marcus will meet with faculty members and staff "to identify interests and develop some cross-disciplinary interactions."

The co-directors have been encouraged by the response to the institute to date. Faculty and professional staff members from both campuses, Marcus said, "have responded with enormous enthusiasm and energy."

She noted, "Our goal is to develop a first-rate interdisciplinary center -- a blockbuster program; one that will be extremely attractive to faculty and students and will, at the same time, enhance our understanding of gender-related issues."

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