The Women’s Studies Program at St. Cloud State University offers a unique combination of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary study that prepares students for numerous career paths. Students can pursue a variety of issues and theoretical approaches as they learn to critique narrow definitions of gender and to analyze the construction in its varied cultural, historical, and global contexts.
St. Cloud State University’s Women’s Studies program was originally established in 1974, when the university first offered Women’s Studies as a minor. The creation of the program can be greatly attributed to the work of three founding mothers: Dr. Mary Craik in Psychology, Dr. Eleanor Simpson in Interdisciplinary Studies/American Studies, and Dr. Marcia Summers in Literature. Prior to the Women’s Studies minor, Dr. Craik taught “Psychology of Women,” a class that is still offered today. The course was approved in 1972 and was a vital step in creating a minor. Pat Samuel, SCSU’s first Women’s Studies Professor and long-time Director of the program, states, “Mary Craik’s legacy is so important, as she made many institutional impacts at SCSU. Her memory cannot be allowed to die.”
The minor quickly advanced. By 1980, it was evident that the program needed its own faculty, and Pat Samuel was hired. At this time, a second branch of the program was created in Hutchinson, MN, where employees of IBM could earn an Associate’s Degree. Primarily taught by nuns and other SCSU faculty, students in Hutchinson took classes such as Intro to Women’s Studies and Assertiveness Training, along with religion courses. In the 1986-1987 school year alone, over 1200 students enrolled in Women’s Studies courses in nineteen subjects.
Since that time, the Women’s Studies Program has evolved greatly and can be credited with many feminist aspects of St. Cloud State University. In 1984, Women’s Studies students wrote a grant and began organizing for a Women’s Center on campus, a place that now is responsible for many positive programs for women. Working together, the Women’s Center and the Women’s Studies Program have brought in popular speakers and held rallies. The Women's Center has also formed a weekly brown-bag program titled “Women on Wednesday.” Most importantly, the Women’s Center serves as a support system, not only for Women’s Studies students, but also for members of all marginalized groups on campus.
Pat Samuel, the first Director of the Women’s Studies Program, can be credited for much of the department’s progress. She left quite a legacy. Pat Samuel retired in 2003, naming Dr. Karen Flynn as the program’s new director. Dr. Flynn quickly picked up where Pat took off, pushing for a Women’s Studies major. Finally, with Dr. Beth Berila directing the program, the efforts of so many Women’s Studies faculty became a reality in December 2005.
St. Cloud State University now proudly boasts a Women’s Studies major. Offering such exciting courses as Feminist Theory, Women and Computers, and Women in Pop Culture, the Women’s Studies major will thrive. The Women’s Studies Program greatly benefits from the energies of affiliated faculty and staff throughout the university. The creation of the Women’s Studies major reflects decades of work and vision from many influential women. The Women’s Studies Program will continue to support social change and Women’s Studies education and activities for faculty, staff, and students.