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 New women's studies director at SRU broadens program 



Feb. 13, 2008
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New women's studies director broadens program 


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University, which pioneered women's studies by launching a program more than 30 years ago, has named Cindy LaCom, SRU professor of English, the first new Women's Studies Program director in 17 years.  

            "I'm really into looking into the positions and roles of women in society," LaCom said. "My goal for the program is to consider women's issues from a much broader context, including the role of women in Europe, the Middle East and Africa."

            SRU's program uses the concept of gender as a springboard for teaching and learning. Students analyze the roles of women and men in societies and disparities in power, income and opportunities. The program seeks to transform lives by giving students the drive to push for social and political change.

            Alex McNeill, a Slippery Rock University senior from New Castle, said the University's Women Studies Program inspired her to plan a career in gender equality work.  "The Women's Studies Program changed my life in college and my life overall," she said. "I want to work with women to make things better for them."

            The minor, with more than 40 students, enrolled, offers 20 courses, including "Women and Politics," "Sex Roles in Society" and  "Feminist Perspectives in the Disciplines."

             LaCom said she plans to introduce additional contemporary topics, such as women in criminology. She plans to offer guest lectures and discussions on controversial issues such as genital mutilation, cosmetic surgery and women and aging. Students will examine issues from an international perspective and discuss why trends relate to their lives and American society.

            "I am a feminist who is deeply committed to our students," LaCom said. "I truly believe that this minor can make positive changes in the lives of women and men. A lot of men don't feel that this is a class or a minor that they can take, but after they take the "Introduction to Women's Studies," they see the value."

            "I wish more guys would get involved," said Michael Chiappini, an English major from Butler who enrolled in the minor this semester. "More than 50 percent of the population is women. Equality should be important to everyone."

            LaCom's other goals include growing the program. She hopes to get more students enrolled and initiate more extensive collaboration with diverse departments and other programs across campus.

             "Inequities still exist for women," she said. "It's really important that we have conversations about how the roles of women and men are socially constructed. One of the simplest examples is the idea that boys aren't supposed to cry."

            LaCom, who replaces Jace Condravy, professor of English, joined SRU in 1993. Her academic specialties include Victorian, disability and women's studies. She received her doctorate in English from the University of Oregon. Her master's and bachelor's degrees are from California State University/Chico.

             For five years, LaCom directed SRU's Honors Program. Under her leadership, participation increased from 34 to 300 students. 

            McNeill, a political science major who joined the women studies minor as a sophomore, said her SRU education has made her more aware of sexist comments, wage gaps and discrepancies between population and elected representation. For instance, she said women make up 52 percent of the U.S. population but only occupy 19 percent of the Congressional seats.

            "I'd love to see our organization become more diverse," she said, "and I'd love for every single major and minor to offer a gender studies course, from philosophy to military science." 

            She said men are active in the minor. "My advice to those people who might be considering the program is to take the chance and take a course," she said. "Come into it open minded. I have full faith in Dr. LaCom that she's going to do great things."


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.


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