Western Kentucky University

Early Days

Early Days: "Blowing Students' Minds"

A picture of Katie Ward

Following the first two conferences, Carraco and other members of the committee designed a proposal for a Women’s Studies Program, and the minor was added officially in the fall of 1990 (though it wasn’t until 1993 that Karen Schneider and Katie Green wrote the proposal for the introductory course). Running the conferences and at the same time building an academic program, all on a volunteer basis was too much work for one person. So Carol Crowe-Carraco chaired the conferences for two more years, and Karen Tice ran the program for one semester. Then Ward took Karen’s place and eventually ran both the program and the conference with whatever help she could muster from other faculty. It soon became clear to Ward that in order for the program to grow, women’s studies courses needed to be approved for general education credit. Getting this approval past layers of academic committees was much more difficult than getting the Program initiated because many faculty and administrators were still not supportive. For two years Ward pushed to have the program’s core courses accepted for general education credit. Finally in the spring of 1994, in spite of continued resistance, the General Education Committee, the Potter College Curriculum Committee, and the Academic Council all agreed to accept these courses as legitimate components of a student’s general education.

 A picture of Val Scott and Jackie Addington

Although those first years were a constant struggle for survival, that struggle found support from an unexpected source, a philanthropist from California with no tangible ties to the University. Valerie (Val) Scott, whose family had gained its wealth as owners of Kentucky coal mines, became interested in supporting organizations or programs that were helping Kentucky women. Cam Collins alerted Ward to the possibility of outside funding from an unnamed source, and Ward wrote a proposal for $10,000. When she received an inconspicuous personal check in her mailbox two days after the close of a conference, Ward first mistook the check for a $10 conference fee. She was stunned when she realized it was a $10,000 donation from Scott, who at the time, donated anonymously. Val continued to make five figure donations to Women’s Studies for the next several years. Ward says the money donated by Scott was “manna from heaven,” because it not only proved needed funding but it also gave her the courage to go on.

A picture of Catherine Mounce and Millie Jessup

The response of students to Women’s Studies courses was another source of encouragement. From the very beginning, students enrolled in Women’s Studies classes were excited about the new perspectives they encountered in these courses. According to Ward, this material often “blew their minds.”

 

 Last Modified 7/19/13