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Finding a Place in the University
Shortly after the core women’s studies courses were approved for general education credit, Ward was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided that she needed to step down as the Program’s position that was largely public health. If Price didn’t take the position, there was a chance that the program would not director. Ward’s decision posed a challenge to the Women’s Studies Program: finding someone to step in and take a voluntary.
Ward approached Jimmie Price, a professor of public health. If Price didn’t take the position, there was a chance that the program would not survive, but Jimmie agreed.
During Jimmie’s time as director, the program underwent several changes.It got its first real budget, adequate office space in the Wetherby Administration Building, and its first office assistant, Sharon Walker. Though the budget was small and Walker’s position only part-time, the administrative assistance was crucial. Jimmie conducted the women’s
conference in the fall of 1994 and again in 1995, but by that time, she realized that running the conference used up most of women’s studies’ resources, in terms of money, personnel, and good-will volunteers, so at the final session of the 1995 conference, she announced that this would be the last women’s studies conference. The participants were disappointed by this decision, and on the spot, non-Western academics offered donations to keep it going, but Jimmie knew that money wasn’t her only problem.
She could not nurture the Program and at the same time run the conference—together they just took too much of the Program’s meager resources. Ward supported Price in this decision; in fact, she encouraged Jimmie to discontinue the conferences in 1994, since they had already achieved their purpose—to educate the campus about women’s studies.
The Program stayed in Wetherby until 1996, when it moved to Van Meter. In 1996, Price got approval for a new faculty line: a joint appointment in English and women’s studies. Jane Olmsted, who had just earned her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, became assistant director and taught core courses as well as courses in English, her tenure home. Olmsted commented that she felt the job was written for her because it combined her three loves: English, women’s studies, and Kentucky. Olmsted, who had lived in Kentucky from 1976 to 1991 had taught at the University of Louisville in the 80s, then at St. Catharine College, and finally Berea College for five years, before heading back to school for her Ph.D. During this time she grew to love Kentucky and longed to return, and when she met Price and the English faculty, she was sold.
In addition to getting a new home and an assistant director, Price also implemented the committee structure that remains for the most part in place today.
One of Olmsted’s first tasks was to start a newsletter, which ran in print form until 2007, when the Program began using the web-page for updates instead. Some members of the original steering committee still serve to this day. She also initiated the graduate certificate, which was approved in 1998.
One of the most successful projects started during the “Jimmie Years” was the Gender Images Film Series, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2010.
We show 3 films a semester, including documentaries as well as feature-length, and covering American and international topics; many films were produced by independent filmmakers. Ted Hovet (pictured) has been a member of the film committee since the beginning. Since those early days, film studies has grown at WKU to include an inter disciplinary major.
Other long-time members are Karen Schneider and Tim Evans (pictured).
Before her retirement at the end of the 1997-98 academic year, Jimmie Price successfully lobbied for a full-time office associate. Hiring one
became Olmsted’s first administrative task. Brandy Lee, who held the position for four years, was the first office associate. Gifted in desktop publishing, Lee helped raise the public image of the program.
When she left, the program was lucky that Trish Jaggers, a WS alum, wanted the position.
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