Beyond the Campus: Some Initial Findings on Women’s Studies, Careers and Employers
KeywordsWomen’s studies programs
vocational application of education
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AbstractFrom the Introduction: (I)nstitutions of higher learning are being transformed by the discourses of economic rationalism and the marketplace so that many practitioners are discovering first-hand how readily Women’s Studies programs become vulnerable to arguments made against maintaining allegedly “useless” and “non-vocational” areas of study (see Griffin 1998, Kessler-Harris and Swerdlow 1996). The reconfiguration of higher education within a broadly consumerist logic and growing rates of unemployment and underemployment among university graduates in many western societies also mean that not just administrators, but students (and their families) are now inquiring into the vocational relevance and the long-term “rewards” of specific teaching programs (see Skeggs 1995). Indeed, given these shifts in educational, fiscal, and political priorities, we suggest it may become increasingly difficult for teachers and researchers, especially those in public institutions, to continue fostering Women’s Studies programs and their students in the absence of clear understandings of students’ vocational aspirations, their post-graduation experiences, and the changing environment in which important educational and vocational decisions are being negotiated. Beyond the immediate career and vocational context, such considerations also offer significant opportunities for reflecting on the connections between our professed teaching and learning objectives and our students’ needs, desires and aspirations, as well as opportunities for learning more about what brings students into our classrooms and the visions they have for their lives beyond graduation. In what follows, we discuss some interim findings of on-going research conducted among enrolled Women’s Studies students and among prospective employers.