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WGST 266 is an introductory course to women’s studies that explores the turn of the 20th century. The course “sets out to demonstrate the value and relevance of feminist thinking and activism in Canada today. It provides an overview of the history of feminism as well as a critical examination of the ways in which different groups of women experience marginalization and oppression in the Canadian context. The intersection of gender with race, class, and sexuality is highlighted throughout the course.” The course has no pre-requisites and is available for challenge.
Who Should Take This Course and Why
For this course we had the opportunity to interview Morgan James from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Morgan is a full-time radio host and music director by day, full-time Psychology B.A. student by night. When we asked Morgan why she decided to study at AU, she stated, “I decided to enroll in the program at Athabasca University after years of searching for meaning in my life. I have always been fascinated by the human mind and behaviour and how people interact; I also desire to help others. The psychology program and courses offered were the perfect fit.” Morgan also elaborated on the challenges she faced, “However, I first enrolled in courses tailored more to academic education rather than learning about myself and others around me. I struggled initially and found it challenging to connect with the material, so I took a short break, regrouped, and decided to refocus my attention on learning about what matters most to me: people. I rearranged my program and chose courses that would better reflect my intention, starting with WGST 266 – An Intro to Women’s Studies.”
When we asked Morgan what WGST is about she mentioned, “WGST 266 – An Intro to Women’s Studies is a course for those who desire to learn more about our society and the people who have and continue to struggle to find their place or role in it, people like myself. The focus of the course is on the inequality different groups of women face in Canada; what I gained from the material is a deeper appreciation for humanity as a whole and a renewed desire to understand my roots and what has influenced me as a woman in this country. With this understanding, I am more prepared to continue my academic journey and beyond.”
Morgan also recommended to all interested students, “If you are deciding whether or not to take the WGST 266 course, ask yourself two essential questions: who am I, and who do I want to be. If you cannot answer either of these questions without hesitation, take the course and continue to ask yourself these questions as you work through it. Not only will you succeed, but you will also complete the course appreciating the world around you and, more importantly, who YOU can be in it.”
Course, Assignments and Final Exam Details
The course consists of eight units including the history and overview of feminist thinking and activism; theorizing women’s lives; feminism, diversity, and difference; bodies and representations; violence against women, wellness, and health; and, lastly, feminism across borders. The course also consists of four assignments with the first one being an oral review worth 20%, second assignment is a research essay plan worth 15%, third assignment is a research essay worth 25%, and finally the last assignment is three short essays worth 40%. There is no midterm or final exams, and all assignments are open book.
When we asked student Morgan about the course she stated, “The WGST 266 course introduces feminist theories and activism while focusing on the background of different groups of women. Topics covered in the course include relations (unequal) in race, gender, class, and sexuality today and throughout history.” Morgan elaborated that she felt “the issues covered were emotionally heavy but enlightening in the way that challenged my view on social relationships between men and women, particularly my role as a black woman in a patriarchal Canadian society. Learning about the history of women who fought for and continue to fight for equal rights in Canada provided a deeper understanding of how our society was built and what changes are needed for a more inclusive and respectful one. While the course is emotionally challenging, it is structured to combine academic learning with personal reflection.”
How to Be Successful in the Course
Dr. Rhiannon Bury has been a faculty member of WGST since 2007, at which time she took over coordination and tutoring of WGST 266. Dr. Bury has done two major revisions to keep it current. She hopes to do another minor revision in the next year or so. To learn more about Dr. Bury’s research and teaching, you can look at her faculty profile page.
When we asked Dr. Bury for her advice for the course she stated, “WGST 266 is a great course for any student who is interested in social justice and the impact of not only sexism but racism, able-ism and homophobia on the lives of women in Canada today. The course takes an intersectional approach, recognizing that certain groups of women–Indigenous women and women of colour in particular– face barriers that many white, middle class women, around which the original Women’s Liberation Movement was built, do not. WGST 266 is one of my favourite courses because it provides the opportunity to engage directly with students through the Oral Review, not just grade written assignments. Some students are understandably nervous when they see this first assignment on the syllabus. I assure them in the instructions or if they contact me directly with questions that it is designed as a teaching and learning opportunity, not just a “test”. They prepare their answers in advance and they have access to their course materials. Once we get going, it usually turns into a dialogue. Once students establish a connection with their tutor in this way, they are more likely to approach them for support over the course of their contract. I have just returned to tutoring after being on administrative leave and I am very much looking forward to these conversations!”
When we spoke with Morgan about her experience with the course content and assignments she stated, “The five units that followed the oral review covers bodies and representations, violence against women, and health. All topics were easier to understand after the introductory units and oral review. The research essay plan assignment was a helpful step in preparation for the research essay in which the tutor provides feedback on the essay topic chosen and submitted outline.” In addition, Morgan mentioned, “there is no final exam for this course; instead, it is required to write three short essays to demonstrate understanding of the central ideas presented in the course for the final assignment. Based on feedback provided by the tutor from the previous assignments, it was easier to complete each of three short essays. In addition, it was a valuable tool for summarizing, in my own words, the knowledge gained throughout the course.”
When we asked Morgan about her experience with the course tutor, she said, “My tutor was Melanie Cook, who began the oral review with a few minutes of getting to know each other, which helped me relax and feel like I was sharing opinions and ideas with a friend over coffee. As our conversation continued, Melanie Cook asked questions based on topics already covered in the course and theories that came up at the beginning of our friendly conversation. At no time during the oral review did I feel like it was an assignment; instead, Ms. Cook provided further insight into the theories I struggled to articulate. The oral review further motivated me to continue the course and better understand what I had learned and the material ahead.”
If you have any further questions regarding the course, please do not hesitate to contact the Course Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy learning!