New department awaits name

Following a merger in Fall 2019, GDST and sociology prepares for first prof.

The Gender and Diversity Studies and the sociology program merged in Fall 2019, but the department will be nameless until it receives its first full-time professor. According to one professor, the name will come shortly.

Xavier University’s Gender and Diversity Studies Program (GDST) and Sociology Program have merged to form a new department. The Department, which is still unnamed, was created in the Fall of 2018 and is currently in the process of hiring a full-time professor.

Professor Kristen Renzi, director of Gender and Diversity Studies, explained that the department still lacks a name because of a desire to allow the newly hired faculty member to help name the department. However, a name can be expected relatively shortly,

“Hopefully we’ll be able to have a new title to go along with the merged departments in the Fall of 2020” said Renzi.

Although the merging of the two programs occurred in 2018, the organization structure of the Department was finalized leading up to the Fall 2019 semester. The history of the two programs date back even farther. “I think this is the seventh year [GDST] has been a major… For a while [Sociology] has been a department that has done a lot of work for a variety of different programs” explained Renzi.

Senior GDST Major Riley Head was directly involved in the new Department’s hiring process and welcomes the changes.

“I love GDST…but I was always a bit frustrated because I felt like it had a lack of structure because there’s no dedicated staff person” said Head.

The merger has marked changes in the structure of the two programs. Previously, GDST was run by an advisory committee composed of faculty with disciplinary appointments in other departments. “For instance, my disciplinary appointment is in English, an English professor, but my research and teaching specialties focus around issues related to gender, race and class sexuality” explained Renzi. The advisory committee oversees all department needs, from curricular standards to senior thesis work. Renzi revealed that for the time being, the GDST advisory committee will function in its normal role.

“We thought that until we had a critical mass of tenure track faculty or tenured faculty and gender diversity studies, it wouldn’t make sense to kind of take away the scaffolding of what has allowed the curriculum and program to flourish” said Renzi.

Currently, the system is structured so that alongside the advisory committee, each of the two programs has a director. The director of the Sociology program, Professor Kandi Stinson, also serves as the Chair of the New Department. Stinson was not available for interview.            

Renzi explained that within GDST, one could receive a GDST major, or one could choose a concentration. Existing concentrations at Xavier are Race and Ethnicity and Women and Gender. Within the broader scope of Gender and Diversity studies other separations exist. “There’s been kind of one hand of gender diversity studies that has been in the humanities, another hand that’s kind of been in the social sciences” explained Renzi. In Renzi’s view, Sociology is a great study to pair

with GDST “the social scientific perspective of things has often been foregrounded in sociology. In GDST, while it embraces both haves, I think at least in our institutional structure, it’s been heavily slanted toward the humanities” said Renzi.

The new GDST department will hopefully have a new name by Fall 2020.

Renzi stressed that interdisciplinary nature of GDST will benefit students in the current job market. “we anticipate and actually require our students to work interdisciplinary as they’re completing their senior theses… Students have to work in multiple disciplines, which can be challenging on one hand, but it also is a huge leg up in the job market that’s increasingly asking people to cross our traditional boundaries and to work in ways that are advocating for and embracing the complexities of individual people’s lives,” Renzi elaborated. 

While Head will be graduating this semester, she is looking forward to watching the program grow.

“It is really exciting to leave campus knowing [GDST] is going to be even stronger next year and as the program continues to grow, more and more people are going to have a great experience like I did” added Head.