By Allison Kimmich, NWSA Executive Director
ONE OF THE KEYS TO FUNDING PROGRAMS ON COLLEGE and university campuses is solid data, because that’s what decision-makers look at to determine how many students a program serves, or where a department ranks in relation to its peers nationally. Unfortunately, both of these questions have posed challenges for women’s studies, because women’s studies students are often double majors—and on some campuses only the first major counts in campus record-keeping.
For graduate rankings, research universities look to figures established by the National Academy of Sciences, but here, too, women’s studies programs do not get counted because the Academy only ranks programs that graduate at least 500 Ph.D.s annually.
As a relatively new field, with a history of doctoral education that began only in the 1990s, it will be many years before women’s studies graduates 500 Ph.D.s a year. To remedy the dearth of data, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) set out to measure the scope of the field in 2007 with generous support from the Ford Foundation. The association partnered with the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center to conduct a survey of U.S. women’s studies programs, and more than 650 programs responded out of 724 contacted.
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