BY Kevin Camargo
After eight years of work, East Los Angeles College announces it will be offering an Associates in Arts for Women and Gender Studies.
It all started when three students wanted to transfer to UCLA as women’s studies majors, but ELAC did not offer any women’s studies courses. After that, director of the Honor’s Program Susanne Spangler, professor of sociology Dr. Rin Kahla, and Articulation Officer Counselor Cathleen Rozadilla got together to start the Women’s Studies program.
“When I first came to the campus, I was looking at different sociology courses that we had and didn’t have,” said Kahla. “We have a large woman’s population of women on campus and we had nothing that addressed women’s issues.”
Kahla started teaching the first sociology of women class. Over the years, faculty developed 14 different courses, including Anthropology 109: Gender, Sex, and Culture; Chicano Studies 50: Gender and Sexuality in Chicano/Latino Communities; English 239: Women In Literature; Kin Maj 109: Women In Sport.
“My role was to provide research about existing programs and courses in the state to aid in the development of new courses and ultimately the degree at ELAC,” said Rozadilla.
According to Rozadilla, the committee first had to develop new courses, along with the degree itself.
Once those were developed, they had to be approved by the campus Curriculum Committee, the Academic Senate, the board of trustees and the State Chancellor’s Office.
The major was originally only going to be a Women’s Studies major, but faculty eventually decided to add gender studies courses to the program.
This past summer, the state decided to approve the AA in Women and Gender Studies.
“We wanted to give students a well-rounded experience in the areas of women and gender studies and wanted to make sure that all the classes transferred (to a university).
All of our classes fulfill IGETC (Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum), CSU (California State University) and GE (General Education) categories,” said Kahla.
As of now, faculty is still working to make the degree transferrable to a CSU with students completing their required classes as women and gender studies majors.
Kahla is proud of the many years of hard work and thinks that students can have the foundation of their studies begin here at ELAC.
She also believes this program can build a bridge to Universities of California and CSUs so that schools know that ELAC provides the foundation for women and gender studies.
“I stress in my class the importance of men and women talking about women and gender issues so that no one feels isolated,” said Kahla.
Kahla hopes the major does not discourage anyone from taking the courses.
She wants men to be welcome in the courses because the courses were not made just for women.
“Issues regarding women and gender have become more visible given the political discussions regarding civil rights, equality and healthcare in our country,” said Rozadilla. “I think it serves our students and the community to be better informed about the historical roots of these issues.”
Since Kahla, Spangler and Rozadilla founded the women and gender studies program, faculty from other disciplines began to take interest in supporting it.
“Our faculty stepped up and showed [their] support for the program. I can’t believe, after all these years, we finally did it,” said Kahla.