The University Record, September 18, 1995

Establishment of institute on women, gender recommended

By Jane R. Elgass

Establishment of an interdisciplinary Institute for Research on Women and Gender will be recommended to the Regents at their meeting this week.

The institute will be a valuable component of the Michigan Agenda for Women, President James J. Duderstadt’s plan to make the U-M a leader among U.S. universities in promoting and achieving the success of women of diverse backgrounds as faculty, students and staff by the year 2000.

The institute will serve three key functions:

  • Providing an institutional umbrella for ongoing faculty research efforts focusing on women and gender.

  • Offering coordination, stimulation and support for effective interdisciplinary research.

  • Heightening Michigan’s national profile as a major source of knowledge about women and gender.

    Abigail J. Stewart, professor of psychology and of women’s studies, will be recommended as the inaugural director of the institute, which will be housed temporarily in West Quadrangle.

    “With the establishment of the interdisciplinary Institute for Research on Women and Gender, we move ahead according to the strategic plan outlined in the Michigan Agenda for Women and toward our goal of making the University the leading institution in the United States for the study of women and women’s issues,” says President James J. Duderstadt.

    “I am confident that under the direction of Prof. Stewart, the new institute will make important contributions to scholarship related to women and gender, will forge strong links between the liberal arts and the professional schools, and will effectively communicate scholarly findings about women and gender to the public and policy-makers.”

    Vice President for Research Homer A. Neal, to whom the institute will report, says his office “is pleased to support the creation of this new Institute. We have many talented faculty whose research interests will benefit from the synergy fostered by this new interdisciplinary program.”

    Stewart says the institute ‘is a very important step in recognizing and validating the tremendous resource of scholarly expertise on this campus.” Research on women and gender “grew without resources” on campus for many years, and “the time has come to support scholarship with appropriate resources and administrative structures.”

    She is “particularly pleased with President Duderstadt’s enthusiasm about the project and the strong support in helping shape the institute that we received from the Office of the Vice President for Research and the three lead deans—Edie N. Goldenberg of LS&A, Ada Sue Hinshaw of nursing and Paula Allen-Meares of social work.”

    Stewart says the interdisciplinary nature of the institute is its most important characteristic.

    “Most of the issues we will study cut across traditional disciplines. There is a great deal of research and scholarship done on women and gender, but much of it is done in isolation,” she says. “One of the intents of the institute is to make individual scholars visible to each other, to bring them together. This will provide the opportunity for collaborative projects, with the advantage of being able to share differing perspectives on the same issue.”

    Establishment of the institute also has policy implications, according to Stewart. For example, there is a great deal of work being done on women and work and health issues. The institute can serve as the vehicle to bring scholars together to address the issues in a more coherent manner and to get the information out to the public in a more timely manner.

    “We hope to help find better and faster ways to communicate with the media,” Stewart says. “We are eager to participate in the national discourse and take our opportunities for input very seriously.”

    Goldenberg is “delighted to see the institute launched, especially with the talented leadership of Abby Stewart.”

    “We have tremendous strength already on our campus in terms of faculty interest and research on women and gender, but often individual faculty working in these areas don’t know others with very similar interests.

    “The institute,” Goldenberg says, “will bring people together, will offer support, will stimulate new interdisciplinary projects and will put Michigan on the map as a major source of knowledge in these areas.

    “Abby,” Goldenberg adds, “has just completed an outstanding term as director of the Women’s Studies Program, and is one of our leading scholar-teachers in the Department of Psychology. We are very lucky that she is willing to turn her talents to leading the institute.”

    Allen-Meares sees the institute as an opportunity to “chart new courses while making the University one of the leading institutions for the study of women’s issues.”

    She notes that the concept has been discussed for a long time, adding that she also is pleased that it will address issues affecting women of color even as the University addresses issues of multiculturalism and diversity.

    Hinshaw says the institute “will allow us to build upon our successful programs across campus and add new initiatives to address today’s pressing needs. This will help generate support so necessary in the discovery of new knowledge. I am excited about the possibilities that lay ahead.”