Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality to open this fall

Nicholas Garisto

Kent State’s Board of Trustees recently approved the creation of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. The center will have several key components including academics, research and community outreach.  


The center is a part of a new structure that combines already existing studies together at Kent State, said David Odell-Scott, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Though the center is in the beginning stages of development, the foundation has already been approved.  


“The center will be the structure for women’s studies, LGBT studies and a new program in gender and sexuality,” said Molly Merryman, current director of the LGBTQ and Women’s Studies.


Merryman said new courses are being created in gender and sexuality for next year, along with a new major.


“The major will be constructed so that students who are interested in or are already minoring in women’s studies or LGBT studies can take a few more courses and have a major,” Merryman said.


Students who are currently enrolled in either minor will not have to change their catalogue year, but will have the option of substituting classes according to Merryman. The center wants to make the transition as convenient as possible for students, she said.


The center also has plans to branch out to Kent State’s regional campuses, where with the exception of Stark, the classes for the minors are not currently offered.


“We’re taking all of our core classes for women’s studies and LGBT studies and putting them online,” Merryman said.


These core classes have also been updated and retooled by a minimum of three faculty members from differing disciplines to give students their perspectives on women’s studies and LGBT studies. The classes are scheduled to be available next year.


The research component of the center is designed for a couple of things, according to Merryman. Those involved with the center want to be focused on the subject more than the structure, she said.


“We want to bring together faculty and students (who) are interested in studying topics in gender and sexuality so that people can collaborate on research,”  Merryman said. “What we want to do is to provide undergraduate students (who) want to partner with a faculty member and do some field research for graduate school, or a career and to have those opportunities available.”


The center hopes to collaborate with community organizations and colleagues from other universities as a way to organize the work that is being done into a cohesive whole. Further, it hopes to reach out to organizations outside the academic field that are involved with the community.  


“Rather than simply be an academic department that only serves its institution, we really see this center as actively reaching out to partners and organizations to be there as a resource,” Merryman said. ”


Jackie Knutti, a sophomore political science major, said this is also something she would like to see more of. 


“I’d like to see more informal education because I think it would bring in more people from the community that have no idea what this is,” Knutti said.


Merryman added that the center will have cultural competency training for other organizations and institutes. 


“If the Cleveland Clinic says we want to understand the transgender population more, we’ll prepare educational materials and workshops for them,” she said.


The center also plans to have guest speakers and experts from within the community lecture on specific topics.


“What we want to start doing as we bring in these guest speakers to Kent State is to also take them over to Akron or to Cleveland so that members of the public can see the speakers,” said Merryman.


The center is also looking to expand its scholarships and global education. There are currently only two scholarships for LGBT studies and one study abroad trip to Lesbos, Greece, that focuses on gender and sexual studies.  


“When I was in college, I was working and I didn’t have the opportunity to study abroad, so I’m really committed to getting some scholarships for study abroad so students can have the opportunity to go, regardless of their financial situation,” Merryman said.


The center’s grand opening is set for this fall and will offer new courses the next spring.  


Nicholas Garisto is a women and gender issues reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].