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(Sept. 5, 2002, Gazette)

Feminism in action

(Back, L-R) Jane Robinson and Danielle Finney, staff with the St. John's Women's Centre, and Dr. Phyllis Artiss, WS 6300 professor. (Front, L-R): April Kean, staff with the St. John's Women's Centre, and Sheila Keats, a student in the WS 6300 course


A novel Women’s Studies graduate course, Feminism as Community, has united its students and inspired them to greater social activism.

“This course is essential for anyone who is, or has ever been, concerned with breaking down barriers between the academy and the community, in hopes of realizing social change,” said Vicki Hallett, one of the course participants and a graduate student in Women’s Studies.

First offered in the spring, Feminism as Community, or Women’s Studies 6300, seeks to transcend traditional academics through field trips, student teaching, journal writing, and an Internet discussion forum. Seven women with backgrounds ranging from sign language interpretation to business participated in the inaugural course.

“Women’s Studies 6300 is about students bringing their experiences, questions and reflections of living in many kinds of communities, sharing these, reflecting on them, and interrogating them in the light of feminist research, theory and practice,” said Dr. Phyllis Artiss, course instructor and an English and Women’s Studies professor at Memorial.

Women’s Studies 6300 is one of MUN’s recent program changes geared to fostering a stronger connection between academia and community.

“Two major changes to our master’s of Women’s Studies program are being implemented this year. First, we now provide entering Women’s Studies graduate students with a non-thesis option, which allows them to do community-based internships and projects if they choose. Second, we introduced one new course, which is required of all graduate students: Women’s Studies 6300, Feminism as Community, with a strong component of community connections and action,” said Dr. Artiss.

Rather than following the standard weekday classroom schedule, Feminism as Community took place over five weekends during the summer.

“The weekend format turned out to be perfect for the nature of the course,” said Ms. Hallett. “The concentrated blocks of time allowed for our group to do amazing things like the Women’s Historical Walk in St. John’s, take field trips to Bell Island, the Women’s Centre, Iris Kirby House, and the Lantern, and still have time to discuss our impressions afterward while they were fresh in our minds.”

Feminism as Community left a deep impression on its first class. All seven students contributed to the current issue of Spokeswoman, newsletter of the St. John’s Women’s Centre, and most intend to remain on the Spokeswoman editorial committee. Two members of the class were, as well, appointed to the Women’s Centre Board. “I have experienced personal growth, feminist enlightenment, and have built friendships that I know will last a lifetime,” said Honna Janes-Hodder, a Women’s Studies 6300 student.

This course welcomes graduate students in any discipline, and others with the approval of the instructor.

To find out more about this course and the master’s of Women’s Studies, please go to www.mun.ca/womenst/Master.html.