The Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center  



AQ Difference


The Women’s Studies Minor along with the Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center come together to form a unique interdisciplinary program at Aquinas:

Women’s Studies Minor
A minor in Women’s Studies at Aquinas College offers students the opportunity to study about women and gender issues from an interdisciplinary perspective, pertinent to all majors offered at the college.  In small classroom settings, students learn about the contributions women have made, historically and contemporarily, to all areas of life, the barriers they have faced and face today, how their diverse identities - coming from various classes, races, ethnicities, nations, religions, sexualities, genders, etc. - influence their experiences which, in turn, shapes the perception of and interaction with the world.

Many students find this perspective valuable, particularly as it challenges them to think about the routines of everyday life, themselves, and the world around them.  Emma Heemskerk, a 2006 graduate, who is pursuing an advanced degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, articulates it this way:
While I enjoyed many courses and explored many other interests at AQ, my women's studies courses were consistently the most thought-provoking, challenging, and rewarding. I owe a lot of my career and personal growth to women's studies and would not take it back for the world! I encourage all students, men and women alike, to try at least one course in women's studies - you will not regret it!
Women’s Studies is an especially flexible discipline, with applications , in a wide array of careers. Working closely with faculty, students can tailor their specific interest within Women’s Studies to that of their major. This is clearly evident in the remarks made by several of our graduates. For example, Isabel Nelson, a Business major, identifies how her Women’s Studies minor has enhanced her career choice in Business:
I am a woman in the business world, which is still primarily dominated by men. Men still make more per dollar than women, with a ratio of $0.78 per a man’s dollar. It is my belief that the business world will become a better and fairer place for all oppressed classes when feminists decide to take leadership roles.
I am currently a Recruiting Coordinator at Doner Advertising in Southfield, Mich.  I believe that I am doing something good for the world, giving people jobs. I am also at the center of it all, in Human Resources, where we do our best to promote equal opportunity employment, fair and equal wages and provide training on creating safe work environments for our employees. To me, these are all feminist issues.
Another graduate, Kelly Ditmar, who majored in Political Science, integrates her interest in Women’s Studies with her passion for politics.  Currently, she is a Research Associate at the Center for American Women and Politics (CAMP) at Rutgers University, which is a nonpartisan research center whose mission is to promote greater knowledge and understanding about women's participation in politics and government, and to enhance women's influence and leadership in public life.  Her foci at work illustrate the intersection of her interest in gender and politics:
At CAWP, I work on research projects on women’s paths to office and impact once there. I also work on CAWP’s programs, the “Ready to Run” campaign training and “NEW Leadership New Jersey,” a six-day residential leadership program for college women. Finally, I spend much of my time working on “The 2012 Project,” CAWP’s national, nonpartisan campaign to increase the number of women in Congress.
Outstanding Senior Awards 2015
Senior Awards





Graduating senior Margaret Miller was honored as the Women’s Studies Outstanding Senior for the 2014-2015 academic year.


Congratulations Margaret!


The Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center (JHIWSC)
Also linked to the Women’s Studies Program at Aquinas College, is the Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center.   The JHIWS Center is the pragmatic dimension of Women’s Studies; the Center offers an array of resources and services - hosting and promoting speakers, offering networking with local, regional, and national women’s and gender studies programs and centers, and providing internship opportunities, to name a few. Programming at the Center is a direct outgrowth of the curriculum, connected to what students have read and learned in the classroom.  Speakers such as Jane Goodall, bell hooks, Faith Ringgold, Maria Schneider, and Michael Kimmel have given lectures (or performances) to audiences comprised of students, faculty, and community members, all of whom have had the opportunity to interact directly with the speakers and/or performers.  Under the auspices of the Center, networking with women’s studies organizations provides opportunities for collaboration and sharing of resources, even in the form of internships for students which allow for service learning, extend the boundaries of the classroom, and offer students real-world settings in which to apply the theories and  concepts learned in the classroom. Through the Women’s Studies program at Aquinas, students can participate in internships with local organizations with connections to women’s issues, work as staff at the JHIWS Center, or mentor young women through the G.E.T. (Girls Empowering Together) program, an after-school leadership program for socially and economically challenged girls in 9th - 12th grade in the Grand Rapids Public Schools.     

The unique qualities of the Women’s Studies program at Aquinas are encapsulated in our mission statement:  The Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center serves as a community resource for women’s and gender issues, promotes awareness through its programming and curriculum, and empowers students and community members to become advocates for gender equality and social justice.

Where are our Women's Studies students now?
Lisa Nugent, 2011 Aquinas Graduate, currently a law student at Michigan State University
Lisa Nugent

Currently I am undecided about which specific area of law I would like to study. I am thinking civil rights, but I'd have to look into it more before I actually commit to that area of study. The reason I am interested in civil rights is due to the women studies and sociology programs at Aquinas College. Both have opened my eyes to the level of discrimination people are subjected to everyday. Before women studies I didn't really realize how unequally people are treated due to things they cannot help, such as their sex, skin color,or sexual orientation (and of course numerous other factors). If I do go into civil rights, I hope to help eliminate some of that discrimination and help others receive justice for the wrong doing they have been subjected to. Besides the fact that I'm looking into that area of law, the women studies program has also helped me gain the confidence to enter into a male dominated field. I've learned about some of the obstacles I am likely to encounter and feel that I will be able to handle those situations better due to the fact that I've been exposed to them through the women's studies program. Overall I think the program has helped me become a more independent, open minded, and strong-willed individual.

>Read about previously featured women's studies alumna