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Women's Studies at Aquinas College

  • student holding microphone

    Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center

Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center

"The Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center is a true asset - not only as a vehicle for education, leadership, and empowerment for women students of Aquinas College, but to the community at large."

- Marie Wilson, White House Project Director and Author,  "Closing the Gap, Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World"

Our Vision
The Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center prepares students to become catalysts for change and voices for feminist ideals, both in our society and around the globe.
Our Mission
The Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center serves as a community resource for women's and gender issues, promoting awareness of these issues through its programs and curriculum and empowering students and community members to become advocates for gender equality and social justice.
What We Do
The Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center supports its mission through both its programming activities and its academic curriculum.

  • Offers an academic program, the Women's Studies Minor.
  • Offers a student internship program. For further information, contact the Women’s Studies Center in AB 263-265
  • Sponsors Aquinas’ only Summer Externship Program
  • Sponsors regular events and lectures
  • Acts as a clearinghouse for information about services available for women. Contact the center for more information.
  • Offers literature, books, and videos about women and gender issues. Available for students to borrow from the Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center Library in AB 263-265
  • Supports women's academic growth at all stages of their lives.
  • Hosts the Resourceful Women Conference, an interdisciplinary academic undergraduate conference on women,
    gender, and identity.
  • Sponsors the Gender Studies Club, a student organization.
  • Is affiliated with GET (Girls Empowering Together), an after-school leadership program for high school girls, now housed in the Sociology Department.
  • Offers innovative, interdisciplinary courses such as the Sister Story Oral History Project 

Our History
The initial interest in developing a Women's Studies program at Aquinas began in the fall of 1980 (Kozal, 1994). At that time, a small group of women - Jane Hibbard Idema, Sister Yvonne Greiner, and Betty Jennings - recognized the need for broadening the curriculum to include topics and concerns that were relevant to women. In part, their observations stemmed from their personal experiences with the Encore Program, which was geared toward returning, non-traditional women students.
Additionally, however, their ideas to develop courses in women's studies coincided with larger educational transformations that were occurring nationally in the United States in response to the second wave of the women's movement. Formal structures for courses in Women's Studies were becoming increasingly visible nationwide.
At Aquinas, the impact of such educational changes was reflected in a move to formalize the structures in which Women's Studies courses were offered. Subsequently, the Women's Studies Cognate was established in 1983 (Kozal, 1994). Its founding involved Sister Yvonne Greiner, Sister Nancy Flumerfelt, and Dr. Michaeleen Kelly.  The Women’s Studies Cognate, a voluntary effort of women faculty, hosted many events including guest lectures, films, concerts, and workshops, including Aquinas’ first women’s  film festival, organized by Michaeleen Kelly as director in 1985 (Kelly, 2016).
Once the academic program was established it became important to designate a space where women could come at Aquinas to ask questions, receive guidance, and feel welcome. The Women's Studies Center was established in 1986.
In 2000, Mary Caroline "Twink" Frey and James E. McKay generously contributed an endowment which enables the Center to provide wonderful services and programs to the Aquinas community and the greater Grand Rapids area year after year.

Kozal, Patricia. 1994 (March). "Celebrating 10 Years of Women's Studies at Aquinas." Newsletter.

Our Name
On November 3, 2000, the Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center was re-named in honor of Jane Hibbard Idema for her work with the Encore for Women Program at Aquinas, which was designed to meet the needs of women returning to school. Jane's early interest in helping women improve the condition of their lives led to her involvement with a small group of women at Aquinas who together established the Women's Studies Center in 1986.
To acknowledge her work with the Encore Program as well as her dedication to improving women's lives, the Center was renamed the Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center in November 2000.
Our Supporters
The Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center's accomplishments would be impossible without the help of the following:
The Mary Caroline "Twink" Frey and James E. McKay Endowment Fund
Community Liaisons: Margaret Idema, Kathleen Ley Bruinsma, Ellyse (Vanderkamp) Hall '16 and Kelli Langan-Pfister
Programming Board

  • Lynn Atkins-Rykert
  • Amy Dunham Strand, Chair
  • Erin Dwan (student)
  • Kaela Frailing (student)
  • Esperanza Garcia (student)
  • Bridget Gibley (student)
  • Susan Hojnacki
  • Shellie Jeffries
  • Jen Lendrum
  • Alicia Lloyd

Resourceful Women Conference Committee

  • Jennifer Hess (Chair, 2012)  
  • Penny Avery (Co-Chair, 2016)
  • Rebecca Coogan    
  • Jennifer Dawson
  • Carmen Ruiz-Sanchez    
  • Shelli Rottschafer (Chair, 2014)    
  • Amy Dunham Strand (Co-Chair, 2016; Chair, 2018)
  • JoAnne Gorant
  • Rebecca Humphrey
  • Shari McCarty
  • Sr. Damien Marie Savino
  • Deborah Steketee

Curriculum Committee

  • Molly Patterson, Co-Chair 
  • Elizabeth Chamberlain
  • Rebecca Coogan
  • Michelle DeRose
  • Amy Dunham Strand, Co-Chair 
  • Carmen Ruiz-Sanchez
  • Julie Schatz-Stevens

Susan Haworth-Hoeppner Externship Advisors

  • Brigid Avery
  • Alexa Carey
  • Susan Haworth-Hoeppner

GET (Girls Empowering Together) Advisory Board

  • Susan Haworth-Hoeppner, Chair - Past Director, Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center
  • Debbie Autman - Attorney Referee of Kent County
  • Chantal Beresford - Employment Specialist for Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids
  • Nanette Clatterbuck - Dean of Education at Aquinas College
  • Wendy Dean - Teacher at Central High School
  • Wanda Garyson - Community Member
  • Maxine Gray - Talent Recruiter at Herman Miller, Inc.
  • Ruth Jones Hairston - President at Judah Consultants; retired principal at Henry Park Paideia Academy
  • Lauri Parks - City Clerk of Grand Rapids
  • Latricia Trice - Marketing Communications Director at Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Marvin Trotter - Student Support Reform Facilitator at Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Raul Ysasi - Secondary Placement Coordinator, Student Information and Services Center at Grand Valley State University
  • Milinda Ysasi-Castanon - Human Resources Generalist, PHR, Cascade Engineering

GET is co-facilitated by faculty in Aquinas’ Education and Women’s Studies Departments: Stefani Boutelier and Amy Dunham Strand

Gifts to the Center are welcome and will be used to support the Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center Lecture Series as well as other programmatic efforts at the Center. >Give