WEST elevated from program to department status

Women’s and Ethnic Studies (WEST) has steadily evolved since it was first introduced at UCCS, most recently through its transformation from program to department in the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences (LAS).

A minor in Ethnic Studies was first established in 1992. Professor Andrea Herrera, Ph.D., arrived at UCCS in 1999 and served as director of the program. Herrera began working in collaboration with Professor Abby Ferber in 2000, who assumed the directorship of a minor in Women’s Studies. With the support of colleagues from across their campus, they co-founded the WEST program in 2007 and began offering an undergraduate degree and several certificate programs. WEST’s intersectional approach to the relationships among race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexualities, disability and other hierarchies, combined with its emphasis on praxis and service to the community, establishes it as one of the most comprehensive women’s and ethnic studies programs in the region.

“Professors Andrea Herrera and Abby Ferber co-created WEST at UCCS in 2007 and led the effort to grow the program over the years, and Herrera served as director for much of that time,” said Heather Albanesi, Ph.D. and WEST Department Chair. “Due to their vision, WEST has distinguished itself as one of a handful of programs in the U.S. that integrates an interdisciplinary, intersectional approach to Women’s/Gender Studies and Ethnic/Race Studies and stresses both environmental and social justice.”

WEST currently offers several curriculum options, including a major, minor, four articulated double majors, WEST BI, five certificates, and the WEST/MBA Accelerated Master’s Program. The department also focuses on collaborating with other departments and colleges often, with recent partnerships including a research project with the Department of Sociology that explored the experiences of first-generation college students and the Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ Oral History Project, a collaboration with Colorado College.

“This change in designation recognizes the clear and distinct teaching and research missions of WEST and adds gravitas to us as an academic unit,” noted Albanesi. “We believe this change will also help us recruit and retain high-quality faculty, which benefits our students. We also see this growth as responding to student interest and aiding inclusion and retention of a diverse student body.”

The department also expects to continue expanding its curriculum, with the hope of adding two new articulated double majors in GES and Communication and two new Accelerated Masters Programs in the next year. Additionally, students now have the option of completing the WEST degree fully online.

The newly-established status was celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Thursday, Oct. 26 that had WEST students and faculty in attendance, along with LAS Dean Lynn Vidler, Provost Nancy Marchand-Martella, Interim Chancellor Jennifer Sobanet and more.

“The elevation of this program to department status reflects the importance and independence of the research area and the value for students,” said Dean Vidler. “I am thrilled that the status of this academic discipline has been recognized.”

About the UCCS College of Letters, Arts & Sciences

The College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at UCCS is the university’s largest college, enrolling nearly 6,000 students across 21 departments and programs. The college offers 19 majors and 53 minors in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Students can also choose from five accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degrees, nine full master’s degrees and three Ph.D. degrees, as well as pre-medical and pre-law programs. The mission of the college is to position graduates for success in their personal and professional lives, with a focus on thinking, creating and communicating — skills vital to employers and graduate and professional schools. Learn more about the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at UCCS.