Forty Years of the Program on the Status and Education of Women

Beyond Limits
Photos: Stephens College, Whittier College, Allegheny College, Sweet Briar College, and Effat University

In 1971, great upheavals were occurring across America. The New York Times was revealing the Pentagon Papers to the public, outraging a nation deeply divided by the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court was lowering the voting age and legalizing busing as a means of school desegregation. NASA was continuing to send manned missions to the moon and orbiters to Mars. And in Washington, DC, Bunny Sandler was working to pass legislation that would change what was possible for American women

There was little fanfare when Bunny brought her work in support of the then-unpassed Title IX to the Association of American Colleges (AAC). Yet in establishing the first women’s office within a national association of higher education, AAC was taking an unprecedented, and surely somewhat risky, step. It turned out to be a step well placed, as the Program on the Status and Education of Women (PSEW) now looks back on forty years of advocacy on behalf of women students, faculty, and staff. AAC&U is celebrating its contributions with a yearlong campaign to reduce remaining barriers to gender equity and move beyond limits to a more equitable world.

This issue of On Campus with Women reflects on the accomplishments that will fuel gender equity work in the years to come. It celebrates PSEW’s origins with a conversation with directors Bunny Sandler and Caryn McTighe Musil, and it turns to previous partners in PSEW’s work, who reflect on significant changes and still-current issues. Yolanda Moses, Shirley Hune, and Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner describe the status of women of color in higher education many years after PSEW issued the first series on the topic. Angela Ginorio suggests new narratives about women of color in STEM, and Cathy Middlecamp explains how her work in chemistry is indebted to the contributions of women’s studies. Anita Clair Fellman and Jennifer Fish explore the history of the women’s studies program at their institution. Donna Maeda, founding member of AAC&U affiliate Campus Women Lead, describes the tensions and extraordinary benefits of collaborating across differences. And Lucia Cruz, former PSEW staffer, sends a dispatch from the Gambia, where she is putting her women’s studies background to good use in the Peace Corps.

Our authors’ stories belie the myth that work for women’s equity is done. They reanimate old questions and apply them to new contexts, asking not only “Who is missing?” and “From where?” but also “What can we do to make the next four decades better than the last?” We invite you to join them in asking that question and seeking its many answers. With your help, we can move beyond limits for gender equity by 2051.

Kathryn Peltier Campbell

"By all kinds of measures, women and girls have stormed the imposed limits....[but there is] troubling news behind otherwise glowing figures from this period of extraordinary change."

--Caryn McTighe Musil


This issue's authors reflect on the various projects PSEW has sponsored over its forty-year history, noting how far gender equity has come and how much is left to accomplish.

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Donna Maeda argues that what higher education needs is a praxis for transformational change.

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Peace Corps Volunteer Lucia Cruz reflects on how her women's studies background prepared her for life and service in the Gambia.

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