OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – Weber State University recently approved Queer Studies as a minor program and Bachelor of Integrated Studies area of emphasis.
According to the university’s course catalog, the program “offers interdisciplinary, scholarly perspectives on the formation of sexuality and gender identity. Instead of conceptualizing these topics as unchangeable and only biologically driven, QS approaches these topics as they relate to the social construction of and their critical intersections with other relations of power such as race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, and age.”
Dr. Theresa Kay teaches psychology courses at Weber State University. She, along with a couple of other professors, played a major role in getting the program to Weber State.
“I’ve been a staunch advocate for the LGBTQ+ community for over a decade and to see that we’re now able to offer a program that further enhances the understanding of the community is just amazing to me,” Dr. Kay shares.
According to Dr. Kay, the minor went through a lengthy approval process and the final approval just came through a few weeks ago. The university is prepared to begin offering classes for the minor program this fall.
“We’re very excited about it,” she says. Dr. Kay says there is a need for this class to create awareness for people who identify as LGBTQ+.
“LGBTQ+ individuals always existed, so the awareness of people who identify as such has been growing, and because of the awareness, people now have a language to use to describe their experiences, so they’re able to use the internet, get more information, etc.” she states. “We see people who are coming out at younger and younger ages- in some cases as early as grade school, even well before that. And so the need to be able to work effectively with LGBTQ+ individuals has just exploded, so that was the major reason why we decided to start the minor…”
Dr. Kay says there has been an abundance of support for the program.
“We’ve received nothing but support from Weber State Administration and faculty. Many faculty from a variety of departments jumped right on board and started talking about different classes that they’d want to teach for the minor,” she tells ABC4. “I don’t doubt that there are people who would disagree with the need for the program to be developed or if it’s even the right things to do, but in terms of pushback, when it came to the proposal process, none.”
She says the support makes her really proud to be part of the Weber State community.
“I’ve been with Weber State for 20 years, and I’ve been so proud with how Weber State has grown in its advocacy of the LGBTQ+ community,” Dr. Kay shares. “Our president in years past, Charles Wight, was the first university president to participate in the Utah Pride Parade a number of years ago. Weber State is the first to have a Queer Studies program, so I’m very, very proud of that legacy.”
Though she says no students have yet declared Queer Studies as a minor, she says the program was just approved and she thinks that students will be coming to the program soon.
The Queer Studies Minor requires 18 total credit hours, nine from core courses and nine from elective courses. Some of the courses include LGBTQ America Since 1945, Sociology of Gender, Human Sexuality, and Human Rights in the World.
One of the core courses is an Internship in Queer Studies.
“The internship experiences in any program are designed for students to apply what they’ve learned in their program of study in a practical environment. I happen to be on the board of Ogden Pride as well and so, one thing that I envision is… developing an internship experience with Ogden Pride. There are also faculty who are very interested in political science, pre-law, child and family studies, who could very likely want to create an internship experience in organizations that are more reflective of their areas of interest and expertise,” Dr. Kay explains.
She says the United States is incredibly diverse, so it is vitally important that students are able to work with people who are different from them and with those from marginalized and underrepresented communities.
“Because the LGBTQ+ population is still a marginalized and underrepresented group, the curriculum surrounding the minor will equip students to go out into the workforce and be prepared to work with that segment of the population,” she says.
When asked which careers students could go into that could be enhanced by having a Queer Studies minor under their belt, Dr. Kay says any career that involves working with people.
“So that’s everything from medicine to mental health to law enforcement to law, and I could just go on.”
Her hopes for the program?
“First of all, I hope it becomes a popular minor, so that way we have a lot of students deciding to declare this program of study,” she says. “I also hope that students who may not know much about the LGBTQ+ community will see some of our courses and decide to take one of the courses as an elective and learn more about the community in that way. I just think education is critical to a more accurate understanding.”