New Department of Social Transformation Studies, a place where students can make a difference

American Ethnic Studies and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies combine to become the Department of Social Transformation Studies. (Dylan Connell | College Media Group)

Merging the departments of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and American Ethnic Studies allows students to learn many aspects of addressing social justice issues. In the January 28 edition of K-State Today, the Council of Academic Directors of the Kansas Board of Regents announced that the merger was finalized on January 25, 2022, creating the Department of Social Transformation Studies.

Christie Launius, acting head of the newly created department, said a growing body of research shows Gen Z students are determined to tackle social issues and inequality as part of their career aspirations.

“More and more Gen Z want to have what we call meaningful work, a career where they can make a difference,” Launius said. “So we see this new department as being designed as a place where we can meet the desires of these students.”

According to the Social Transformation Studies department’s webpage, “The department equips students with knowledge and skills that enable them to launch and sustain careers devoted to solving some of the most pressing social problems.”

“Students see so clearly that when you talk about race and racism, you also have to talk about gender, femininity and masculinity and vice versa,” Launius said. “So it makes almost no sense for these departments to be separate.”

Lanius said many professions could have a social justice angle.

“You can go into whatever field you want and also have a social justice angle in your work,” Launius said. “We have a ton of students majoring or majoring in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies or Ethnic American Studies and then combining that with another major.”

She also said that students could use knowledge from both fields as a strategic move for a future workspace, as a way to demonstrate inclusivity and understanding.

Senior psychology and GWSS senior Cheyanne Brunner said she would later major in her career as a therapist.

“This department is amazing because it applies to a wide variety of fields. Personally, I go to therapy, but you can go to law, engineering, or nonprofits,” Brunner said. “These are such easy majors to have on top of another major to enhance your other major for a future work environment.”

As a senior, Brunner said she was sad not to experience the department as a student, but was thrilled to see how younger students were benefiting from the merging of the two departments.

Courage Wortman, a junior at GWSS, said he looks forward to joining the new department next semester.

“I’m so excited to have more options for classes that I can take,” Wortman said. “I wanted to take more classes on American ethnicity anyway because I work with marginalized students, so it will help me get a better idea of ​​how to work with them and combat issues.”

Launius said students report liking the sense of community and the connection between GWSS and American Ethnic Studies courses.

“Our classes are ones that offer student-led discussions and provide a welcoming space for everyone,” Launius said. “And as a department, we work very hard to create a space where students can relax and feel safe throughout the day.”

Launius said the combination of departments will hopefully create a larger version of these already comforting and safe communities.

“Both departments are dedicated to justice and creating a better world,” Brunner said. “So as we get more people and we get social transformation studies out there, it will become a bigger community, and then we can make a move towards a better world.”