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Alison Piepmeier
Women's & Gender Studies

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Professor Alison Piepmeier

New Women's & Gender Studies Director has Big Plans
By Margaret Thornburg

Dr. Alison Piepmeier moved from Nashville to become the new director of Women's and Gender Studies. She came from Vanderbilt University where her courses included Gender and Violence and Third Wave Feminism.

Piepmeier says her passion for women studies began when she was in high school. During her senior year, her history class spent some time studying feminism. They discussed what it means to be a woman and reviewed the women's rights movement and learned about famous women in history.

In college she then started reading books, such as "Backlash" by Susan Faludi, which discussed how feminism is still such an important issue today. She also studied women writers and how women in literature are represented.

While working toward her doctorate at Vanderbilt, Piepmeier wrote "Out in Public," a book about 19th century American women who worked in public. She discusses how the women were able to "find the power to speak out in a culture that wanted to keep them silent." She also co-edited "Catching a Wave," which is a collection of essays written by young feminists.

While in Nashville Piepmeier volunteered for the Magdalene Project, a service that offers housing and help for former prostitutes and drug addicts. She taught a women's studies course for the women in the Magdalene house. While teaching the course she got to know the women living there. She found it interesting that almost all of them had been sexually abused as children and most of them got pregnant at a very early age.

At the College of Charleston Piepmeier teaches English 101, as well as Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies. "I enjoy the activism projects because they connect the course material to the real world and community," she says. The students each choose an issue discussed in class that is relevant to the Charleston community. Students choose topics such as domestic violence, body image, and reproductive rights. Then the students have to think of a creative way to get their word out to the students or community. Students have had bake sales to raise money for My Sister's House, passed out pencils with a domestic violence hotline phone number on them and even passed out condoms to students to promote safe sex.

Piepmeier will be teaching a new course called Gender and Violence, as well as a 20th century American Women Writers and Social Movements.

Even though it is only her first semester at the college, Dr, Piepmeier has big plans for the Women's and Gender Studies program. She is already making the Women's and Gender Studies minor well known in hopes of gaining more participants. There are also plans for a Women's and Gender Studies house on Bull Street, possibly by Fall 2006.

"A space at the college can be a center of energy where people can hang out, or have meetings in a conference room" is what the benefit of the new house would be.

She also has arranged for several internships with Skirt magazine, the Center for Women and Planned Parenthood. She also hopes to teach a 3rd wave feminism class and a course on women writers in Charleston.

Women's and Gender Studies students are looking forward to the future with Dr. Piepmeier. They can't wait for all the improvements she has planned for the program. As for Piepmeier, when asked what she thinks about Charleston so far she replied, "I'm going to spend my first year here getting to know the community better. I am definitely enjoying the people here. The faculty and students have been wonderful. I love Charleston, I'm having such a great time here already."