U campus adds GLBT minor

UMD will begin offering the new courses at the beginning of the next academic year.

by Haley Hansen

The University of Minnesota-Duluth is introducing a new gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender studies minor that some say could make the school’s campus more welcoming.

In response to demand and an increase in research regarding GLBT issues, the school announced earlier this month that students will have the opportunity to take courses in the new minor starting this fall.

UMD women, gender and sexuality studies associate professor George Hoagland led efforts to develop the new minor for about two years. She said the school created several new courses and reworked others to create the curriculum.

“We wanted the program to be something kind of homegrown and manageable,” she said.

The Twin Cities campus has had a GLBT minor since 2004.

Hoagland said Duluth’s 16-credit minor is small, and students can get through it quickly.

The Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies will house the new minor, in which students will take courses
on GLBT history and queer theory, among other classes related to the topics. Electives in the minor hit on areas like cinema, media and international history of homosexual rights.

The new minor is interdisciplinary and delves into other subjects that involve GLBT studies like political science, social science and biology, Hoagland said.

The field of GLBT studies is still relatively young, she said, but as research in the discipline has increased, the number of universities offering programs in GLBT studies has also risen.

The rise in schools offering GLBT studies programs is also connected to societal and cultural changes regarding civil rights and equality, Hoagland said.

“Universities are not divorced from the societies in which they exist,” she said. “In a sense, whatever conversations are happening in the community is also being represented on college campuses.”

Students at the Duluth campus have expressed interest in the program for a number of years, Hoagland said.

Gesa Zinn, head of UMD’s gender, women and sexuality studies department, said four students have signed up for the minor’s introductory courses and she expects more to enroll in the next few weeks.

Zinn said the new minor will hopefully strengthen ties with the GLBT community on campus and in the surrounding area.

“We’re very excited, and we’re hoping that it will take off and will bring more students here,” she said.

Stef Wilenchek, director for the Twin Cities campus’ Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Ally Programs Office, said schools hope when they offer courses in GLBT studies, they become a more welcoming and respectful place.

Wilenchek has taught GLBT courses in the past at other universities and said they can help legitimize the experiences of GLBT people.

“I think it can also allow for a lot of folks who don’t identify with the LGBTQ community to learn a great deal and get exposed to information they might not get in other classroom settings,” Wilencheck said.

UMD’s Queer and Allied Student Union chairperson Jace Carlson said the new minor will help make the campus a more inclusive place and attract prospective students.

“It just makes the whole campus appear as a more accepting community,” Carlson said.

And being able to discuss GLBT issues in the classroom is critical, said English senior Mason Nunemaker, who has taken courses that incorporated GLBT topics.

He said it’s important for universities to offer courses on GLBT issues and students in and outside of the community should take advantage of them.

“I just think it’s really important for people who don’t necessarily hold these identities to be in those conversations,” Nunemaker said.