Improving the lives of women through research and education

By Sharon Chayra

It is said the word history is a contraction of “his” and “story,” an accounting of moments and people of significance. While history tends to favor the recollections of men, specifically those of European descent, the histories of minority groups and women have moments of neglect, or worse, commentary that reduces their contributions based largely on the skin color, language, culture or gender.

The Women’s Research Institute of Nevada at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas exists with a mission of the department to improve the lives of all Nevadans through research and education on women and girls. Collaboration through public and private partnerships assures a broader range of people will hear the message in a way that resonates.

According to Institute Director, Dr. Joanne Goodwin, “Gender bias is less obvious today and more embedded in behaviors and subtle thoughts. My students come into my upper-level history classes largely ignorant of how gender operates in daily lives and how women have been a constant in US history.”

“Women’s Research Institute has had numerous important partnerships on our projects,” said Dr. Goodwin. “Caesars supported NEW Leadership Nevada for years; MGM and the Kagi Foundation are supporters of the MAKERS Project with PBS.” The projects she’s referring to include the documentary produced by Vegas PBS, MAKERS: Women in Nevada History.

Since Nevada was one of several western states that granted women the right to vote before the federal Amendment was signed into law, females’ contributions to improving the state through the founding of business and community institutions, leading organizations and working to solve pressing community issues, merit the 30 minute documentary’s production. “Drawn from two decades of research on women in the state from the Institute, the programs will inform, educate and inspire our viewers,” Dr. Goodwin said.

Another important effort is the NEW Leadership Nevada, a non-partisan civic engagement and leadership program affiliated with Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. The program brings women college students from across the state together for an intensive program which helps them identify their personal leadership style, builds key skill sets and introduces them to a network of statewide women who have developed important initiatives and careers. The 10-year-old program has seen alums enter both public and private sector employment in the state and across the nation.

With such progressive thinking, the Women’s Research Institute has enhanced the university’s respected academic reputation. In addition, the Institute participated in creating two publications on the Status of Women in Nevada that presents multiple data points for women’s health, welfare, education, civic engagement and employment.

Dr. Goodwin herself is a notable woman, whose own accomplishments exemplify women’s continued role in the improvement of Nevada, is grateful for the opportunity to work in an area of concentration that means so much to her. She and her team have much to do, but they want inclusion with genders, all ages and races action in this effort.

“I want our students to understand the ways in which people have worked together for the common good and to understand that people from every background have participated in that history. I want greater visibility for women in our curriculum.”

For more information, visit wrinunlv.org.

Sharon Chayra is CEO of ChayraCom, an award-winning marketing agency and is also an award-winning writer and author of Timeless Beauty, a pictorial about women’s natural beauty over the age of 40. She writes about food and wine, Native America culture, health and medicine and is currently working on her second book about military transition. Her free time is spent with her three reluctant but very beloved children.

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