Interview with Dr. Marjorie Och
Interviewed by: Clark Castillo and Erin Underwood
Transcribed by: Clark Castillo and Erin Underwood
[Interview #1: November 16, 2010]
Table of Contents
Professor Och describes her introduction to Feminism
Professor Och describes the history of Mary Washington
Professor Och describes why the program was started
Professor Och explains why the program hasn’t started until now.
Professor Och Describes Feminism
Professor Och describes the beginning of today’s Women’s and Gender Studies
Professor Och details the focus of the curriculum
Professor Och introduces the “Core group” from the beginning of the Women’s and Gender studies.
Professor Och compares the current curriculum to the standing curriculum before the Women’s and Gender Studies Program
Professor Och explains why Women’s and Gender studies is a program and not a discipline.
Professor Och explains where she sees the future of the Women’s and Gender Studies.
Professor Och is describing the public issues of feminism in general.
Professor Och discusses and describes her specific participation in Women’s studies as an Art Historian
Professor Och describes the growth of interest in Women’s and Gender studies.
Professor Och describes the level of feminism she sees at Mary Washington
Professor Och Discusses issues with a lack of Diversity at UMW
Professor Och describes how past issues will be fueling the evolution of the New Program
Professor Och describes issues the importance of faculty and student interest
Professor Och compares historical Feminist movements to UMW’s today.
Professor Och describes student involvement with the program in general
Professor Och compares UMW’s program to other schools
Professor Och discusses a new wave of feminism
Professor Och describes the importance of accumulating all disciplines into Women’s and Gender Studies
Professor Och discusses public response to the new program.
Professor Och Rediscusses her own activity in the creation of the program, as well as others involved.
Professor Och talks about the importance of Women’s History Month
Farewell and Message to the Future.
Underwood: Alright. It is November sixteenth, and I would like to start off, if you would please state your full name.
Och: Okay, I am Marjorie Och. Department of Art and Art History, here at Mary Wash.
Underwood: Um, so Professor Och, I would like to, um, discuss about the Women and Gender’s Study program and UMW and a little bit about how it was formed. I am going to start out by asking some historical based questions if that is all right. First off, I’d like to start by asking you how you perceived the feminist movement in the seventies.
Och: Well, I was very little at the time. How I perceived it was um… gosh that’s an excellent question. As, as a little girl I wasn’t as exposed as many of my senior colleagues here were. My mom was a stay at home mom, and my role models were Marilyn Monroe and um Lucille Ball on ‘I Love Lucy” uh so sorta wacky blondes and uh and also Doris Day – so blondes who could make a fuss but also be romantic. So the feminist movement, how does that fit into any of that… umm it was an interesting awakening for me. And I became much more aware of the feminist movement when I was in graduate school, first at the University of Delaware, and then into an empowered feminist environment at Bryn Mawr College. That may not answer all of your questions but, all that question, but maybe we can get to more of it [Underwood-mmhmm] as we proceed.
Underwood: When did you start teaching here at UMW?
Och: In the fall of ’94.
Underwood: Okay. Now, have you heard anything, or experienced anything when the university went coed- more about, like, the de-feminizing of campus?
Och: Oh yeah, there has been a lot of that. From erasing signs, taking away signs about Mary Washington, um… wanting to call it the University of Mary Washington because certain administrators didn’t want to sit with other Mary’s at events where Virginia schools were lined up- Mary this, Mary that. I think that was unfortunate and this has… I don’t know that Mary Washington has ever been a feminist campus. I think there have been, as I understand ‘feminist campus’ from going to Bryn Mawr, there are individuals here who are feminists, and then there are a lot people who will whisper [whispers] ‘feminism’ because it’s an ‘f’ word for them and they are very afraid of that word. It’s scary. Unfortunately, and I think the campus has been frightened by women who want rights.
Underwood: Which is so strange considering that this university started as a women’s university.
Och: I think it started as a girls school. But you’re absolutely right, it is strange. And I think it is the part of the denial of … um… of women’s history and of women’s rights. That uh… that has been the case. It’s in a sense, perhaps the history of a girls’ finishing school. Send young ladies into teaching. Where they will teach proper behavior and proper studies for young women.
Underwood: Can you tell me a little bit, a little bit about what sparked the interest for a Women’s and Gender Studies program?
Och: Hunger. And just really frustration. A lot of frustration on this campus. And it’s, it’s difficult… it’s difficult to say- to mark all of those moments of frustration. But, one of them would be an administrator, who is no longer here, saying ‘there will never be a women’s studies major, at this institution. Never.’ Yea! We have one! [laughs]
Underwood: Um… Another question that kind of goes along with that is –is why now? Why now is there just been a start?
Och: Well, there have been some changes in administrators, and uh I think, I think that a lot of things just fell into place. So it was the right, it was the right time and the right people- and it just fell into place. And there were some people who weren’t around, some people weren’t around but, couldn’t say no anymore. But we are a good thirty years behind. [Underwood: right] Yeah, which is why we have a women and gender’s studies major and not a women’s studies major or a gender studies major. You know, many schools today don’t have just a women’s studies major, they will have both. And the group that was working on this didn’t feel that, you know, we had the faculty to do two independent majors as much as we wanted that. So we combined talents and resources and agreed that this would be women and gender studies major. Perhaps in the future other things will have developed. I’d love to see some other things happen. I would love to see some other things happen.
Underwood: Could you tell me what your definition of feminism and women’s studies is?
Och: Gosh. Another good, tough question. Feminism is, for me, recognizing that everyone, men and women both, have… have rights. And to be a feminist is to recognize everyone’s potential and everyone’s…everyone’s right, rights. Women’s studies would be more particular there and it would be the study of women’s lives, women’s histories- both very particular as well as more general. It would involve sciences, which I am not involved in, but it would certainly involve sciences as well as the humanities, social sciences. Some of the…[Underwood- Can you…] oh I’m sorry [Underwood- Oh no, go please…] A study of women’s lives.
Underwood: Um… could you tell me some of the key players ahh… in the formation of the program? [Och: here at Mary Washington?] Yes.
Och: Um, yes. Perhaps the one who is, I think, most critical for a sense of history here at Mary Washington is Judith Parker, the linguistics professor. And um.. she has been here between twenty and twenty-five years, I think. And um, she is critical to the movement of the (mizzle ?) on campus and women’s studies here.
Underwood: And what was your role? Could you kind of explain how you helped? [Och: with the creation of this?] Yes
Och: Okay. Um… In late January or early February of 2008, I had a chance encounter with Nina Mikhalevsky, Dr. Mikhalevsky, who at that time was the acting provost. And the chance encounter occurred here, outside of Dupont, and it was, you know, January or February and faculty are just exhausted. You know the feeling, we are as tired as you guys are. You come back from the holidays and are like oh my god, can’t wait ‘til summer. She said ‘hi Marjory how are you?’ and I said ‘hi Nina, I’m fine.’ And then she asked me a question and the question went something like, … now keep in mind this is sometime-you know- January, February 2008. Who was our president? I have- I don’t remember- okay? [laughs] We’ve been through so many presidents, it was horrific, and for faculty who were not only exhausted but also fed up with administrative shenanigans. You know, I was just ready to choo [makes motion to ‘throw in the towel’] you know. So she said something like ‘What would you like to see happen here at Mary Washington?’ or ‘How are you doing?’ or something about the curriculum here at Mary Washington. And I said ‘Nina, I would love to see a Women’s Studies major developed.’ And she said ‘Well why don’t you?’ And I said ‘Because the administration has always said no’. And Dr. Mikhalevsky said… ‘If you want a women’s study major Marjory, you propose it.’ So… the Women and Gender’s Studies major started from that conversation that I had with Nina Mikhalevsky. And I sent an email around, and I’ve got a copy of that email here, and I sent it around and I shared it with about a dozen faculty on campus and a few administrators, uh maybe just one administrator Cedric Rucker, who I knew would be supportive of this. And I proposed that we have a lunch, so in the spring of ’08 faculty started to meet and then in the fall of ‘08 we continued to meet. And the academic year ‘08-’09 we developed that proposal, and I guess it was in ’09 that Allyson Poska, of the history department, finalized the proposal and she is the director of the program and doing a very fine job. And we have a strong director, we have a strong committee supporting women’s and gender studies. It was a couple years in the making, there were a lot of frustrations throughout, meetings with various administrators who were more or less supportive. But it started late January of ’08, that chance meeting. So, chance meetings can sometimes be good.
Underwood: I would definitely have to agree. [Och: Yeah]
Castillo: Umm, I’m assuming there was a specific curriculum that the Women’s and Gender Studies is supposed to try to organize itself around. What is the primary point of focus of that curriculum?
Och: Well it’s interdisciplinary, and uh I think the- I don’t know that there is any particular point of, of the curriculum other than allowing the student to focus on either women’s studies or gender studies, and within that they can choose, say, something that is, is focused more on the humanities, more on the sciences, more on the social sciences. So, my understanding of the curriculum is that students can ah, develop their own personal interest and professional interests. Uh, since I’m on sabbatical this year, I’m not, I’m not on the committee. And, so I don’t know how the committee is sort of seeing or directing students at this point. But I do from conversations, you know, from our initial planning uh, that uh, we were- we saw Women’s and Genders Studies as, as majors that would allow students either to, you know to pursue one or the other to prepare them for graduate school or, or the job- employment. So giving them a strong background and certainly having internships, in again depending on their particular interests their personal focus, internships to direct them and then individual studies also to help them decide where they want to pursue their careers.
Castillo: Alright, and um, who all was involved in coming up with the curriculum that stands today?
Och: A lot of people. Umm, I was, Allyson, Judith Parker, Connie, umm.. oh who else. Kevin McCluskey, I’m reading some names off of this, Miriam Liss, Tracy Citeroni, Kristin Marsh, Craig Vasey, umm… Helen Housley, heavens I know there were many other people who were involved, but that was a quarter. That was…Connie Smith, I think I gave her first name but not her last. But that was the core group, gosh I hope I’m not leaving anyone out.
Castillo: Umm, was one department in particular drawn from more to build the curriculum than others, or…?
Och: No, and not, not that I, not as I understand it. Umm… and that is surprising, umm… it’s interesting that, you know, there were some courses that I would have said yeah that’s a shoo in for Women’s and Gender Studies. Um, and faculty teaching those courses just didn’t want, didn’t want it for some reason. I don’t know, um, so there are some departments that may seem less involved but I think there are a lot of departments that are.
Underwood: Umm, can I ask a question real quick? Umm, does the Women and Gender Studies program take classes that have already been kind of out there in different departments as well as create their own classes or do you just incorporate the ones that were there first?
Och: Yeah, good question. Uh, we were working, we were building on our strengths, so, and this is one of the reasons why we have Women’s and Gender Studies and not women’s separate from gender studies majors. Um, we have a lot of courses already here on campus that involve women’s history, uh, women’s issues, women’s studies, and a few that involve gender studies. So we, again, building on our strengths, we wanted to use what we already had. And we also thought, ok, we have to show the administration that we already have this in place. So again we were building on our strengths to prove that point to the administration. So presently, I think all of the courses are courses that were on the books or in the works, or something like, umm, an individual study which is to be worked out with the student and that can be different every semester. Our, our hope and expectation is that new faculty coming to Mary Wash will be interested in Women’s and Gender Studies and so new courses that, you know, they will contribute and so that new courses will be created. So down the road there could be a separate Women’s Studies, Gender Studies depending on the faculty interest and student interest.
Castillo: Okay, um, how much discussion was there in the initial beginning to have it as an inter-disciplinary program as opposed to having its own discipline of Women’s and Gender Studies?
Och: There was a lot of discussion and um, it really had to be… a couple of things. Umm, theoretically and historically women’s studies is interdisciplinary. So, there are departments of women’s studies now at different schools, but even at those schools that may have a separate department they will pull faculty and courses from other disciplines. Umm, so, you know, again that sort of builds on the strength of that very, what is a very interdisciplinary study. And practically speaking here at Mary Washington, we were told there was no money. And without money we can’t have a department. So, I think we’re doing this on, on handouts. You know, there might be a little bit of funds every so often but it’s, it’s not- we don’t have a budget that one could depend on to create a department so it really has to be something that pulls in faculty and support from all over.
Castillo: Okay. As the program grows, assuming that it does, where do you see it possibly going?
Och: Skies the limits. Um, gosh, were would it go? Um, I would… I don’t- I don’t know. I don’t know. How fully umm, I think we’ve had a…a strong, small, but strong history of students with an interest. As long as I’ve been here there’s always been at least one that I’ve known of every year, in my, in my teaching in Art History. And I know that other faculty, you know the student I know is not known by the faculty over there, you know, so we all know different students. So I think now that it is official, I think it is certainly a lot easier for students to come to a major that is already there. Making our major is a problem, it always has been. So hopefully it will become stronger, larger, area here at Mary Washington, more students and faculty will become aware of it, more resources will be made available, more programming on campus, um… the ‘f’ word won’t be whispered, you know people will be able to say I’m a feminist, umm and yeah- so that will be good.
Castillo: Why do you feel that it’s, that people are scared of the word? Why do you feel that it is that way on campus?
Och: It’s not just on campus, and it’s an excellent question, and- I think, I think people, well, maybe I should ask you. What was your- or what is your, what is your perception, I don’t mean to put you on the spot, and I could just fill in some blanks here if you just don’t want to say, um, but do you have any stereotypes that you’ve heard. Not that you hold, but stereotypes that you’ve heard about feminists.
Castillo: Depending on what level of feminism, definitely yes.
Och: Yeah, yeah. And some of those stereotypes are-
Castillo: A little unnerving
Och: Yeah, yeah. Exactly, exactly, and one thing that needs to… the context, for feminism and perhaps scary feminism, is that women lost jobs, for wanting to study women. For wanting to study women’s history. You know, I would never have gotten tenure 30 years ago, 20 years ago, it just wouldn’t have happened because my own field is the history of women’s patronage of the arts. Well this is… I was a pioneer in the field of art history. And, my work is based on the triumphs and humiliation of many feminist art historians who didn’t get tenure and who lost their jobs simply because they wanted to study women artists, women patrons, women’s issues. Those women got pissed off. So that anger, pardon my future for using unpleasant language, but that anger is something that doesn’t go away. In fact when I had that conversation with Dr. Mikhalevsky, and you she said you know how are you doing, what’s up, what would you like to see at Mary Washington, I went like this [crosses her arms] and I said, you know, I’m not happy. So I had the body language, very defensive, very unsettling. And she is a charming, she is strong. She is smart. She is not someone I had to defend myself with, but you know I was about to say Dammit. We want women’s studies here. We have wanted it for years. And these people in GW are saying over my dead body. And it’s like well OK. And she says Margaret you want it, you go for it. So she calmed me down, but again the anger, and I could feel that anger coming up. And there are stereotypes. Certainly about feminists, we can get angry. Women of a certain generation. And I think younger women who may be feminists don’t know that anger necessarily, I think young men and women both who are feminist. I think, I think you’ll encounter things, things that haven’t changed all that much. I think you’ll encounter some lousy things but you, at this stage you may not see or feel that anger. That may be one of those stereotypes. Good questions.
Castillo: You had touched briefly on a question I had down here, how exactly do you see yourself as an art historian, how exactly do you see your field tying in with women’s studies?
Och: Ok, the kind of work I do. I look at how women commissioned works of art, I look at how women are described in 15th and 16th century literature, my own area is Italian renaissance, so I focus on things in Rome, in Venice, in Florence, South Italy, to some extent Naples. And the descriptions, the history of women. My dissertation was about a very, very powerful noble woman by the name of Victoria Colona, who was known as a friend of Michael Angelo’s. So you know, she was known. And for much of the 20th century, that was the only way she was known. Except in Italy, where she was also recognized as a very important writer, and in fact she was the most important women patriarchan poet, in the 16th century. So my work, I was kind of an archaeologist, excavating what are this woman’s interests in the arts. Because she was described as having no interests in the arts, and I thought a friend of Michael Angelo’s, they write poetry to one another, how could she not have any interest in the arts? So I began to look at her life, her poetry, documents that I could find. My dissertation was about her patronage. What I did was I redefined patronage for women, and I defined it as women acquiring works of art, not directly, but indirectly. In the 16th century we know a lot about male patrons, the Medici, the popes and such, and they could go directly an artist, and say you know I want this. Women within certain social statuses, within certain social spheres could not have that kind of direct interaction with an artist. You know artists were someone who worked with their hands, and noble people noble ladies did not work on that level. So Colona, well, except that she knew Michael Angelo who everyone described as divine, So Colona identified a number of projects that she commissioned, not directly, but thru the assistance of her brother, you know, other male relatives, she had debts that she pulled in. People owed her favors, they owed her money. So she could pull in these debts that were owed to her in very, very interesting ways. Her art collection was in part developed through her working around the system. So for me, you know, my interest in women’s studies and women’s history has been to identify ways that women can circumvent the system, can go around the system, and still succeed. Because if you’re not allowed to do something, and you still want to do it. How do you do it? How do you accomplish it? So I was interested in how she accomplished.
Castillo: You had identified earlier that the administration has definitely been a roadblock in the road to this women’s and genders studies
Och: With the exception of Dr. Mikhalevsky
Castillo: Have there been any other major ones or…? [Och: Ones who assisted or?] Any other major roadblocks?
Och: I’d have to say that the number of faculty interested in women’s and gender studies has grown. So when I first came here the number was very, very small. When I first came here, the number of us interested could have fit in these three chairs. I’m being facetious, I’m exaggerating to some extent. It was a very small group. So younger faculty, more faculty, more research, that has done something to keep some roadblocks at bay from faculty.
Underwood: When did the want for women’s studies program really start. I mean I realize that it kind of came to fruition more recently, but how far back did the push really start?
Och: At least, at least, 10 years ago, probably 20 years ago which predates my arrival here, but two of the faculty who were very active and strong in promoting Women’s studies, Judith Parker and Carroll Corcoran, Judith in linguistics, and Carroll Corcoran who is no longer here, in psychology. And they were very strong in pushing for women’s studies in their classes. So at least 20 years ago, and I would think, that would take us back to 1990, I would say the early 80’s but I don’t know.
Castillo: We had discussed earlier about how when the school had become co-ed, that it had more or less de-feminized itself. Do you feel that the marketing aspect of this school has at all affected the creation of this program?
Och: No. I don’t think so. How would you see that?
Underwood: I think more that Mary Washington has turned more towards getting more male students in, and kind of having the creation of a women’s and gender studies program as kind of appeasing more of the women on campus- since we’ve turned away from women’s names on the buildings, just kind of getting rid of that, and things of that nature.
Och: So sort of a consolation prize? [Underwood: Almo-Yeah almost] Well it might be a consolation prize in that we’re over 30 years too late. It’s like now that it doesn’t mean anything anymore? Not that it doesn’t mean anything, but know that it’s not the empowering activist, even militant program that it could have been in the 70’s. um, So, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if admissions people don’t start to use it now, for marketing, in some requirements. It’s a good thing that we have it, I think it will appeal to more students. And I think students and parents both are going see this and think well yeah, sure, why not.
Underwood: Kind of going back to a little bit of a historical thing, you were talking about the formation in the 70’s being a more militant activist program. How do you feel that our program approaches that part of feminism? Do you think that we embrace a more active, very out there more militant kind of thing, or do you think that it’s kind of taking the turn, as most women’s programs are doing and backing away from that?
Och: I don’t know absolutely, because I’m on sabbatical so I m not in tune, with what’s going on right now. My sense though is that we have some very activist faculty, I think we have some very activist students. I don’t think, I don’t think we have too many militants, here, but that’s what it is. We don’t have to have militants. But I think we can develop a women’s studies and a gender studies program that advocates for issues. Whatever those issues may be. So, I, I hope that is part of what’s going on. And I think, I think certainly that especially in women’s studies, because there are so many things involved in women’s studies with domestic violence and family violence, so many terrible issues, I think we need to have some activist advocacy involved to get good work done.
Underwood: Do you feel that our program incorporates minorities into the women’s and gender studies program? With race or sexual orientation?
Och: Good Question, umm, again, since I’m not closely involved this year with things, I don’t know all the courses that are being taught. Mary Washington is predominantly white. I think we’ve got, everyone can be a minority. Because we’re all different, we’re all individuals, so we all have something that can make us very different. But the campus is not, the campus does not mirror the country. If one goal is for the campus to mirror the country, I don’t think that any of our majors are accomplishing that. I think women’s and genders studies certainly could. I don’t know if this pertinent to your question, but as an interesting aside for, when I arrived here in ’94 I knew of no lesbians on campus. And there was only one, two, two openly gay individuals. One faculty, one faculty administrator. I still know, I’m not sure I can name a lesbian on campus. Not that I have too. But, gay men are much more open on campus. I think that’s very healthy. And I think that’s certainly the change, the difference is very healthy. And who knows, maybe in the future well develop that people can be open, so that in terms of sexual orientation, perhaps here at Mary Washington, there is more openness, But it is still so frightening, for men and women of any age, to come out, and open up as being anything, that another group, a dominant group might say is not the norm- whatever the norm is. I would like to see Mary Washington become much more open in that regard. And certainly more diverse in every respect. And I think that was one goal that the faculty had. In your discussions, in your interviews, in your research on campus, you might come across some debate, that was held, I think in the 80’s, about heterosexual and homosexual lifestyles. And it was a very, I don’t, I wasn’t here, I don’t know enough about it to really speak directly, I don’t like hearsay. But if you want to hunt some stuff down, it was two faculty members, as I recall debating in GW, on stage about this. And it sounded like it was really, really strange. But you know again, it suggests the distance we’ve gone. And you know still the difference we have yet to go.
Underwood: How do you feel on the race and gender intensive general ed requirement, being gone?
Och: I voted against it. I think I was one of three people, who raised their hands. I don’t know why we, we voted that away. I thought the race and gender intensive requirement here was good, I thought it was interesting. I do not think that race and gender has trickled down across campus into all of our courses, absolutely not. The week we voted that down, was the week that, you may not remember this, I don’t have all the details. It was the week that we had a series, a horrific, racially charged images placed in a student dorm for staff to encounter. These were, horrific images, and they were put up on facebook, you know, and it was just the scandal here. And we voted that week we voted Race and gender down. It just didn’t make any sense to me. And very few faculty, like I said I was one of about three who said no. Kristen Marsh spoke to support, to keep race and gender. But it was almost unanimous.
Underwood: Do you think that the women’s and genders studies program, that that’s going to be something they will definitely want to keep alive in their program?
Och: Sure, absolutely, that’s really at the heart. And, you know, really for the past 20 years, there have been different race and gender initiatives on campus. Some more or less successful, really depending on what was going on. And all wonderful, all very wonderful. But we’ve lost a lot of good faculty because the administration didn’t support race and genders studies interest of faculty. And I think that Women’s and Gender Studies will support it, and may be a place for faculty to say, in spite of all that’s out there, at least there is this core of colleagues and students. Because we really are here for the students. So when you guys are saying yeah that’s important to us, that keeps us alive. That keeps us charged, that keeps us going. That’s so important.
Underwood: Speaking of students, was there a big student push for the women’s studies program? Or did you find that it was primarily faculty?
Och: It had to be faculty, to begin with to get it going. And I think each faculty member sort of polled student classes and such, and we found in our classes a great deal of support. And I remember on a couple occasions, when something new happened, something good happened, I would announce in my class, and they clapped, and they were all Yay yay yay. And the students were definitely, here in art history, where you might say what does that have to do with, there was a lot of interest, a lot of interest, a lot of support. While the work was of faculty, working together. We were listening to students, and we were kept alive. You know our batteries were charged by listening to students you know say yeah thanks. That was really important to us.
Underwood: Was there any student involvement in the curriculum? I know that we’ve read that a lot of the feminist women’s programs starting out had a lot of student involvement in curriculum building. I don’t know if that’s the same today or not, but did they have a say in it? Or was there any involvement of any kind?
Och: We used a number of the individual, sorry not individual studies, the special majors. Because there had been a number of women’s studies special majors. So we used their programs as templates. So in that way we had student input. And so by polling students, and there were actual polls, that another faculty member actually did, several other faculty actually polled students. Unfortunately we didn’t have, you know again the student body in the 70’s is very different than the student body now. [Underwood: Right] So the student body in the 70s would have just taken over GW, and would have just sat down, you know, until the administration said yes. And now, everyone has their own job to do, their work, and so this group of faculty, with a few students listening in and assisting in some ways, did it. But we didn’t have the massive input of students that you typically had in the 70s, had we had had that opportunity.
Underwood: I’m kind of curious now, I know you weren’t here during that time, but why, why wasn’t there a student’s movement? Why didn’t they go sit in GW and demand that they had a women’s studies program?
Och: Yeah. That’s an excellent question. I don’t know. I don’t, I don’t think the faculty were particular… I don’t think there was a strong enough, a large enough body of faculty to support the students, to do that. Or to even let the students become aware. I’m sure there were a few students who were interested. And they probably had their heads patted. You’re so cute when you get angry. You know something like that. Umm…It was a different school. It was a very different school. It would be wonderful to interview alumni from that time and see, see what they would say.
Underwood: How do you feel about student involvement. Do you… how does, does it matter?
Och: Yes. Absolutely. But student involvement in what?
Underwood: Just in the program. In taking interest. In pushing ahead with new ideas.
Och: Yeah, yeah, oh that’s very important. That is so important. You know personally student involvement means well okay, it wasn’t done in vain. This really is wanted. And this is how we get our thanks. You know by students becoming majors. This is how we get our thanks. It also means there’s a future for this. And that other students at Mary Washington will be exposed. You know, you don’t have to major in it, just be exposed, that’s all. And that is the wonderful thing about a liberal arts campus is that you are exposed. Maybe you never take a class, or maybe your roommate does, or maybe someone you know takes a class, so you hear about it through that way. And that’s important. And student involvement means there’s a, there’s a future. And I don’t know if this is the case, but I would love for there to be a student on the, in the committee that is involved in directing the women’s and gender studies major. I don’t know if that’s the case, but.
Underwood: [whispers to Castillo: Do you have any more questions?] [Castillo: I believe we just about covered it all] How do you see this program in comparison to different colleges programs?
Och: Well It’s so new, and that has, could be its plus, it could be its advantage. It won’t have the baggage of a program that’s already established. In a way we can invent ourselves as, as we want. So we can start off afresh, we can start off with a young generation of students, and new faculty, so I think in that regard not carrying the baggage from the 70’s could be, could be a plus. It could also be a minus in that we don’t have the history of the feminist movement of the 70’s. But we still have some of those feminists who are here, so…
Underwood: Do you think that there will be a new wave any time soon?
Och: A new wave of feminism? [Underwood: Yeah] Yeah, umm, let’s see. Good question. It’s been interesting to watch over, over the years, hopefully there will be. If there’s no new wave it’s dead. [Underwood: right]And that would be the case for anything. So hopefully there will be a new wave and my hope is that it will charge a lot of people to feel good about being empowered and helping others to become empowered.
Underwood: Kind of going back to curriculum, I just had another question about that. How do the sciences fall in to the women and gender studies program? Were they, I mean obviously I hope they were asked and whatnot. And just reading from previous books and stuff, that a lot of don’t really considered themselves as even being able to be put into a women’s and gender studies program. How have you all, in this program on campus here, how was sciences and mathematics incorporated?
Och: Specifically, I don’t know off hand, I’d have to check the brochure, to verify what is included. I do know that emails were sent to all faculty. And I know emails are still being sent to all faculty regarding courses that could fit within the curriculum, within the major. So all faculty were notified. You know, one of the things I said earlier, it was surprising that some departments, there were some faculty in English, whose courses would fit perfectly, didn’t want to sign up right away. And, I don’t know if they have now or not. All departments were invited. I think it’s natural for the sciences to be involved. You know we don’t just study one gender. We don’t just study birds to the exclusion of chimpanzees. Umm, you know, we study everything. The sciences, like the arts, like psychology. These are all naturals for women’s and genders studies. It requires faculty interest. They were invited and hopefully they will be involved. I, I know, Suzanne Sumner in mathematics has been interest. I think others will be as well.
Underwood: Obviously there was a good response from faculty and students at the formation of this program. How did you feel about the public response. Or even, even alumni? What was their response?
Och: I don’t know. I don’t know the response of alumni. I think some were saying something like, well at last. Because they were waiting also, and wondering why, why is it taking so long. And others, others are probably disappointed. Unfortunately. I think it is something the administration is going to use now that we have it. Because in our, what was it the OSACS review? One of the points that was made some years ago was the importance of developing new majors and one of the majors listed was women’s studies. So now that we have it the faculty, the faculty did something that the administration is going to use for, for itself to say ‘Okay- new majors, check.’
Underwood: Umm, do you have any other thoughts or anything else you would like to talk about that we haven’t touched on?
Och: Well, we haven’t talked about Women’s History month. Was that at all a… be of interest?
Castillo: We hadn’t discussed it but we would like to hear about it.
Och: Yeah. That’s- It’s just a… It’s a good thing, and I think that the fact that Women’s History month has been consistent here that’s something that faculty were able to say well you know, we’ve got this really great thing and students are involved in it, faculty are involved in it, you know let’s-let’s keep that, let’s strengthen that. So, that’s been really- that’s been positive and that was a supporting mechanism for this.
Underwood: Did you say that you had something that you wanted to read?
Och: Oh you know- and I think I ended up pretty much saying it all. It was, it was this first email that I sent out to faculty, February tenth, it was a Sunday, 2008. [reading] Collegues I recently had a brief ten minute discussion with Nina, Nina Mikhalevsky, I mentioned the fact that a group of faculty have long wanted and have worked to develop a women’s studies major, but that this was quote never to be unquote for a previous administration. Nina suggested I propose a women’s studies major adding that she once taught in one and would very much like to teach in one again. – Um…So then I just proposed a lunch meeting, so we pretty much went over that. But, umm, thank you Nina.
Underwood: You brought up history, err the Women’s History month and that it’s been a big part in this. How, how do you feel that the Women’s and Gender Studies program is going to use that?
Och: Good, um, with programming certainly, which has always been the case. I would imagine that some courses would be some special courses in the spring. Something that I hope will continue, five or six years ago I started the Undergraduate- let’s get the whole title- the UMW Forum of Undergraduate Research in Women’s Studies. And, five or six years ago, so this has been going on for a while and this was sponsored by the Women’s History month committee, and hopefully it will continue this year. I’m on sabbatical so I’m not involved in it. But, I think that that is a very important venue to highlight the work throughout campus on women’s studies that our student’s are doing. Now that’s Women’s History month not say, Gender Studies month, but um, I think the committee and the director of the women’s and gender studies committee needs to work on, on that. That part.
Underwood: Do you have anything else you’d like to say?
Och: It’s been a pleasure talking with you both.
Castillo: Pleasures ours.
Och: Thank you. [Underwood: Thank you very much] Oh absolutely, you’re welcome. Thanks for your interest and to the future umm…[pause] gosh a message to the future. Stay well… I hope you are there! [laughs] Okay.