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The Institute for Women’s Studies and Services is unlike anywhere else. Here are the reasons why.

When it comes to building a successful campus community for all Roadrunners, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a place as distinct as the Institute for Women’s Studies and Services (IWSS).

Offering both academics and direct service, IWSS is unique in providing academic and holistic support for students targeted by sexism and other intersection oppressions at MSU Denver, according to Associate Professor and Director/Chair of the Institute for Women’s Studies and Services Arlene Sgoutas.

So with the upcoming Outstanding Women’s Awards celebrating 30 years on Tuesday April 28, we wanted to highlight some elements of this one-of-a-kind place.

For example, did you know that IWSS…

… is one of only a small handful of gender studies departments in the country that combine academic affairs with student services?

Engaging cross-campus events and a responsive curriculum consisting of one major and two minors build foundations for interdisciplinary critical thinking. And with resources like housing one of three dedicated lactation spaces on campus IWSS lives by a student-first credo.

The academic program within IWSS identifies and critically examines systems of power utilizing intersectional and transnational frameworks that allow for self-reflection and active engagement in social change. Starting Fall 2017, students can elect to major in Gender, Women and Sexualities Studies, or minor in Gender Studies or Sexualities Studies. And WMS 1550 Introduction to Transgender Studies was one of the first courses in the nation to be offered as a general studies requirement.

…is housed in a storied, historic location?

Though IWSS started in 1985, the physical structure at 1059 Ninth Street the institute is housed in goes back almost a century. Known as “The Rundle House” after original owner William Rundle, it was designed in 1880 by the same architect responsible for the noted Brown Palace.

The Ninth Street Historic Park is the oldest intact residential city block in Denver, with a monument paying to those who were displaced during the 1977 construction and restoration of the location.

IWSS is in its sixth year at the current location after moving a few doors down from 1033 Ninth Street (now housing the MSU Denver Honor Program).

Their physical space offers resources and services that promote and sustain student success, including information for students in need. And the resource wall includes information on campus services such as the Phoenix Center of Auraria, Immigrant Services, TRIO Student Support Services, the Access Center, Healthy Pursuits, and the Counseling Center.

…is home to the first chapter of a nationally-recognized network?

Another part of IWSS’s historic past includes the establishment of the Alpha (first) Chapter of the national Women and Gender Studies Honor Society, Iota Iota Iota. Celebrating achievement in Women and Gender Studies, the group is committed to diversity, egalitarianism, and creating supportive academic environment for all students.

According to Sgoutas, there are now more than 175 student networks that hold induction ceremonies, sponsor community service projects, and sponsor events across the country. And it all started at MSU Denver.

…is a center of monetary empowerment for all students?

When it comes to student success, money matters. That’s why the IWSS is a hub for scholarship and financial advocacy. Their scholarship services educate students about the scholarship application process and give individual support to students in pursuit of scholarships

Some of the resources include:

As supplement to Financial Aid, IWSS functions as a clearinghouse for external scholarships. IWSS goes beyond pointing students in the right direction, however: Two scholarship tutors can assist you at each step of their application.

That means from identifying applicable sources, essay construction, proofing and submission, Roadrunners have a holistic advocate throughout the process.

“There’s a lot of legwork involved in scholarship application; that’s where many students give up,” said Sgoutas. “We’re here to help you through that.”

… makes sure no Roadrunner goes hungry?

Everyone needs to eat. It’s a pretty basic tenet, but one that needs to be reinforced.

That’s why the IWSS keeps a well-stocked food pantry offering fresh produce, frozen lunches, and non-perishable items for anyone struggling with food insecurity and need something to eat on campus. If there’s a larger need, Sgoutas said they’ll make the connection with the MSU Denver Food Bank for an ongoing sustenance strategy.

…welcomes everyone?

So, if I don’t identify as a woman, can I use the resources at IWSS too?

“Absolutely, yes,” said Sgoutas. “Our courses and services are open to all genders and social identities.”

As noted by the IWSS values and vision, gender is one facet among many that intersect and impact students. And according to Sgoutas, it’s a place structured to appreciate the diversity of these perspectives

“The mission of IWSS is to serve as a hub for transformation education, programming and advocacy on issues of gender equity and feminism,” she said. “IWSS is here to ensure that all students, especially our most vulnerable and marginalized, persist to graduation.”

This message of inclusion is reflected in their resolution for immigrants and members of vulnerable and directly impacted communities.

… contributes to educating the campus and community about issues of feminism and social justice with events throughout the academic year?

A broader audience extends to all members of the campus – and that isn’t relegated to just Roadrunners. Although IWSS is housed within MSU Denver, Community College of Denver and University of Colorado – Denver students also are welcomed at the location.

This spirit of community is celebrated in events like the Outstanding Women’s Awards and the recent tri-institutional Women’s Leadership Conference, as Sgoutas noted.

…sets up students for teaching and research success?

If you’re planning to lead a classroom one day, what’s better than actually doing it right now?

That’s the idea behind the Feminist Pedagogy Workshop within the course, WMS 4970 Undergraduate TA Training. Under faculty supervision, senior students facilitate training and support for students to learn about feminist pedagogy and processes involved in teaching women's studies courses. 

Modeled after a similar approach found in the Department of Psychology, Sgoutas noted the unique opportunity participants get from being part of the instructional process.

“It really gives students a leg up for graduate school applications and teaching in the classroom,” she said.

As Sgoutas, pointed out, it’s because of its members that a community like IWSS is able to succeed. And as a Roadrunner, you’re welcome to stop by and learn more, too.

“From the faculty to the staff and students, all of this happens because of the people who work here,” she said.

This year’s 30th Outstanding Women’s Awards ceremony takes place on Tuesday, April 25 in St. Cajetan’s Events Center. Discounted student tickets are available for $5.