December 8, 2011 — This fall, a familiar face took on the directorship of the University of Virginia's Studies in Women and Gender program: psychology professor Charlotte Patterson.
Patterson, who came to U.Va. in 1975, has been involved in the SWAG program since its founding in 1981. Patterson recalled the program's former home in a "tiny old building" that once stood where the expansive South Lawn Project does today. (The program is now headquartered in Minor Hall.)
"The program has a wonderful history, and Sharon Davie was a dynamic director for the program when it began," she said. "It's now I think a vibrant and important part of the College of Arts & Sciences."
The program is considering various ways to sustain and build on its history, Patterson said. With many faculty members on leave this semester, SWAG is focusing on reengaging and reconnecting with affiliated faculty, as well as looking to add new faculty members.
"We're No. 1 concerned with maintaining the exciting program that we have," Patterson said.
The program is also considering expanding, possibly increasing course offerings in what Patterson called "a burgeoning area of scholarship": sexuality studies.
"This is an area that is just exploding across disciplines," said Patterson, whose own research focuses on family and developmental psychology as they relate to sexual orientation. "It's natural for our program to take it up."
SWAG has also established a film series in which the program's faculty members screen and discuss a film with students and other viewers. In addition, they are planning a second annual alumni panel, inviting SWAG graduates to return to the University to discuss how the skills they learned in the program have served them.
Patterson said she has heard people express interest in expanding SWAG into graduate programs, or offering a graduate emphasis, though she is not yet sure if that possibility will become reality, she said.
"I'm a new director, so I want to connect with our current students, our current majors and minors, as well as friends of the program across the University and really hear what people think is important," she said.
Those friends include the Women's Center, which Davie currently directs. Patterson described the two groups as "complementary and mutually supportive" in their work.
"No one thinks that they're identical, but there are lots of areas of overlap, and I would love to collaborate with the Women's Center in any way possible," she said.