UNK women’s studies program celebrating 30th anniversary with Thursday event

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s women’s studies program will celebrate its 30th anniversary Thursday (Oct. 31) with an event in the Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room.

“Pearl of a Program: 30 Years of Women’s Studies” is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, recognizes the women’s studies program and its alliances on campus and in the community while celebrating the past, present and future.

Stancia Jenkins
Stancia Jenkins

Keynote speakers are Stancia Jenkins, the University of Nebraska’s associate to the president and assistant vice president for diversity, access and inclusion, and state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln.

Jenkins, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and advertising from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in public affairs with a focus on business and government relations from Park University, is a qualified administrator and interpreter of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) designed for intercultural developmental of individuals, group training and organizational change efforts.

Pansing Brooks, who was elected to the Nebraska Legislature in 2014, holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Colorado College and a law degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law. She’s a co-founder of the law firm Brooks Pansing Brooks and was a key sponsor of LB627, a bill to prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity in Nebraska.

Patty Pansing Brooks
Patty Pansing Brooks

Former UNK professors Kathryn Benzel and Elizabeth Peck, who founded the women’s studies program, will also speak during Thursday’s event, which includes an alumni roundtable discussion and a presentation on women’s community activism.

The anniversary event is sponsored by a Nebraska Humanities grant, as well as UNK’s College of Arts and Sciences, Division of Student Affairs, Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Development, the departments of English, history, political science and sociology, and the women’s, gender and ethnic studies program.

Materials commemorating the women’s studies program are also on display in Calvin T. Ryan Library on campus.

UNK’s women’s, gender and ethnic studies program began as a women’s studies minor degree program in 1989. Benzel and Peck, both professors in the English department, founded the program to bring scholarship for, by and about women into the university curriculum.

Directed by history professor Linda Van Ingen since 2007, the program became women’s and gender studies that year before merging with ethnic studies in 2016 and adopting its current name. The program offers two minor degrees, including an online option, and a bachelor’s degree in women’s, gender and ethnic studies was approved by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents in 2018. That major will be implemented in the near future.

In 2006, women’s studies directors and students, along with the advisory council, worked with the UNK administration to establish a women’s resource center currently housed in Student Health and Counseling.


9 a.m. – Opening reception with coffee and rolls
Welcome from Kearney City Councilwoman and UNK family studies professor Tami Moore

9:30-10:45 a.m. – “Where we have been”: Program founders
Kathryn Benzel, UNK English professor emeritus, inaugural director of the women’s studies program
Elizabeth Peck, UNK English professor emeritus, former director of the women’s studies program
Moderator: Sandra Loughrin, UNK Department of Sociology

11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – “Where we are now”: Women’s community activism
Janet Fox and Dorothy Miller, Kearney Action Network
Gladys Godinez, director of The Trinidad Center, community organizer at Center for Rural Affairs
Rosangela Godinez, board member for The Trinidad Center, legal and policy counsel for ACLU of Nebraska
Nikki Gausman, executive director of Kearney S.A.F.E. Center
Moderator: Michelle Warren, UNK Department of Modern Languages

12:30-1:45 p.m. – “Where we are going”: Keynote speakers
Stancia Jenkins, the University of Nebraska’s associate to the president and assistant vice president for diversity, access and inclusion
Patty Pansing Brooks, District 28 state senator from Lincoln
Introduction: Charlie Bicak, UNK senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs
Moderator: Linda Van Ingen, director of UNK’s women’s, gender and ethnic studies program

2-3:15 p.m. – Alumni roundtable discussion
Participating alumni are Laura Logan (2006), Tessa Roberts (2006), Amber Lewis (2008), Kristin Nielsin Lowry (2008), Donna Puckett (2009) and Jacki Stoltenberg (2010)
Moderator: Ellie Lindner (2017), graduate assistant for women’s, gender and ethnic studies