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Wednesday October 18, 2000

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LGB Studies embarks on wide-reaching program

Headline Photo

By Eric Swedlund

Arizona Daily Wildcat

$300,000 grant for supports fellowships, additional studies of

Bridging several fields of study, the UA Committee on Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Studies will reach even further toward developing a broader understanding of sexuality with the inception of a new project.

Miranda Joseph, women's studies assistant professor and coordinator of the committee, said the Sex, Race and Globalization project will study sexuality in the arena of economics, politics and race relations.

"The program is committed to the idea that sexuality can't be understood except through culture, politics and economics. It's committed to the centrality of sexuality," Joseph said. "This is not just a narrow project about gay people."

The Rockefeller Foundation awarded the University of Arizona committee a $300,000 grant this summer. Joseph said matching funds will be provided by the UA vice president for research.

"All of a sudden, this grant makes us look really good to the administration," Joseph said. "We've got support from the university, but the grant makes us look legit in a different way."

"The project is a huge leap up for us," Joseph said. "It emerged from a long series of works. Getting this grant really puts us on the map nationally."

The committee, founded in 1993, has three components - the Lesbian Looks film and video series, the Speaker and Symposium series and a curriculum.

It is a university-wide committee, funded by the deans of four colleges: Social and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities, Fine Arts, and Science. Each college gives $25,000 a year, and the provost also contributes.

The committee has "grown and built dramatically" since its inception, Joseph said.

One component of the Sex, Race and Globalization project will be two fellowships in each of the next three years. The committee will host the fellows, provide them with office space and confer with them on their studies.

However, Joseph said the project is bigger than the fellows.

Another purpose is to develop faculty at the UA, which Joseph said is already impressive.

"We have extraordinary faculty in gay and lesbian studies on this campus," Joseph said, and described herself as an "emerging scholar" in the field.

Joseph said the committee's goal is to build an intellectual field on campus. A part of that rests on curriculum.

"We don't have our own major or minor, but we have courses all over the university," Joseph said.

David Robinson, assistant professor of English and a committee member, is developing a Tier 1 course for next fall.

Robinson said the introduction to gay and lesbian studies course would be developed for freshmen and combine the disciplines of biology, anthropology, literature and art history.

Robinson serves as the head of the sub-committee on developing curriculum.

"There's three factors involved," Robinson said. "It's a moot point if you don't have faculty with willingness and knowledge to teach courses. You also need student interest - which we do have here at the U of A.

"Finally, you need institutional support - or at the very least institutional tolerance," he added. "With the advent of the Rockefeller grant and permanent funding, it seems we're getting institutional support."

Robinson said the primary gauge of student interest is enrollment, which is very good.

Joseph agreed.

"Certainly a goal of the committee is to make courses more useful to students," she said.

The Sex, Race and Globalization project is ambitious, Joseph said, but the commitment to a truly interdisciplinary study requires it.

"The point of the project is to bring faculty together from across the campus in different disciplines," Joseph said. "This is about the way sexuality intersects with other areas of society, including economics, literature, politics and gender."

"The topic of sexuality is as relevant to straight people as it is to gay people," she added. "There's a real eagerness for it (LGB Studies)."