Dr. Hope Russell: Addressing the importance of women’s studies at Niagara University

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – Dr. Hope Russell knows a thing or two about the history of women. So much, in fact, that she teaches courses all about it at Niagara University.

Dr. Russell is an adjunct professor of women’s studies at Niagara, and has spent over 12 years educating students on past and present issues regarding women in society. Her courses range from introductory feminist studies to women’s representation in media and literature — each constructed with the goal of exposing young adults to the realities of sexism and inequality in the modern world.

As an undergraduate, Dr. Russell found her calling after taking a women’s studies course at the University at Buffalo. From there, she began to notice a lack of representation in other fields.

“I did my masters in Education and English, and noticed that women were absent, race was absent,” Dr. Russell explains. “It just wasn’t doing the same feminist work I had done as an undergraduate.”

She went on to earn her PhD in Gender Studies, and began teaching at Niagara University in 2004, joining the Women’s Studies department. Now, as she educates an upcoming generation of activists, Dr. Russell works to ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn more about the history of women, as well as a brighter future ahead.

“It is so sorely needed,” Dr. Russell says of teaching women’s studies to young adult students. “The way that it opens people’s eyes to important social problems and issues, and the way that it gives names to those things; it provides means in which to advocate and make social change.”

Dr. Russell also plays an important role in Women’s History Month on the Niagara University campus.

“As someone who is on the Women’s History Month planning committee, we work really hard throughout the year to have a number of events for it, especially across disciplines,” she explains.

Last year, Niagara hosted its first ever “Take Back the Night” event, which promotes awareness about sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses. Held at the end of March, this event serves as a powerful conclusion to Women’s History Month, and the committee anticipates great success for this year’s gathering.

“Several hundred NU students attended, in addition to faculty, staff, and community members,” Dr. Russell says describing last year’s event. “The interest level and supportive energy surrounding the event, as well as the programming, dedication and hard work of our faculty, staff, and student clubs, combined to make it an incredible event. I cannot wait to see what this year brings.”

Dr. Russell is one of many who support the celebration and promotion of Women’s History Month at Niagara University. And, as a women’s studies professor, she knows that broadcasting women’s issues doesn’t stop at the end of March.

“Women’s History Month is incredibly important as it allows the campus community to recognize women’s accomplishments throughout history, and makes important bridges to the present and future,” Dr. Russell says. “I always ask my students what mark they plan to leave on history or what mark they are making, or planning to make, on our college campus.”

Dr. Russell has certainly made her mark on Niagara University, and continues to do so through the courses she teaches and the students she inspires.

-Bridget Cauley, PRSSN

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