ISU Women's Studies program receives $300,000 U.S. Department of State grant

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's Women's Studies program has received a three-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State to study the relationship of gender to the emerging democracies and market economies of the former Soviet Union.

Jill Bystydzienski, director of the Women's Studies program, said the grant will allow a cultural exchange on higher education gender issues with the Center for Gender Studies at Kharkiv National University, Ukraine.

"The project addresses the need in Ukraine, and more broadly, in the post-socialist countries, for development and dissemination of knowledge about gender issues for emerging democracies," Bystydzienski said.

For example, Bystydzienski said firms in the former Soviet Union are beginning to mimic western styles of advertising as part of the globalization of business.

"Advertising is new to businesses in Ukraine," she said. "With no competition, there was no need to advertise. Now, ads are everywhere and executives are experimenting with different advertising concepts, many copying the west. One result is that women are portrayed in predominantly sexual ways."

She said Kharkiv center faculty are developing curriculum and working to bring more active teaching methods to their university as part of the grant. For example, Bystydzienski said the two groups of scholars are studying the influence of gender on the Internet in politics and economics.

"We are studying how they communicate on the Web and what images are commonly used," she said. "From this experience, case studies may be created on ways to improve gender communication to facilitate political debates."

The Ukraine faculty members also are expanding the internationalization of Iowa State's Women's Studies program by highlighting their gender experiences in contrast to America's.

Iowa State faculty members also will teach in Kharkiv National University's Summer Institute in Foros, Crimea, and engage in collaborative research projects in Ukraine.