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Department of Women’s and Gender Studies

  • Dawn with a group of students

    Past, present and future: Change makers in women’s and gender studies at USC

Dawn Campbell – Agent of change

By Rose Cisneros ,

Two years ago, Dawn Campbell’s enterprising program wouldn’t have been possible. As an academic program at the time, Women’s Studies and its faculty were limited in the kinds of initiatives they could propose and pursue.

Dawn Campbell photo
It’s really a way of life being in this field, and WGST has allowed me to explore my passion and creativity in developing curriculum.

Now Campbell is developing an online undergraduate degree program thanks to McCausland Innovation funding, made available when WGST gained department-level status. The WGST online bachelor’s degree would be one of the first fully virtual degree tracks at the university and the first of its kind in the state.

Campbell came to USC from rural Orangeburg, SC. Initially an English and psychology major, she says one fateful post-modern literature course changed her life’s direction. After devouring the writings of bell hooks and other Black feminist writers, Campbell changed her major to women’s studies. 

“I had never heard of women’s studies, like a lot of students 20 years ago,” Campbell says. “I started to feel that my thoughts and actions were valid in a way that I never had from my family or my community growing up in that particular space.” 

After receiving her Doctorate in Education, Campbell joined Women’s Studies where she’s taught for more than a decade. In that time, Campbell has made significant contributions in curriculum development, including editing the first edition of the program’s textbook, “Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies.” 

“It’s really a way of life being in this field, and WGST has allowed me to explore my passion and creativity in developing curriculum,” she says. 

She says becoming a department gives women’s and gender studies more presence and visibility at the university. Because faculty members have a home department, they can now apply for grants and other funding opportunities.  

“I have more of a voice as an FTE faculty,” Campbell says. “The people that I work with make all the difference, and we’ve had such great support from the dean’s office and the college.” 

“One course, one professor can really shape the trajectory of your life. I absolutely had to give that back to others and help them discover this kind of purpose.” 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.