Monday, May 9, 2005
Women’s Studies program graduates first male
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
Duane Hurt made history during OU’s commencement exercises May 7 as the first male major to ever graduate from the Women’s Studies program. The Women’s Studies program also made history by graduating the most students ever in its five-year history with eight graduates.
Hurt, who also majored in political science and minored in French, got involved in women’s studies and women’s issues after witnessing domestic violence firsthand and wanted to do something about it. However, he said it hasn’t always been easy to be a women’s studies major.
“It is difficult in social situations because people see women’s studies as something that applies only to women,” Hurt said. “I would view my women’s studies major as a compliment to everything else. Women’s studies helps me understand sociologically what happens and political science helps me understand politically what happens.”
Hurt has led the way for other men to consider women’s studies as a degree. Currently there is one other male Women’s Studies major.
“Men have as much to gain by overcoming stereotypes they are saddled with as women do,” said Suzanne Spencer-Wood, director of the Women’s Studies program. “It’s really helpful for us to have men in women’s studies that are willing to speak out about the stereotypes against them, and Duane has really been at the forefront of this at OU. He’s been really inspirational for men who want to become involved in women’s studies.”
When he came to OU four years ago, Hurt was extremely focused on academics and had very little time for student life involvement.
“Then I spent a summer in Europe and did a lot of introspection and I felt I had focused enough on academics and I wanted to get involved on campus,” said Hurt, who has been actively involved in numerous student activities for the last two years.
Among his contributions to campus, Hurt has served as treasurer of the Women’s Issues Forum, started the white ribbon campaign at OU, served as an intern for the Students, Administrators and Faculty for Equity (S.A.F.E.) On Campus program, and served on the executive board of OU Student Congress.
However, he said his biggest accomplishment was his role as president of the Students for the Development of the Gender and Sexuality Center, which will help women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students with issues they face, especially one close to his heart — domestic violence. The students involved with creating the center started their campaign last July, and the center will open in the fall.
“Duane has led a campus-wide student initiative to create a Gender and Sexuality Center at the university. He has incorporate key principles of collaboration, cooperation and understanding into every aspect of this endeavor. He has not been afraid to ask the questions no one else dared and to walk the fine line between understanding others’ biases and challenging them to carefully acknowledge and investigate their own perceptions and stereotypes,” said Sara Crampton, coordinator of New Student Programs, and S.A.F.E. advisory board member. “Duane has been a true student leader, one who will be missed by his peers as well as faculty, staff and administrators.”
Hurt said his involvement on campus has really meant a lot to him throughout college. He said the Women’s Issues Forum and the members helped change his life and his participation in Student Congress has given him a chance to voice student opinions.
“It’s allowed me to link up with the administration, make connections and make a difference on campus,” Hurt said.
In August, Hurt will travel to France to study at the University Orleans for a one-year immersion program, and upon his return, he plans to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago to obtain his master’s degree in social work. He would like to be a therapist empowering women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, especially those in abusive situations. He also would like to start a nonprofit organization to provide services to aid these people. Hurt also hopes to one day run for political office.