Ageism in the Academy: Older Women Students, Abstract Deadline 2/15/10, Conference=NWSA, 11/11-11/14/2010

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National Women's Studies Association (Denver, CO, Nov. 11-14, 2010),
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Ageism in the Academy: Older Women Students

National Women's Studies Association (NWSA)
Denver, CO
November 11-14, 2010
For more conference details, see

Abstract deadline: February 15, 2010

One of the sub-themes of this year's NWSA conference—Outsider Feminisms—provides us with a sterling opportunity to explore the ways in which Women's Studies' continuing reluctance to acknowledge aging and ageism as important feminist issues affects non-traditional older women students in traditional degree-seeking programs in the academy. Although the connections between institutional social injustice and aging were clearly laid out almost thirty years ago by Barbara MacDonald and Cynthia Rich in Look Me in the Eye, Old Woman (1991) and by Betty Friedan in The Fountain of Age (1993), feminist scholars have not yet made this connection explicit in either theory and text or in practical programs that challenge the implicit ageism of institutions.

One way that this neglect of the effects of institutional ageism manifests itself is in what Margaret Cruikshank calls "structural lag," meaning, in the case of the academy, an imbalance between growing numbers of elderly women and the availability of opportunities or roles for meaningful educational growth and activity. Although colleges and universities are presently set up to serve mainly 18 to 25 year-olds, there is no reason, other than the problematic association of aging and old age with decline and deterioration, why these institutions cannot adjust their schedules and requirements to encourage, and not merely tolerate or relegate to the fringes of academic life, sustained degree-oriented coursework by adults of any age.

For this panel we seek papers that address the ways in which ageism in the academy affects older women students, both those who have returned to finish a degree or obtain an advanced degree and those who have just begun their traditional college education. Possible themes might include, but are not limited to:
• personal experiences, both positive and negative, in negotiating implicit and explicit ageism in university life
• the relationship of feminist theory to the older student's university experience
• ways in which gendered, economic, ethnic, family, and experiential vectors intersect to shape the older student's university experience
• strategies to make the university experience more positive and encouraging for older students
• uses of both qualitative and quantitative data on older students to reshape university policies and programs
• examples or visions of an age-integrated society with regard to opportunities for education and paid work
• challenges specific to non-traditional degree-seeking students in comparison to continuing education students or the lifelong learner

Send 250+-word abstracts or full papers by February 15, 2010. Please include your full name, institutional affiliation (if applicable), mailing address, and email address in the proposal. Email submissions are strongly preferred.

Submit abstracts or papers to: Pamela Gravagne