35 Creating a Program in Women’s Health

Ayla Steere

Madison Roberge, Plymouth State University IDS Major

Congratulations, you made a list of courses you are planning on studying to bring your major to life- now what? Why do these courses matter? How come the offered majors aren’t good enough for you? Why is one discipline not enough for you? Behold, the contract essay is where the beating heart of your major resides. A good essay divulges the ins and outs of where your passion comes from, why traditional disciplines just don’t cut it, how the chosen courses are pertinent, and the impact of your interdisciplinary studies path. The contract essay is your time to support the need to journey outside of traditional, single-discipline academic learning. Individuals pursue Interdisciplinary Studies for many reasons, most of which revolve around passion to create an impact; this is the start of your impact.

Fellow Interdisciplinary Studies students have written many compelling contract essays, so you are never alone in the process. IDS is individualized, yet there is a commonality in the process that provides an abundance of phenomenal examples. Ayla Virginia’s How Did I Get Here?, is a successful example of a contract essay. Essentially, the contract essay is composed of three parts:

  1. Introduction- Statement of identification for what your program is, what it means to the world, what it means to you, and what disciplines it is made up of.
  2. Course List- Courses grouped by discipline, area of interest, etc…, with brief explanations of why each course is vital to your program. Build support for your courses; be specific.
  3. Conclusion- Recap of what the program means, why the program is interdisciplinary, and your hopes and dreams.

Strong points to note in Ayla’s essay are her use of personal background. She starts by expressing how she came to the need of creating her own major, the reasons why the program is so important for her, and what she hopes to do with it. The personal notes add passion and excitement to the program. It is important to be professional in the seriousness of how the program has a legitimate purpose, but it is vital to be personal. This is a program you created for reasons of your own; tell your story. Ayla continues to describe her course list with detailed accounts of why each course adds to her knowledge around Woman’s Health. Note, each title of the course is bolded which makes it easier for the reader to distinguish one course description from the next.        Instead of having a dedicated paragraph to the conclusion, Ayla mentions why the program is interdisciplinary throughout her course descriptions. A paragraph dedicated to the conclusion is preferred as it allows readers to come full circle to the essence of the program. The essay supports the proposed program in all aspects; personal, educational, and professional.

How Did I Get Here?: Creating a Program in Women’s Health
Ayla Steere, Plymouth State University IDS Major

I came to Plymouth State to become a teacher. I wanted to be a health teacher and make a difference for the future. I stated by taking my major courses in health education and took an introduction to feminism course, The F Word, as a general education requirement. I finally felt like I was enjoying my course work. I started to add some Women’s Studies courses into my schedule. I soon realized that I was immersing myself into my Women’s Studies courses and was having a hard time staying as motivated in my Health Education courses. When the time for student teaching came around I found myself in a constant state of panic, literally. Mornings that I had to go to the public school I was very anxious and very unhappy. I soon was able to put all of the pieces together; I was not meant to be a classroom teacher. I work extremely well with small groups of students where I can be with them for more than forty minutes a week.

Yarn Uterus
Photo Credit: Hey Paul Studios (CC BY 2.0)

When I was 3 or 4 I was very fascinated with child birth. My mother had a bunch of home movies of child births and we would watch the show Bringing Home Baby on TLC. I would sit in the front of the TV with wide eyes as the mother was giving birth. Afterwards I would play mommy and midwife with my mom. I would put a baby doll under her shirt and have her pretend to give birth while I pretended to be the midwife. I could play this game for hours.

My mother said that the glow in my eyes was truly beautiful when I would watch the shows with her. She soon became pregnant with my sister and I would also love to accompany her to all of her doctors’ appointments.

This mixture is what led to me to Interdisciplinary Studies. I was able to combine my passion for women’s studies and my knowledge of health education. One day I hope to become a midwife, which is very much women’s health.

The following courses included in my contract are many of the courses offered by Plymouth State University for a Women’s Studies Minor. HE 4100 Women’s Health Issues, was an online class that explored many of the women specific diseases. There was a large focus on menstruation, menopause and breast cancer. SO 3070 Sociology of the Family, not only went into depth on the family dynamic, but had a large focus on motherhood. In PO 3350 Women in World Politics we covered the economic, social, and political rights and contributions women have made all over the world. HI 3350 American Women’s History, and PS 3200 Psychology of Women covered the waves of feminism and how it has affected women throughout the years. All of these courses fall into all different disciplines because Women’s Studies is an interdisciplinary minor. These courses have taught me so much about women in many different aspects and every course will contribute to my degree in Women’s Health. It may not seem like knowing about the women leaders in Latin America or about the journey to the right to vote would make me a better midwife, but it does. I know the stories of women all over the world, about their birthing experiences and their reproductive rights. Not one story of a women in today’s world is shaped without the stories of the past. Having all of these disciplines of knowledge is what truly will make me a well rounded student.

I was once a Health Education and Promotion major, so I do have many health related courses. The following health courses cover a variety of different material, but actually all have an outlook on women’s health. HE 3710 Sex and Family Living Education looks at the history of sex education and the child birth experience. HE 3200 Stress Management compares the different types of stressors there can be between the sexes.

In HE 2400 Physical Activity and Health we conducted fitness tests on one another for data and by doing so came to conclusions about the capabilities of different ages and genders capabilities for our class. I took PE 2850 Critical Health at a different college and transferred it to PSU. In this course we had a large unit on birth and reproduction. This may have been my first spark of interest in Women’s Health. I also took HE 3220 Applied Nutrition for Healthy Living. In this course we explored how diet and exercise affect ourselves, and the differences between gender and diet. We also studied diet in children and pregnancy. Lastly, is HE 3240 Health Promotion Program Planning and Evaluation. In this course we were all asked to design our own educational program for the community in the field that we were working in. Programing and education may one day be a part of my career.

Although all of these courses and more are required for all Health Education and Promotion majors there is no degree that I could receive that has a focus on women here at Plymouth State. This is another reason that I chose to be Interdisciplinary Studies major; I wanted to leave college with a degree that I was passionate about and proud of. These health courses cover a variety of different material, but actually all have an outlook on women’s health.

Some of my other courses fall under disciplines that are not stated as Women’s Studies or Health Education. MA 1900 Statistical Literacy in Today’s Society was the quantitative reasoning course I was required to take as health major. This course has proven to me to be very helpful. Within my other courses of study there have been many different surveys I have looked at and been able to analyze. SW Health and Society is an example of a health course that is not the typical health course. This course looked at health care across the world and not just where I live. Health is a very global topic. CM 2910 Human Communication and Conflict is a communication course, but is very relevant for anyone going into a field that requires any interpersonal skills. Lastly is EN 3580 Eating American Literature. 

My Graduates Day Card
My Graduates Day Card

This course is an interdisciplinary course which looks at the relationship of American’s and their food. This is not only related to health immensely, but also to women in regards to hormones in food and puberty.

With all of these courses I will be more than capable to enter a post graduate program that focuses on women’s health. There is no other major at Plymouth State that could prepare me this well for my future.


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Creating a Program in Women's Health Copyright © 2016 by Ayla Steere is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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