The Department of Women's Studies at the University of Delaware has been awarded a grant from Verizon Delaware that will be used to start a new undergraduate concentration in domestic violence and to prepare students to earn certification in the field.
The three-year, $187,000 grant also will allow UD to offer an intensive 10-week summer practicum in which students will work with community agencies throughout Delaware, gaining firsthand experience in such areas as providing services to domestic violence victims. The Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV) announced the grant this week; a formal presentation will be made at the coalition's annual Purple Ribbon public-awareness event on Oct. 28 in Wilmington.
"Women's Studies students are often interested in careers involving domestic violence, from direct services for victims to public-policy advocacy," said Jessica Schiffman, assistant professor of women's studies and associate chair of the department. "In the internship program we already offer, I get more requests from students for domestic violence placements than any other type, and there's a growing demand from community agencies as well."
Creating a concentration in domestic violence, which will give students more classroom training in addition to expanded practical experience, will benefit everyone involved, according to Carol Post, DCADV executive director and a UD alumna.
"This groundbreaking partnership will be a great asset to Delaware's statewide system of domestic violence advocates," Post said in announcing the grant. "Not only will it help those who have experienced domestic violence by providing a pool of new graduates with the skill sets necessary to become effective advocates, it will also strengthen community organizations."
Plans call for the women's studies department, which currently offers four courses related to domestic violence, to add a fifth course on systems advocacy. Students choosing this concentration will take those five courses and the for-credit internship and are likely to be interested in the new summer practicum. Schiffman said the department hopes to recruit interested students this spring and begin the new program next fall semester.
With the required academic coursework and the time spent in community agencies, she said, students choosing this concentration "will be well on their way" to earning DCADV certification as a domestic violence specialist, which she called "very valuable" in the job market.
The department also is considering establishing a domestic violence minor for those women's studies students -- many of them double majors in such fields as psychology or sociology and criminal justice -- who can't fit the full concentration into their schedules but are interested in the classes and community placements.
"Our faculty are very excited about this whole project, and we're really fortunate because we already have an extraordinary number of domestic violence specialists at the University," Schiffman said.
She cited, for example, Ruth Fleury-Steiner, associate professor of human development and family studies, and Susan Miller, professor of sociology and criminal justice, who both study domestic violence as their central research focus. In addition, Chrysanthi Leon, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, focuses on sexual assault, which overlaps with the study of domestic violence, and Marie Laberge, assistant professor of women's studies, currently teaches a course on women and violence. The topic is also a major part of Schiffman's work, which includes a book she co-authored, Gender Violence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.