The Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Kean was developed for interested students to explore, engage and participate in intellectual dialogue on topics related to gender. In this program are dedicated and passionate professors such as Consuelo Bonillas, associate professor of health and health program coordinator.
Bonillas will also join the Women's and Gender Studies Program as the upcoming program coordinator.
"Students will develop and maintain a strong and vibrant Women’s and Gender Studies minor by collaborating with various disciplines on campus to include fascinating, thought-provoking and intriguing courses that will broaden the scope of learning. Having eighteen credits earned through registering in specific classes from three different disciplines is needed for a Women’s and Gender Studies minor," said Bonillas. "For example, the required entry course, ID 1300 Introduction to Women’s Studies, is an exemplary course to begin building a strong foundation on the study of gender, power and privilege."
Available course offerings are housed in numerous disciplines such as the following: art, communications, community health education, criminal justice, English, history, interdisciplinary studies, philosophy, political science, psychology, public administration and sociology.
The program also seeks to provide the Kean community with current and relevant guest lectures and film showings that highlight the need for awareness, dialogue and action on pertinent issues related to women and gender.
"For instance, on April 19, the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies sponsored an Advocacy Workshop with a speaker from the D.C. based not-for-profit, Enough Project," said Bonillas.
In order to develop and build the program, Bonillas plans to be an asset to that development. She also believes Kean is privileged to have such a diverse undergraduate and graduate student body, that let’s us hear stories from our own community.
"The program is in a wonderful position to continue to build on its past successes. Our current collaborations are invaluable to our students given the wealth of information and diversity in perspective. Kean offers a wide range of courses from over 50 undergraduate programs! Thus, more course offerings from other disciplines will be explored to enhance and expand our students’ knowledge base and experiences," said Bonillas.
Bonillas wants to showcase the struggles, successes, hopes and dreams of students to learn from and respect each other to continue to welcome and affirm our diversity.
Before she became a professor, she was a program coordinator in a maternal and child health consortium in Jersey City. Where she focused on decreasing the black infant mortality rate, as well as promoting sexual and reproductive health in Hudson County.
"I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology from a women’s college in California. My honors thesis during my senior year was on 'Feminism and Female Sexual Attitudes and Behavior'. I have a master’s degree in social psychology from Syracuse University, and there my master’s thesis was on 'The Role of Perceived Behavioral Control in Female Orgasmic Inconsistency'. I have a doctorate degree in human sexuality education from Widener University in Pennsylvania. My dissertation was on 'Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) Maternal Diagnosis: Exploring Pregnant Women’s Perception of Risk,'" said Bonillas. "I also secured funding through the National March of Dimes to reduce the risk of reproductive tract infections during pregnancy in the [Latino] community in New Jersey."
As a professor, Bonillas secured a three-year federal grant from 2011 to 2014 to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, by encouraging healthy eating and physical activity in the [Latino] community in Elizabeth.
"In 2015, I published the second edition of my undergraduate human sexuality textbook. If time permits, I’d like to publish the third edition sometime in 2019," said Bonillas. "I currently direct a seven year New Jersey Department of Health grant that started in 2011 and will end in 2018, to reduce the risk of teen pregnancy in high schools in Jersey City and Newark. Starting in Fall 2018, my research team and I will no longer be one of the program implementers for this funding, but the State’s program evaluators!"
In terms of the importance for students to understand gender studies, Bonillas believes that discrimination, prejudice and violence are inflamed if people include other identities that intersect with genders, such as class, religion, race, ethnicity and sexuality.
"Trans and gender non-conforming individuals continue to be ignored, with rampant and violent hostility more of a norm for many. Who we are attracted to emotionally or sexually may not be the same as to whom we are physically intimate with, or how we sexually identify. All this goes against what we supposedly see, hear, and learn. My hope is that by having more stimulating and thought-provoking conversations and celebrating our diversity, this can decrease the disparate meanings on numerous identities that plague so many sectors of society. This includes everyone," Bonillas explained.
Bonillas wants people to understand that "feminine" characteristics continue to be viewed as lesser than "masculine" characteristics, as well as female-bodied individuals versus male-bodied individuals.
This continues to undermine cis women and cis girls’ ability to reach their full potential.
"I have taught human sexuality courses since 1997 and one of the most difficult topics to teach is on this concept called 'gender'. Examining the binary gender restrictions placed by society is challenging, especially if gender is believed to be biological and unchangeable. Gender and sexuality are separate and distinct constructs – one doesn’t imply the other," said Bonillas.
Bonillas' most memorable moment was attending a women's college, which allowed her to deviate from the many Caucasian cis male professors, advisors and mentors who have helped her.
"I am reaching my potential by the belief, support and guidance of individuals that I was raised to believe would hinder, not help facilitate my success," said Bonillas.
All in all, Bonillas is very passionate about clarifying the many issues that affect everyone in terms of gender and other categories.