Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program

About the Program

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Mission

The Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program places women and other marginalized peoples in all their diversity at the center of scholarly inquiry and examines how gender and sexuality influence our personal identities, cultural and artistic expressions, social arrangements, political and economic systems, and our ways of knowing and understanding the world. Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is an interdisciplinary program incorporating history, literature, communication, sociology, political sciences, economics, fine arts, philosophy, religion, cultural studies, and the health sciences to help prepare students for a broad array of graduate and professional programs, as well as an extensive range of careers in public, private, and nonprofit organizations at the local, national, and international levels.

Women's Center Partnership

The partnership between the Women’s Center and women, gender, and sexuality studies program (formerly women’s studies) is built on our shared commitments to teaching, learning, and scholarship, as well as feminism, activism, and work for social justice. Together, we provide opportunities for all members of the community and graduate thoughtful, engaged citizens. On many campuses, centers and programs do this work with varying degrees of collaboration. We are proud to lead units that do this work together, creatively, and with, we believe, greater effect.

Through our programming model, each year we partner to bring scholars, artists, and activists to campus so all members of the campus community can benefit. These events are also linked with women, gender, and sexuality studies and other academic courses and greatly enrich the university curriculum. The students who attend our co-curricular programming events report broadened perspectives and enhanced experiential learning.

In addition, our units work to transform not just individuals through our programming but also to transform the campus. Women, gender, and sexuality studies does this through the curriculum and through the scholarship of its faculty; the Women’s Center does this by working to improve campus climate through policy and advocacy. Our units also work closely with Latinx, Asian, and Native American Affairs, the Bolinga Black Cultural Resources Center, and the African and African American Studies Program, among many other partners in academic and student affairs.

History

The first women’s studies program in the U.S. was formally approved at San Diego State University in 1970. By 1976, more than 276 programs were in place, and by 1998, there were more than 700 institutions with undergraduate majors, minors, certificates, and advanced degrees in women’s studies. In the early 1990s, Wright State University was among these additions. After a letter-writing campaign initiated by women in the community and the subsequent findings of a 2-year study undertaken by a Status of Women at Wright State task force, the Wright State women’s studies program and Women’s Center were established in 1993, and a full-time women’s studies program director was hired in 1996 through a national search.

During the program’s early years, a minor and a structured option in the selected studies major, an undergraduate and graduate certificate in women’s studies, and the global gender studies track in the international studies major were made available to Wright State students. The first minor in women’s studies at Wright State was awarded in June 1997, only a few months after the minor had been formally approved. During the next three years, 35 students declared the women’s studies minor. Evidence of the desire for a women’s studies major was indicated after four students had been accepted into the selected studies/women’s studies major. Very few students had pursued the selected studies major until the women’s studies option was created since the pursuit of this degree option called for a high level of motivation and self-discipline on the part of students. They were required to submit proposals for the semi-structured degree program and their senior research project, both of which needed to meet the criteria and approval of the selected studies committee, the women’s studies and selected studies directors and a women’s studies reader committee. The first two students to receive degrees in selected studies/women’s studies graduated in 1998.

Student demand for a free-standing women’s studies major was further evidenced when 352 undergraduate and graduate students across multiple disciplines signed a petition calling for its creation at Wright State. The petition was formulated and circulated by members of the WSU Student Association for Gender Equality in the Student Union during May Daze and in women’s studies classes. Additionally, several of the women’s studies students and program alumni had written letters of support for the women’s studies major proposal. Continuing the strong tradition of student and community activism that had been responsible for the creation of a women’s studies program at Wright State, as a result of these efforts the women’s studies major was approved in 2001.

At the time, the creation of a women’s studies B.A. degree program made Wright State one of only two state universities in southwest Ohio (the other being Miami) and the only higher education institution in the area to offer a free-standing major in somen’s studies. Despite its relative infancy, within the first seven years since its creation, the women’s studies program at Wright State constituted the largest program in the local area with the most courses, affiliated faculty, and undergraduate and graduate degree and non-degree offerings. In 1999, and in recognition of this swift and significant growth and development, the program received the Wright State President’s Award for Excellence as the most outstanding unit on campus.

In 2015, after experiencing further growth and along with significant revisions to its academic programs of study, the women’s studies program changed its name to Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. This new development was on trend with other national WMS to WGSS program name changes and reflected more accurately the teaching and research areas of its faculty, the breadth, and diversity of courses the program was able to offer students, and a more inclusive curriculum. Today, the women, gender, and sexuality Studies program offers an interdisciplinary program that places women and other marginalized peoples in all their diversity at the center of inquiry and examines how gender and sexuality influence our personal identities, cultural and artistic expressions, social arrangements, political and economic systems, and our ways of knowing and understanding the world.

Undergraduate students have several educational opportunities through the women, gender, and sexuality studies program, including a Bachelor of Arts degree (with the option to pursue an Honors designation), a minor, and a certificate, as well as a sexuality studies minor and a global gender studies track in the international studies major. Both degree and non-degree graduate students have the option of completing a graduate certificate in women, gender, and sexuality studies. Graduate students in the Master of Humanities program may choose to do an emphasis in women, gender, and sexuality studies, and students in the international and comparative politics M.A. have the opportunity to concentrate in global gender studies.

Program Directors

  • Dr. Mary Beth Pringle, 1993-1994
  • Dr. Paulette Olson, 1994-1996
  • Dr. Anne Runyan, 1996-2001
  • Dr. Marlese Durr, 2001-2004
  • Dr. Kelli Zaytoun, 2004-2012
  • Dr. Hope Jennings, 2012-2017

Program Coordinators

  • Dr. Jessica Penwell Barnett, 2018-2019
  • Mrs. Cynthia Marshall Burns, 2019-Present

 


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