Founded in 1991, the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program (originally Women's Studies) is one of the first interdisciplinary programs at William & Mary. Our majors and minors enroll in an organized series of courses, starting with small seminars that introduce gender, sexuality, and women's studies issues in disciplines that span the humanities and social sciences. Majors also take a feminist theory course to help them frame and critically consider the knowledge they accrue, and they may choose to do honors or select a senior seminar in a topic of special interest to them.
Many of our courses are discussion-centered and all are inter-disciplinary, so that students become agile thinkers who can move beyond static thinking and restrictive boundaries. They question norms, they work together to create community action projects, and they realize their identities in and through a web of relations to others, both globally and locally.
Our goal is to spur students to explore questions about society, the humanities, and the sciences, by challenging perspectives in which women are absent or peripheral; critically examining cultural assumptions about gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation; and providing opportunities for students to apply the knowledge they gain from the classroom as they move through the world.
On the academic side, students are acquainted with current scholarship on women and gender and are introduced to feminist theory and research. On the experiential side, students have opportunities to engage in feminist activism and are encouraged to undertake their own feminist research projects. Overall, they are active learners and engaged thinkers.
Internships are a vibrant part of many GSWS undergraduate experiences. Our students may complete an internship for academic credit with a local community organization such as Avalon: A Center for Women and Children, Planned Parenthood of South-East Virginia, the National Organization for Women in Washington D.C., or others.
Students are involved in a range of campus activist and outreach groups. We help them co-sponsor visiting speakers, films, and events. Our GSWS program also features a significant invited lecturer each spring for the Annual Minnie Braithwaite Lecture. And we also co-sponsor a monthly brownbag series with Africana Studies, in which a faculty member or student shares his or her research in a friendly, informal setting.
Around twenty students each year graduate from William & Mary with a B.A. in GSWS, and they go on to careers in non-profits, law, government, teaching, and academia.