Why Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies?

The GSWS Program at the College of William and Mary is an undergraduate, interdisciplinary academic unit within Arts and Sciences. The purpose of this field of study is to acquaint students with current scholarship on women and gender, to introduce them to feminist theory and research, and to provide opportunities and support for students to engage in feminist activism.

GSWS courses are designed to:

  • Foster open and vigorous inquiry about feminist scholarship
  • Challenge perspectives in which women are absent or peripheral
  • Critically examine cultural assumptions about gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in light of information made available by new theories and research
  • Equip students with a thorough knowledge of this field of study as well as provide them with opportunities to apply that knowledge both in and out of the classroom

Such opportunities might include, for instance, independent research projects, internships, participation in events, program governance, or student organizations. In addition, GSWS offers a supportive environment for all who are interested in this field of study and its role on campus.

How do I become a GSWS major?

A major in GSWS provides students with a flexible liberal arts education that integrates knowledge across academic disciplines. Courses in GSWS are available in three basic forms:

  • "Core" courses offered directly by the program
    (these are always listed with a "GSWS" prefix)
  • Cross-listed courses offered jointly by GSWS and another program or department
    (these course descriptions include a notation about the cross-listing)

When you choose a major or a minor in GSWS, you select courses from all those available and work closely with an advisor to establish a particular emphasis in an area of interest to you. If you are especially interested in women's history, for instance, you might design a program of study that includes several History courses or perhaps a minor or second major in History; you might make similar decisions in areas such as Anthropology, Africana Studies, English, Psychology, Sociology, and so on.

Students generally declare a major at the end of the sophomore year. At that time, or at any time you have questions about the Program, you should contact the GSWS office to set up an appointment with a GSWS advisor.

What can I do with a GSWS degree?

Our graduates go on to a variety of exciting careers. A study on graduates of GSWS programs (Women's Studies Graduates: The First Generation, Barbara F. Luebke and Mary Ellen Reilly, 1995 -- available in our GSWS office) notes that students majoring in women's studies in the United States represent nearly all adult ages; a wide variety or races, ethnicities, family backgrounds, and religious upbringings; and various sexual orientations. The vast majority are women, though a small but growing number of men take women's studies courses and/or major in this field. As might be expected, like the profile of students, there is no one or typical path they follow after graduation -- most graduates go on to graduate school or employment in full-time, part-time, or self-employed positions, while some opt for employment as homemakers.

The graduates represented in Luebke and Reilly's study indicate that there is also a variety of reasons for choosing this academic field -- everything from lifelong feminist interests to discovering new intellectual challenges upon taking one course that led to others and eventually a major. When asked what they can do with a GSWS major, the answers boil down to this: "you can do whatever you choose to do."

A sampling of choices made by the graduates in this study or by our own W&M graduates will give you an idea of the scope and variety of options available to you:

  • Hospital foundation executive director
  • Self-employed artist; musician; writer
  • Energy conservation manager
  • Union organizer minister
  • Cooperative-grocery manager
  • Public and government relations manager
  • Export business owner
  • Film-casting assistant
  • Psychotherapist
  • Advocate for hate-crime victims
  • Medical student; law student
  • Graduate students in social work, psychology, sociology, politics
  • Director of program for inner-city teenagers
  • Director of battered women's center/rape crisis program
  • Program associate at human rights organizations
  • Community educator/HIV counselor for Planned Parenthood
  • Librarian; law librarian
  • Teacher; college professor
  • Women's Studies administrator
  • Freelance legal worker
  • Lawyer
  • Town manager

Explore more options through the W&M Senior Survey Database from the Career Center.