Women’s and Gender Studies examines the social constructions and intersections of gender, sex, race, sexuality, class, age, ability, and nationality. The discipline considers the role of scholarly analysis and activist strategies in empowering disenfranchised groups and promoting gender justice.
Students who undertake a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies develop diverse and valuable skills to apply in various areas of employment and civic engagement. Skills essential to Women’s and Gender Studies and highly regarded by employers include critical thinking, scholarly research, collaborative leadership, diversity awareness, and coalition building.
Specialization in WGS lends not only to these advantageous skills, but also to students’ personal development as socially engaged citizens and activists. Please see our alumni page for examples of students putting their WGS degree to work.
Scholar activism ▪ Civic engagement ▪ Critical thinking ▪ Leadership and collaboration ▪ Problem solving ▪ Community and coalition building ▪ Critical reading and comparative analysis ▪ Awareness to diversity ▪ Openness to multiple perspectives ▪ Research methods ▪ Social justice praxis ▪ Effective communication
I stumbled into a WGS class that was cross-listed with English, my major in college, and from the start I was fascinated by the conversations, the texts, and the stimulation I received when discussing readings and “life” from a woman’s perspective. I quickly decided to minor in Women’s Studies (as it was called when I was in school at Valparaiso University), and continued choosing classes throughout my undergraduate and then my graduate degrees that identified gendered differences/perspectives in the class.
My graduate degree is in College Student Personnel which is an interdisciplinary degree combining higher education administration, counseling, and student development theory. When I was able to take electives, I primarily chose classes from the WGS department, such as Masculinity Deconstructed, which was the most unique gender studies course I’ve taken yet. In this course, along with all the others throughout my education, I’ve developed multicultural competency which I believe is important in any profession or role we have in life; but certainly a necessity in my profession. As a Student Affairs professional, I aim to educate students outside the classroom in ways that support their learning inside the classroom, and I believe that learning and personal development are one in the same. When we learn about ourselves, including our perspectives, beliefs and values, we are able to identify differences between us and others. We all carry cultural biases that help us make meaning in life, but some of the biases are hurtful or harmful when we allow policies, processes, and our own personal rules define life in absolutes. By taking courses in WGS, a student can process information about gendered biases and choose a perspective that aligns with her/his personal values which has hopefully been broadened by dynamic dialogues, projects, and readings in class.
Understanding the world using differing perspectives is important in any major or life path! College is one of the best times to explore oneself and the world because it’s in an environment which is simultaneously challenging and supportive. Any negative labeling that comes with a course, or set of courses, designed to stimulate thinking in a different way should be banished. Classes are designed to help a student think critically, not to change personal beliefs, and all professionals will be asked to do this in their job whether it be business, education, non-profit work, or any other area.
I was in the Women’s Studies minor program at my undergrad, Ball State University. This was at a time when there were not very many WS or WGS majors in the country, so as an independent study the Director of the WS program had me researching the structure and curriculum that other universities had for their WS major. I became heavily involved in the program (ended up being the outstanding student of the year) and if it was an option I would have majored in WS. It was an exciting time to be involved in the conversation, and my education has helped to inform the work that I do in Student Affairs. In Residence Life my work is very broad with students, when I worked at UCLA my niche as a Resident Director was being an advocate for women and advancing women’s issues to the forefront of campus conversations. My particular passions are victim advocacy and body image. At UCLA I served as the Chair for Women for Change week for a number of years, and built partnerships with local resources in LA such as the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center to ensure women from our campus were provided with top of the line resources. When I left my position in Tacoma I had interviewed for the Associate Director of the Women’s Community at Stanford and for this position, and decided to come to Roosevelt. I felt that I could do similar work in Residence Life and continue to have a broader influence.
What I believe was most significant that I learned in my WS courses is that in order to make sense of our experiences we have to develop an acute awareness of ourselves, and of micro-aggressions towards women. When I interviewed for the Stanford position one of the questions I was asked was “Do you think we are living in a post-feminist society?”. I was a little blown away that the question would even be posed because to me it’s obvious we have a long way to go. I learned to not be afraid to name or call out my experiences that I make sense of from a gender perspective, or have dialogue about them. At the time I had learned to challenge the status quo in an effective way but I think my generations approach is different than the current generation, so my current ponderings are how do we bridge the gap between generations that are essentially working towards the same goal?
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