Major/Minor Requirements

Spring Break 2018 in Standing Rock: Esa Tilija '19, LaDonna Bravebird Allard, Teena Pugliese, Elena Creef, and Irina Chen '18 with 
"Not Afraid to Look" sculpture at Sacred Stone Camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Women's and Gender Studies

Women’s and Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary field that places gender and its intersections with race, social class, sexuality, and ethnicity at the center of rigorous academic inquiry. These structural forces shape the individual and collective lives of all persons across diverse cultures and times, as well as provide analytical categories for critically examining the worlds in which we live in historical, contemporary, and transnational contexts. The Women’s and Gender Studies major draws particular attention to the lives and experiences of women and girls via the critical scholarship of the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Department faculty endeavor to provide intellectually rich, student-centered learning environments via limited class sizes, collaborative research opportunities, and summer internship support.

Our research and teaching cover a variety of theoretical and empirical scholarship both within traditional disciplines and in interdisciplinary frames in the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences, as well as combinations of the three. The Department is committed to providing a rigorous intellectual experience for undergraduate students who choose to study gender and sexuality in a women’s college.

Women’s and Gender Studies Major

Learning Objectives for the Women’s & Gender Studies Major
By their senior year, students majoring in Women’s & Gender Studies will:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the social and historical constructions of sex and gender, shifting definitions of the meaning of “woman,” and why debates about definitions matter
  • Use gender as a category of analysis in their own writing
  • Be able to explain the intersectionality of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality and the interlocking systems of privilege, oppression, and opportunities. They will also be able to explain how structural changes and historical moments intersect with individual lives
  • Demonstrate understanding of common theories used in Women’s and Gender Studies, such as the social construction of gender, the importance of location and of situated knowledge
  • Cultivate cross-cultural awareness and apply insights to “big questions” about women and gender globally
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the history of women’s activism and of strategies for social change
  • Demonstrate understanding of methodologies used by scholars in Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Construct arguments with evidence obtained from research and scholarship
  • Think and write critically, engage in critical self-reflection and self- awareness, and compare different perspectives on issues
  • Connect knowledge and experience, theory and activism, and learning from Women’s & Gender Studies courses with other courses 

Directions for the Election

The Major
Requirements for the Women’s and Gender Studies Major

A major in Women’s and Gender Studies offers an opportunity for the interdisciplinary study of women from the perspectives of the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Women’s and Gender Studies majors seek an understanding of the new intellectual frameworks that are reshaping critical thought about the meaning and role of gender in human life. Majors pursue knowledge of gendered experiences in diverse cultures and across time, examining the ways in which race, social class, sexuality, and ethnicity are constitutive of that experience.

The major requires nine credits; 5 units must be taken in the Women's and Gender Studies department. The additional 4 units may be from the department or from the list of courses for credit toward the Women's and Gender Studies Major and Minor.

The major requires one unit from the 100-level courses (excluding WGST 150); it is recommended that students start their major with this course. WRIT 110 and WRIT 164 may be counted as this 100-level course for the major. Students may count one other 100-level course towards their major. In addition, students are required to take two 300-level courses in WGST; one of these courses must be 312, 313, or 360/370 (which count as one course for this purpose). 350/350H does not meet the requirement of two seminars, but may be counted towards the major.

Beginning with the students entering in Fall 2019, 6 units must be taken in the Women’s and Gender Studies department, and 3 units may be taken from the department or the list of courses for credit toward the Women’s and Gender Studies Major and Minor. In addition, other Wellesley College courses related to Women's and Gender Studies or courses taken at other institutions may count toward the major, with the approval of the student's major advisor.

Beginning with the students entering in Fall 2019, each major should select a concentration; four courses must be taken from the list of courses in that concentration (see your advisor for current courses). Concentrations include: Representations, Media, and Race; Feminist Science and Technology; Labor, Families, and the State; and Transnational Feminism(s) in Global Contexts. In consultation with your advisor you can design a concentration. 

Women’s and Gender Studies scholars use a broad range of methodologies and analytic techniques in their work. Majors may meet the “methodologies” learning objective through one or more courses in the Women’s and Gender Studies department; consult with your advisor about recommendations for specific courses.

Courses at the 100 level are introductions to topics in Women’s and Gender Studies. They are taught from the perspective of each faculty member’s specialty. Courses at the 200 level are overviews to substantive areas. Courses at the 300 level provide in-depth examination of material covered in 200-level courses.

We recommend that students take a course related to data-analysis in support of their WGST major.

Capstone Experience in Women’s and Gender Studies

All majors will be required to select a capstone experience, with the guidance of their advisor, from the following three options offered in 2019-20. They must declare their option by the end of their junior year.

Option 1: WGST 312 Seminar. Feminist Inquiry. 

Option 2: WGST 313 (Fieldwork in Women’s and Gender Studies).

Option 3: WGST 360/WGST 370 (Senior Thesis).

Option 3 is the traditional senior honors thesis, which requires two units during the senior year. See Academic Distinctions in this catalog for requirements. A thesis does not need to have an experiential component, but typically it is based on some original research. Option 2 must involve an experiential component.

Honors in Women’s and Gender Studies

The only route to honors in the major is writing a thesis and passing an oral examination. To be admitted to the thesis program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100 level; the department may petition on the student's behalf if the student's GPA in the major is between 3.0 and 3.5. See Academic Distinctions.

Advanced Placement Policy in Women’s and Gender Studies

Women’s and Gender Studies does not allow students to count AP credits toward the fulfillment of the major or minor.

Capstone Experience in Women’s and Gender Studies

All majors will be required to select a capstone experience, with the guidance of their advisor, from the following three options offered in 2019-20. They must declare their option by the end of their junior year.

Option 1: WGST 312 Seminar. Feminist Inquiry.

Option 2: WGST 313 (Fieldwork in Women’s and Gender Studies).

Option 3: WGST 360/WGST 370 (Senior Thesis).

Option 3 is the traditional senior honors thesis, which requires two units during the senior year. See Academic Distinctions in this catalog for requirements. A thesis does not need to have an experiential component, but typically it is based on some original research. Option 2 must involve an experiential component.

Honors in Women’s and Gender Studies
The only route to honors in the major is writing a thesis and passing an oral examination. To be admitted to the thesis program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100 level; the department may petition on the student's behalf if the student's GPA in the major is between 3.0 and 3.5. See Academic Distinctions.

Advanced Placement Policy in Women’s and Gender Studies
Women’s and Gender Studies does not allow students to count AP credits toward the fulfillment of the major or minor.

The Minor
Requirements for the Women’s and Gender Studies Minor

A minor in Women’s and Gender Studies consists of five courses, of which one must be chosen from among WGST 100, WGST 102, WGST 108 or WGST 120 and of which one must be a 300-level course (not WGST 350 or WGST 350H) offered within the department. A total of at least three courses must be taken within the Women’s and Gender Studies department. Not more than one unit can be a 100-level course.

What is it like to major in Women's and Gender Studies? Click here for stories from WGST majors.