First Year Program - Women's Studies Skip Navigation

Women's Studies (WMST)

Director: S. Thomson

The Women’s Studies Program is built on the understanding that gender is a crucial category of human knowledge and action. Women’s studies recognizes the complexity of human lives as gender interconnects with sexuality, race, class, ability, nationality, ethnicity, religion, and age in the constitution of experience and identities.

The program is at its core interdisciplinary, integrating knowledge from different disciplines to encourage critical engagement with all forms of experience from a feminist standpoint. Interdisciplinary study leads students to question frameworks, concepts, and methods, enabling them to understand better both the past and the contemporary world, while envisioning a future beyond traditional roles and inequities. By emphasizing interdisciplinarity, the program seeks to help students acquire the tools to analyze critically the societal, cultural, global, and personal issues that shape their lives and challenge them to look at these issues from multiple perspectives. It also encourages them to reflect on the ways in which knowledge is produced within different and oftentimes unrecognized systems of oppression, and to examine categories that are presented as natural and permanent in their cultural and historical context. Finally, the program strives to help its students acquire the skills of critical analysis and imagine alternatives that challenge the naturalizing of inequalities.

Women’s studies offers a major and minor as well as a wide variety of interdisciplinary courses for students. Some of these courses are listed as WMST courses. The basic introductory course is WMST 202 (also offered as FSEM 145).

Students in women’s studies, as well as the campus community as a whole, are encouraged to participate in activities sponsored by the Center for Women’s Studies, located on the lower level of East Hall. During each year, the center initiates a wide variety of educational programming, including films, discussions, and student projects, which aim to establish an open dialogue about the many ways race, class, cultural differences, and sexual orientation both interact with and shape gender roles.

Majors in women’s studies typically go on to graduate or professional school in a number of different fields or work in areas of social policy, social change, and human services.


View all with day/time information
ANTH 228, Women and Gender in Prehistory
Takes a feminist perspective to the study of gender and identity in prehistoric societies and ancient civilizations. By looking at the variation of gender roles and relations throughout history and cross-culturally, students help to deconstruct many modem-day assumptions about gender and gender roles in the present. The course will provide an overview of how material remains are used for understanding social identities in the past. It will review feminist critiques of archaeology and how feminism has impacted the discipline of archaeology. Students examine archaeological resources for gendering the past (burials, art, artifacts) and explore gender in a range of prehistoric cultural contexts (hunter-gatherers, farmers, states, and empires) using archaeological case studies as examples. Students additionally look at the ways in which historical archaeology has helped to better understand gender relations in historical contexts. Students critically examine how gender and identity have been represented in academic research, museums, and popular media, in order to deconstruct modem-day assumptions about gender. Case studies derive from the earliest human origins, ancient complex civilizations, and recent colonial America. This course is designed for students with little or no background in archaeology or anthropology.

FSEM 126, The Biology of Women
The Biology of Women: Sex, Gender, Reproduction, and Disease

Faculty Profile for Professor Van Wynsberghe

A basic understanding of the biological differences between men and women, and the implications of these findings is essential in today’s world that contains both modern technologies and, in some circles, steadfast gender-based stereotypes. This course investigates the historical and environmental construction of gender, the biological aspects of sex, the unique characteristics of female anatomy and reproduction, and the effect of sexually transmitted diseases and cancer on female health. Through laboratory activities and written, oral, and visual presentations students will explore the scientific methods used to acquire our current understanding of hormonal signaling, genetic inheritance, microbial pathogenesis, and cell biology that underlie these topics. Social and ethical issues that exist and are raised by the biological differences between males and females will also be discussed, including hormonal therapy, in vitro fertilization, prenatal genetic testing, female genital mutilation, and the use of birth control to prevent AIDS transmission. Students who successfully complete this seminar will satisfy their Scientific Perspectives core requirement. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit for CORE 172S and satisfy the Scientific Perspective core requirement.

Priscilla Van Wynsberghe is assistant professor of biology with a background in molecular genetics and microbiology. Her research investigates how genetic pathways, composed of small RNAs and proteins, regulate development of the nematode C. elegans.

FSEM 145, Gender and Social Justice
Faculty Profile for Professor Simonson

In this course, we will explore gender, as it is understood and enacted by different people in various historical moments, geographical locations, and cultural contexts, focusing particularly on the way gender intersects with race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexuality, ability, and other markers of identity. We will think critically about oppression, activism, social change, and common assumptions about the world and people around us. One of our main goals in this course is to explore both the forces that feed into inequality and discrimination, and ways to resist, challenge, and overcome those forces. We will ask questions about bodies, work, families, identity, politics, medicine, history, and the media; our inquiries will largely be based in the United States, but we will also think about women’s movements and situations around the world. We will develop the vocabulary and tools to speak and think critically about oppression, patriarchy, and some of the issues that face us as both females and males today. This course will require sensitivity, respect, and substantial work in the form of reading, writing, and above all thinking. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for WMST 202 and fulfill the Global Engagement requirement.

Mary Simonson’s research interests include film music, American cinema and entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century, and filmed dance. Her teaching and scholarship focus on representations and performances of gender and sexuality on the stage and the screen.

FSEM 171, Discovering African Literature
Faculty Profile for Professor Julien

How do we come to be who we are? How do we tell our own stories? What can we learn from each other? What does it mean to be a human community? These are some of the questions this course invites us to consider as we discover texts written by various prominent authors from West and North Africa. The product of a complex history, this is a literature where cultures, identities, genres and languages intersect. It gives voice to rich questions of identity and self-definition through the exploration of traditional as well as innovative forms of writing. Together, we will engage in close reading of these texts and have broader discussions on themes and concepts such as imperialism and colonialism, post-colonialism, cultural translocation, gender, race, sexuality, religion, and multilingualism. In doing so, we will encounter new ways of reflecting on questions and issues that concern us all, our self-definition, and the way we relate to others. This course is taught in English but should especially be of interest to students with some experience with the French language or with travel experience to France or other francophone countries. There will be the opportunity of a separate optional “Foreign Language Across the Curriculum” component. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit for FREN 222 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement.

Hélène M. Julien is associate professor of French and Women’s Studies. With a specific focus on contemporary French literature and literature from North Africa and its diaspora, her research explores the ways in which personal and collective selves find their voices in relation to history, memory, gender, race, sexuality, and culture.

FSEM 190, Women's Lives/Europe 1500-Pres
Faculty Profile for Professor Harsin

This course focuses on the experiences of women in Europe from the Renaissance to the present. Topics include women in the work force, family, and religion; women as leaders and activists and women as subjects of legal and political inequalities; women in relation to evolving definitions of gender, sexuality, class, and race; and the changing priorities of feminist ideologies. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit for HIST 248 and satisfy one half of the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement.

Jill Harsin, professor of history, teaches courses in early modern and modern Europe, with a specialty in modern France.

HIST 211, Women's Rights in US History
Examines the social and cultural history of women in the United States from the Revolutionary era to the present day, tracing feminist ideas from the margins of democratic thought to the center of modern political discourse and culture. Students will explore how issues including race, class, region, religion, work, education, and generational differences have shaped women's lives and maintained gendered order in American society and how, in turn, women have shaped their lives in response to these issues, opportunities, and constraints. (US)

RELG 234, Women & Religious Traditions
Examines autobiographical, biographical, descriptive, and historical materials that present and analyze the lives of women in the context of various religious traditions. In a given term, students focus upon specific geographical areas, historical periods, and/or religious traditions.

SOCI 212, Power, Racism and Privilege
Familiarize students with theoretical and historical perspectives of racial inequality and other ethnic and minority group relationships. The course primarily examines the relationship between racism and the socio-economic and political development of the United States. Course readings, lectures, and discussions are intended to aid students in gaining a clear understanding of the role race and ethnicity have played in shaping contemporary US society as well as the larger social world we live in and to therefore contribute to each student’s self-understanding and to a better understanding of others whose racial-cultural backgrounds are different.

WMST 202, Intro to Women's Studies
Explores gender from a variety of angles, and in tandem with race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexuality, and other markers of identity. Students develop vocabulary and tools to speak and think critically about oppression, patriarchy, social change, and common assumptions about the world and people around us. A primary goal is to explore both the forces that feed into inequality and discrimination, and ways to resist, challenge, and overcome those forces. Students explores issues ranging from bodies, work, families, identity, politics, medicine, history, and the media, as well as the ways in which feminist movements around the world have addressed these topics.