Women's Studies First Year Courses

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

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.


An introduction to significant debates and texts in the field of postcolonial literatures. This course explores how the field engages with questions of race, gender, sexuality, class, caste, and migration. It considers how writers located in the global south or in the West as migrants navigate their spaces when faced with inequality and marginalization. The course examines both the legacies that empires have left and the nature of new empires that are being constructed.

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 in French-speaking 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 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.

Religions of Resistance: Gender, Sexuality and Performance in the Caribbean 

Studies African-derived religions and practices in the Caribbean, particularly the ways in which they constitute anticolonial and decolonial perspectives and practices. By exploring texts drawn from cultural studies, religious studies, literature, theatre and anthropology, students will develop an analytical framework through which to examine concepts such as syncretism and hybridity, ritual and bodily performance, and the construction of gender and sexuality. Key concerns in this course are the empowerment of women and people of diverse gender and sexual identities in religious contexts, black identity in the Caribbean and beyond, and the creation of new spaces for marginalized voices to be heard.

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.