Women’s and Gender Studies: Major Impact

The UO celebrates 40 years of gender studies at the University of Oregon in the growing department of Women s and Gender Studies

By UO student Chelsea Fullmer

Department head Ellen Scott speaks at the
Center for the Study of Women in Society
40th anniversary celebration.

Forty years ago the first courses in gender studies were offered at the University of Oregon. Slowly building credibility over the years, these early courses evolved into a concentration, then a major and minor course of study within an academic program. In 2009, then Dean of the UO College of Arts and Sciences, Scott Coltrane made Women’s and Gender Studies a department.

Located in Hendricks Hall, the Women and Gender’s Studies Department now offers a major, minors in WGS and Queer Studies, as well as a graduate certificate program for students interested in focusing their studies on the dynamics of gender, sexuality, race, and class in society.

Many students choose to accompany the 48-credit major in WGS with a second major. A minor is 24 credits. Students often pair women’s and gender studies with sociology, anthropology, biology, journalism, political science, education, English and law to name a few.

“It’s a major that complements almost any other discipline or any other focus of study that a student might be interested in. It lends a particular perspective that can complement and enhance other things they are learning,” said UO Professor and Head of Women and Gender Studies, Ellen Scott.

While the major is not yet a destination program, Scott said that WGS 101, the introductory course, can be an “eye-opener” for students. With a solid liberal arts training in the College of Arts and Sciences, students who major in WGS learn foundational skills and go on to pursue careers in social work, education, law, or medicine.

“It’s a major in which one establishes a firm foundation in the liberal arts, which to my mind provides the most essential skills for any kind of job after college solid analytical skills, solid writing skills, oration skills, and a willingness to ask hard questions about our social world,” Scott said.

Department head Ellen Scott and Sally Miller
Gearhart enjoy the Center for the Study of
Women in Society 40th anniversary celebration.

The department offers numerous events throughout the year to inform students, staff, faculty and the Eugene community. Many speakers come to campus to discuss research in contemporary issues pertaining to gender and sexuality.

The department recently welcomed Dr. Cheryl Mattingly, Professor of Anthropology in the Division of Occupational Science and Therapy, University of Southern California for her lecture “Hope, Suffering and the Play of Possible Selves: A Narrative Perspective on the Good Life,” and Dr. Tey Meadow, a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton and soon-to-be Assistant Professor of Sociology and Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard (July 2014) for her lecture “Being a Gender: the Transgender Child and Changes in the Self.”

In November, the Center for the Study of Women in Society held a 40th anniversary celebration in conjunction with WGS and the ASUO Women’s Center, honoring the long-term impact and growth of feminist research and activism at the UO.