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College of Letters & Science

Gender and Women's Studies

Requirements for the Major
Honors in the Major

3321 Sterling Hall, 475 North Charter Street, Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-4703; www.womenstudies.wisc.edu

Professors Collins, D'Acci, Friedman, Hyde, Lepowsky, Marx Ferree, McClintock, Schulenburg; Associate Professors Enke, Ewig, Garlough, Houck; Assistant Professors Higgins, Ipsen, Kim, Lindsey, Samuels. For information about faculty research interests see the department's faculty directory.

Undergraduate advisor: Nina Valeo Cooke, 608-263-1785, afvaleo@wisc.edu
Faculty diversity liaison: Chair, 608-263-2763

The gender and women’s studies major and certificate provide a unique background for students seeking to analyze gender and other vectors of inequality, both historically and in contemporary society, as reflected through texts, social practices, and social institutions in the U.S. and abroad.  Our graduates have gone on to provide this kind of analysis in fields like health policy, immigration law, social work, reproductive justice, educational administration, employment policy, medicine, architectural design, and media production.

The curriculum reflects the interdisciplinary nature of gender and women's studies, offering to all students an opportunity to study gender and women in such areas as literature, history, anthropology, sociology, education, law, biology, psychology, philosophy, political science, economics, and the arts. Department courses have been designed to fulfill breadth requirements in the appropriate divisions.

Requirements for the Major

To become a gender and women’s studies major, students must have completed Gen&WS 101, 102 or 103 with a grade of B or better and declared their intention with the undergraduate advisor.

Major Curriculum

Majors in gender and women’s studies are required to take course reflecting each of four approaches to knowledge (humanities, social science, theory, and biological or health sciences and one course from three of four issue areas (sexuality, disability and embodiment, race/ethnicity, and global).

The undergraduate major requires that students complete one of two tracks: Standard or Research.

  • Standard Track, 39 creduts
    • Option A—Internal Specialization: requires that students complete the gender and women's studies core curriculum and an area of specialization of three upper-level GWS courses with a common theme. The area of specialization may be an approach (women’s history, sociology of gender, visual culture) or a subject area (sexuality, transnational feminism, disability). The undergraduate advisor will need to confirm and approve the area of specialization.
    • Option B—External Concentration: requires that students complete the gender and women's studies core curriculum and an external area of concentration that complements their GWS course work. Students completing the external area of concentration will need to identify a cluster of three upper level courses. This track is open only to students who are completing a second major. The undergraduate advisor will need to confirm and approve the area of concentration.
  • Research Track, 40 credits
    • Requires that students complete the gender and women’s studies core curriculum in Track A, with the exception of Gen&WS 640, AND they must write a senior thesis (Gen&WS 691 and 692 for 2–3 credits each) over one academic year/two semesters. Gen&WS 640 can be used an elective in this track, if desired.

Standard Track—39 credits

All majors complete a minimum of 30 credits in gender and women's studies (Gen&WS) including:

1. Gen&WS 101 or 102 (only one of these courses may count toward the major)

2. Gen&WS 103

3. One intermediate or advanced course from each of four approaches:

a. Biology and health: 431, 524, 530, 531, 532, 533

b. Humanities (Gen&WS courses with H, L, or Z designations): 200, 205, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 270, 310, 315, 317, 319, 324, 326, 330, 332, 340, 341, 351, 353, 355, 366, 367, 370, 410, 412, 414, 415, 416, 417, 421, 437, 440, 441, 442, 445, 449, 450, 460, 519, 524, 532, 550, 574, 595, 624, 625, 654, 677, 679

c. Social science (Gen&WS courses with S or Z designations): 200, 215, 320, 322, 325, 329, 331, 340, 353, 354, 392, 420, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 462, 431, 440, 441, 443, 449, 469, 472, 477, 522, 560, 601, 611, 643

d. Feminist theory: 423, 440, 441, 445, 449, 477, 550

A single course can count as both an approach and an issue area.

4. One intermediate or advanced course from three of the four issue areas:

a. Race/ethnicity:
(1) Critically explore the role of race/ethnicity as a tool of creating, identifying, materializing, and solidifying human difference. These courses may explore the construction and deployment of race/ethnicity anywhere in the world.
(2) 247, 248, 315, 324, 326, 330, 331, 332, 353, 354, 355, 366, 367, 423, 425, 437, 460, 550, 595, 624, 625, 654, 677, 679

b. Global:
(1) Explore aspects of gender in a comparative national frame. These classes may focus on the process of globalization or they may focus on gendered concerns in at least two national contexts.
(2) 315, 322, 325, 367, 414, 420, 424, 426, 443, 643, 644, 661

c. Sexuality:
(1) Explore “sexuality” under the assumption that sexuality is not a natural or self-evident attribute or category, these courses demonstrate how sexuality has come to assume a variety of culturally specific but often contested meanings.
(2) 200, 252, 340, 341, 351, 414, 442, 519, 524, 532, 654

d. Disability & embodiment:
(1) Examine the creation and evolution of different categories of embodiment and the experience of living through and as bodies. These courses focus on gender and disability, exploring disability as a social category, a medical realm, a political identity, an analytical approach, and a lived experience.
(2) 370, 445, 532

A single course can count as both an approach AND an issue area. New and special topics courses are being added each semester. Please refer to the department website for how the current course offerings meet major course work requirements each semester.

5. Gen&WS 640 Capstone Seminar in Gender and Women’s Studies

6a. Internal specialization:
(a) 3 courses, or 9 credits, in gender and women’s studies with a common theme.
(b) Electives, as needed, at the intermediate or advanced level, in gender and women's studies to complete a minimum of at least 39 credits and/or 13 courses in the major.


6b. External concentration:
(a) three courses, or 9 credits, at the intermediate/advanced level outside gender and women’s studies in a single department or with a common theme as a part of a second major.
(b) Electives, as needed, at the intermediate or advanced level, in gender and women's studies to complete a minimum of at least 30 Gen&WS credits and/or 10 Gen&WS courses in the major.

Research Track—40 credits

Students interested in the Research Track will complete the outlined curriculum above with the internal specialization and the exception that Gen&WS 640 is not required, but could serve as an elective. Students will then also complete Gen&WS 691 and Gen&WS 692 for 2–3 credits each.

All students must fulfill the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. Courses designated as I (intermediate), A (advanced), or D (intermediate/advanced) count toward this requirement.

Directed Study courses do not count toward the minimum credits required in the major.

Students should contact the undergraduate advisor (afvaleo@wisc.edu, 263-1785) to obtain more detailed information about the major, including declaring, and to make an appointment.

Honors in the Major

Honors in the Major in Gender and Women's Studies is intended for students who are eager to experience the excitement of original research and who wish to graduate with the best possible undergraduate training in the discipline. Honors in the Major is especially appropriate for those who are considering graduate work in gender and women's studies or who want rigorous training in research, reasoning, and writing skills useful to a wide range of career choices. Students should consult with the department advisor to determine the best way to fulfill honors requirements and how to make the most out of the Honors in the Major experience in the field.

In order to develop a working relationship that may lead to thesis supervision, interested students should identify area of interest, possible thesis advisors, and relevant course work early in their major.

To earn the B.A. or B.S. with Honors in the Major in Gender and Women’s Studies, students must satisfy both the requirements for the Research Track in the major and the following additional requirements:

  • Achieve a GPA of at least 3.3 out of 4.0 in all gender and women's studies courses at the time of graduation.
  • Achieve a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 in all courses taken at UW–Madison at the time of graduation.
  • Complete a two-semester senior honors thesis sequence, 681 and 682, for a total of 6 credits of thesis work.
  • Complete at least two courses, 6 credits, for Honors in Gender and Women’s Studies.

Interested and eligible students should submit a letter of application in spring of their junior year to the undergraduate advisor providing the following information:

  • If completing more than one major, department(s) of additional major(s)
  • Area(s) of interest within gender and women's studies
  • Tentative ideas for an honor's thesis and a letter from a faculty member agreeing to supervise the project

In addition, a copy of the student's transcript, indicating course work and GPA, should be submitted at the time of application.


Any student is eligible to earn the program's undergraduate certificate in gender and women's studies. Special students are eligible to complete the certificate if they have completed a bachelor's degree. Students must meet with the certificate advisor to determine if they have completed the following requirements:
15 credits of course work in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies.
Transfer students must take at least 9 credits in residence.
Courses must include at least:

  • 3 humanities credits (H, L, or Z) in gender and women's studies
  • 3 social studies credits (S or Z) in gender and women's studies
  • 3 natural science credits (N or B) in gender and women's studies

No more than 6 credits for the certificate may be at the elementary level.
Gen&WS 101 and 102 may not both be taken for the certificate.
All course work for the certificate must be taken for a grade (no pass/fail option permitted for courses being used to earn the certificate).

All students completing their certificate must notify the gender and women's studies advisor the semester that they graduate in order to get approval of completion and be awarded the certificate. The certificate is not awarded automatically based on DARS. Students with questions about certificate progress should contact the certificate advisor.