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The Scarlet & Black

Gender and Woman’s Studies Concentration converted into major

What was previously Grinnell College’s most popular concentration, Gender and Women’s Studies, will now be a major entitled Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies.

The GWSS major will focus on the history and development of theorists and researchers in both feminist and queer thought, in addition to the progression of the field of women’s studies. The major will also place a heavy emphasis on intersectional analyses, such as how race, class, gender, nationality and age interrelate.

“I’m really thrilled that we have this,” said Kathleen Skerrett, Associate Dean of the College and Chair of the GWSS major. “The expansion of the faculty to include [GWSS faculty] exemplifies what we were looking for in the Expanding Knowledge Initiative.”
The Expanding Knowledge Initiative, a result of the college’s Strategic Plan, is responsible for increasing interdisciplinary course offerings, increasing faculty size and organizing the second-year retreat for students.

“We now have the faculty, the major [and] the students to create a GWS program that will thrive,” Skerrett said.
Like the Biological Chemistry and most independent majors, GWSS will be inter-disciplinary. Students who major in GWSS will enroll in courses from multiple departments, and even multiple divisions.

“It’s kind of the classic liberal arts major because it forces the student … to understand what different kinds of scholars do in different disciplines and at the same time build a coherent body of knowledge around GWS scholarship,” Astrid Henry, Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies, said.

Henry hopes promotion of GWS to its own department will allow for applications of gender studies underrepresented at the college, such as the natural sciences. “It would be great to have more classes looking at the way gender and sexuality shape scientific questions,” said Henry.

Henry also noted the possible expansion of masculinity studies, LGBTQ studies, international and transnational feminist studies.
“There’s a lot of conception that it’s not an important thing to have, but it really becomes more important everyday,” said Zoe Schein ‘12. “…I’m glad that Grinnell is acknowledging that it’s a legitimate focus for an academic career.”

The GWSS major should prove to be stronger preparation for graduate study than the GWS concentration. Though gender and sexuality studies is still a relatively new academic discipline. “It’s a good time to get into it,” Erica Hougland ’10 said. “…There’s still so much room for new scholars to influence the entire field.”

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