Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Dr. Caroline Light, Director of Undergraduate Studies

The study of gender and sexuality has long constituted a vibrant and engaging arena for interdisciplinary work and intellectual inquiry. At the heart of this field is the assertion that gender and sexuality are fundamental categories of social organization and power that are inseparable from race, ethnicity, class, nationality, and other categories of difference.

The concentration in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGS) brings together a wide range of academic fields in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences (including history, literature, visual studies, anthropology, sociology, ethnic studies, political science, psychology, and biology, to name just a few). As an interdisciplinary field of study, WGS pays close attention to how social norms have changed over time and how they vary across cultures. The concentration also actively investigates the ways in which ideas about gender and sexuality have shaped public policy, civil rights, health care, religion, education and the law, as well as the depiction of women and men in art, literature, and the popular media. WGS courses are characterized by a strong commitment to critical thinking, as well as a spirit of open and sustained intellectual inquiry.

WGS prides itself on the intense intellectual engagement of its students and its close collaboration between students and faculty. Beginning with the small-group sophomore tutorial (WGS 97), WGS provides students with a rigorous grounding in the theory and methodology of gender and sexuality studies, helping students hone their skills in critical analysis, close reading, and effective research and writing. All full concentrators must enroll in the two foundation courses numbered WGS 1200 (historical approaches) and WGS 1210 (theories of gender and sexuality), and two WGS or WGS-related 1400+ level seminars. Joint concentrators may choose one of the foundation courses. Concentrators may also fulfill concentration requirements by taking courses on WGS-related topics in other programs and departments. (A list of pre-approved courses from other departments is available on the WGS website.) Students will work with concentration advisers to develop cohesive plans of study that are primarily situated within the humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences.

Requirements: 12 courses (48 credits), including WGS 97(Sophomore Tutorial), WGS 1200 (historical approaches), and WGS1210 (theories of gender and sexuality), seven electives, and two WGS courses at the 1400+ level. Students may opt to take an approved “engaged scholarship” course in place of one of the 1400+ level courses.

Thesis Track: 13 courses (52 credits). Students interested in pursuing honors recognition will apply to enter the thesis track during the first semester of junior year. The director and assistant director of undergraduate studies will review applicants' previous academic records and may also elect to interview students before admission to the thesis track. In the spring, students selected for the thesis track will enroll in WGS 98r (Junior Tutorial - Research and Methods), a semester-long seminar designed to help them understand the craft of WGS research and writing. Students meet weekly in seminar to investigate research methods in the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. Students also meet individually with graduate tutors to develop their own research projects. Over the course of the semester, students identify a research topic, create a proposal, and research and write a 20-to-25-page paper.

During senior year, thesis track students enroll in WGS 99a/b, where they design, research, and write senior theses. Thesis track students work individually with a thesis adviser and participate in a group senior tutorial. In keeping with the interdisciplinary character of WGS, senior theses may draw upon a wide range of approaches, including literary analysis, ethnography, scientific investigation, archival research, visual analysis, and cultural or political critique. Honors-eligible students also take an oral examination.

Joint Concentrations: A joint concentration is an excellent choice for honors-eligible students who want to integrate their studies in WGS with deeper exploration of another field, building toward a final integrated thesis project. Students can pursue a joint concentration with WGS and a range of other concentrations including African and African American Studies, Anthropology, English, History and Literature, History and Science, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Religion, Romance Languages, Social Studies, Sociology, Statistics, and Visual and Environmental Studies. Since course requirements vary among the individual programs, students planning to concentrate jointly are responsible for meeting with advisers in both concentrations to obtain specific guidelines.

Secondary Fields: The WGS secondary fields allow students to pursue an interest in either studies of women, gender, and sexuality or in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) studies alongside their work in their concentrations. Students take one foundation course (either WGS 1200 or WGS 1210), which grounds them in the history or theory of gender and sexuality studies. The flexibility of the remaining four course requirements allows students to sample the rich course offerings in WGS while developing core areas of interest.

We advise interested first-year students and sophomores to take a WGS course at the 1100 or 1200 level, a Freshman Seminar on WGS issues, or one of the General Education courses offered by WGS faculty. Students interested in WGS as a concentration or a secondary field should meet with either the director or assistant director of undergraduate studies.

Further information is available on the WGS website, including a list of courses outside WGS that count for concentration credit. Students may also wish to consult the list of resources and opportunities in gender and sexuality studies available online.

REQUIREMENTS
12 courses (48 credits)

Required courses:

  1. Sophomore Tutorial: WGS 97.
  2. History foundation course: WGS 1200.
  3. Theory foundation course: WGS 1210.
  4. Two WGS courses numbered 1400+, one of which may be an approved “engaged scholarship” course.
  5. Seven courses drawn from WGS offerings or from the list of courses that count for concentration credit (available on the WGS website).

Requirements for the Thesis Track: 13 courses (52 credits)

  1. Sophomore Tutorial: WGS 97.
  2. History foundation course: WGS 1200.
  3. Theory foundation course: WGS 1210.
  4. Any WGS course numbered 1400+, one of which may be an approved activity-based learning course.
  5. Six courses drawn from WGS offerings or from the list of courses that count for concentration credit (available on the WGS website).
  6. Junior Tutorial - Research and Methods: WGS 98.
  7. Senior Tutorial: WGS 99a and 99b, the writing of the senior thesis.

Requirements for Joint Concentration (thesis track only)

Women, Gender, and Sexuality as the Primary Concentration: 8 courses (32 credits) (including thesis)

  1. Sophomore Tutorial: WGS 97.
  2. Either the history foundation course (WGS 1200) or the theory foundation course (WGS 1210).
  3. Three courses drawn from WGS offerings or from the list of courses that count for concentration credit (available on the WGS website).
  4. Junior Tutorial - Research and Methods: WGS 98.
  5. Senior Tutorial: WGS 99a and 99b, the writing of the senior thesis.

Women, Gender, and Sexuality as the Allied Concentration: 5 courses (20 credits)

Required courses:

  1. Sophomore Tutorial: WGS 97.
  2. Either the history foundation course (WGS 1200) or the theory foundation course (WGS 1210).
  3. Two courses drawn from WGS offerings or from the list of courses that count for concentration credit (available on the WGS website).
  4. Junior Tutorial - Research and Methods: WGS 98.

    Note: Joint concentrators with WGS as the allied concentration take the senior tutorial (99a and 99b) in their primary concentration.

ADVISING

Whether they are full or joint concentrators, all students receive individual attention and advising from a core group of dedicated and highly-engaged faculty. The director of undergraduate studies is the primary academic adviser for sophomores and juniors, and the assistant director of undergraduate studies is the primary academic adviser for seniors. In consultation with their faculty advisers, students develop individual, cohesive plans of study tailored to their specific intellectual interests. Faculty members are closely involved with students’ academic development at every stage of the concentration. Many of the courses offered by WGS are seminars, allowing for an exciting and productive exchange of ideas between students and faculty.

For up-to-date information on advising in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, please see the Advising Programs Office website.

RESOURCES

The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America is the leading research library in the field. The library holds more than 35,000 volumes, 800 collections of personal and organizational papers, 50,000 photographs, oral histories, videotapes, and other historical materials. The library collects information on women's rights, suffrage, social welfare and reform, pioneers in the professions, and the family. Carol J. Pforzheimer Student Fellowships are awarded annually to undergraduates to use the resources of the library.

The Henry A. Murray Research Archive is a multidisciplinary research center whose focus is the study of lives over time. It is also a national archive for social science data on human development and social change, especially data that illuminate women's lives and issues of concern to women. Students and researchers at all levels, from undergraduates to scholars, use the center's resources. These include studies of family life, careers, psychological development, political participation, and mental health.

The Open Gate Foundation, "A Fund for Gay and Lesbian Life at Harvard University," is a private charitable foundation established by members of the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus, which gives grants to student groups and faculty to help finance a variety of events and activities, including speakers, symposia, and film festivals. Further information may be obtained from the Open Gate website.

STUDY ABROAD

With good planning, a term abroad or out of residence can be a very meaningful educational experience. In the past our concentrators have spent terms in countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Chile, Australia, Spain, and France. Most concentrators who study abroad do so in the fall term of junior year, which allows them to return to campus in time to take the junior tutorial (WGS 98) the following spring. Thesis track concentrators who wish to study abroad during the spring term of junior year must make special arrangements to complete the junior tutorial. If you are a concentrator considering a term abroad, please consult your concentration adviser as well as the Office of International Education as soon as possible. Plans for study out of residence must be approved by the University significantly in advance of the term in which a student plans to be away.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

For further information, contact the main office at 617-495-9199 or via email at wgs@fas.harvard.edu. The office of the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality is located on the ground floor of Boylston Hall. A description of WGS concentration options, a list of current course offerings, and thesis track application materials are available from the office and on our website.

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators20082009201020112012201320142015
Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality1013171615131212
Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality + another field42212132
Another field + Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality7510192123169