Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Degree Type
Department Interdisciplinary
Academic Division The College
The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) program offers students both the opportunity to complete a multi-disciplinary minor in feminist and gender studies and a stimulating co-curricular environment in which to develop as intellectual and community leaders. Founded in 2001, the WGSS is a vibrant academic program that links the classroom with the world and offers the theoretical basis for activism and social change.

About the Program

An invigorating introductory course and disciplinary distribution requirements give students a sound theoretical orientation to defining and articulating concepts and practices in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Course offerings across the disciplines — psychology, English, Romance languages, political science, philosophy, sociology and anthropology — allow students to draw connections between their major fields of study and the evolving work of gender scholars. Students are encouraged to think broadly about the role of women, gender and sexuality across many dimensions of human life.

Many of our students come to W&L with an interest in women’s issues and feminism and want to pursue their interests via a combination of courses, co-curricular opportunities and activism on or off campus. Many others become interested in questions about gender and feminism during their time at W&L, either because they get interested in the topic through their academic coursework or because they are seeking to understand gender relations on campus. WGSS sponsors and hosts numerous events every year so students can interact with guest speakers, faculty and each other.

The WGSS capstone requirement allows students to pursue their particular interests with the kind of intensity that turns classroom competence into an abiding passion.

Our faculty encourage students to see their studies as relevant to their everyday lives and important for understanding and responding to social justice issues. Students do just that — in a math student’s investigation into why so few women study math in college, in a fraternity member’s paper analyzing how his fraternity brothers’ drinking habits shape male privilege, or in a missionary’s daughter’s attempt to better understand how a feminist might read the Bible.

Opportunities for Students

  • Advocates for an Alternative Atmosphere
  • Amnesty International
  • Facing Sexual Violence in Rockbridge County
  • Gender Action Group
  • Multicultural Student Association
  • Project Horizon
  • Student Association for International Learning
  • Sexual Health Awareness Group
  • Women in Technology and Science
  • Model United Nations

After W&L

Our students enter a wide variety of careers. Some pursue a Ph.D. in English, history or gender studies, while others attend medical school, law school or work in public policy, nonprofits or the business world. Alumni say that the WGSS program has helped them better understand and navigate the world around them and engage with it as citizens, activists and professionals.


  • Cate Peabody ’19 is a research assistant for the W&L Gender Psychology Lab with Professor Megan Fulcher and is also a dancer and choreographer for the W&L Repertory Dance Company, where she choreographed and performed a dance set to a poem about gender inequality. She traveled to Ghana during Spring Term to make a documentary about human trafficking.
  • Hannah Denham ’20 co-directed a documentary on marriage, gender and generational change in Vietnam with a grant from the Endeavor Foundation. She advocates for social justice with Amnesty International, Gender Action Group and Student Association for Black Unity.
  • Morgan Maloney ’19 is president of the College Democrats and vice president of Amnesty International. She wrote an honors thesis in history on first ladies and politics in American history. She helped organize a walkout to commemorate the victims of Parkland and protest gun violence in the U.S., a fundraiser for reproductive rights and a celebration in honor of Women’s Week, complete with a bonfire, clothing swap to combat the human rights abuses associated with fast fashion, and a discussion of the meaning of sisterhood.

Sarah Horowitz

Program Head (Curricular Matters)

Melina Bell

Program Head (Campus and Community Engagement)

Peggy Herring

Administrative Assistant

Meet the Faculty

At W&L, students enjoy small classes and close relationships with professors who educate and nurture.