The major in gender and women’s studies at Western Michigan University, whether taken with a minor or combined with a second major, will prepare you for success in a world that still struggles around issues of gender. Through course work and activities outside the classroom, majors explore why gender is contested, how it continually intersects with other identities and the ways in which it corresponds to power. All majors take two required courses—Introduction to Gender and Women's Studies and Foundations of Feminist Theory—as well as courses in four categories to achieve a depth of advanced knowledge. Studies are rounded out with electives. To sign up for the major and to learn more about course options, meet with an advisor in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies.


Gender and women’s studies majors must complete 31 hours of course work.

  • Required courses: GWS 2000, Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies (four credits) and GWS 4010, Foundations of Feminist Theory (three credits)
  • Selected advanced courses in four categories:
    • One 3000-level course: GWS 3200 (Women, Globalization and Social Change), GWS 3700 (Special Topics), or PSCI 3460 (Women in Developing Countries)
    • One 4000-level course: GWS 4100 (Special Topics), GWS 4400 (Internship), or GWS 4980 (Independent Study)
    • One history course: HIST 3160 (Women in American History), HIST 3360 (Women in European History), or HIST 4245 (Topics pertaining to women and/or gender)
    • One thematic course within arts and sciences: AAAS 3100 (The Black Woman), ANTH 3090 (Archaeology of Inequality and Resistance), ANTH 3480 (Gender and Plastic Bodies), COM 4790 (Gender and Communication), ECON 3090 (Women and the Economy), PSCI 4210 (Gender and Law), SOC 5630 (Gender and Justice), or another course as approved by the department chair.
  • Up to 12 elective credits, not more than seven credits of which are below the 3000-level, drawing from the list of GWS courses and approved electives. See the University catalog for the full listing of approved elective courses.

Tips for success

  • Choose a minor or second major that is meaningful to you.
    All gender and women's studies majors have either a minor or a second major (or sometimes both). College and departmental advisors are happy help you learn about your options. Although many programs are compatible with a major in gender and women's studies, some of the more popular ones are communication, English, psychology and sociology. A gender and women's studies major is an asset to business students, those working toward science and health-related professions, pre-law students and future counselors, educators and social workers. Our major is a great complement to liberal arts degrees in the humanities and fine art degrees and to other interdisciplinary programs, such as global studies and environmental studies. The gender and women's studies major is also excellent preparation for graduate study in any field.
  • Earn general education credit while completing your major.
    Courses in your gender and women's studies major may be used for general education credit. Make sure to visit College of Arts and Sciences advising periodically to ensure that you are fulfilling your general University requirements.
  • Plan wisely for timely graduation.
    Although the courses for the major can be taken in a sequence of your choosing, it is important to begin taking courses from the selected categories of requirements as soon as you begin pursuing your degree. The gender and women's studies major is flexible—but you will run into trouble if you save too many required classes for your last year in school. Also, be sure that you don't load up on lower-division elective courses. Only seven credits of 1000- or 2000-level electives can be applied toward your major.
  • Seek advising.
    This is our number one recommendation! We can help you avoid unnecessary stress as you approach graduation. For instance, an elective course that fits with your major and a second major or minor (e.g., Women in European History) can only be applied to gender and women's studies or your degree in another department—not both. At your advising appointment, we will make sure you have the credits you need to graduate.
  • Strive to earn good grades.
    You need a C or better in the courses you want to count toward your major. If you earn a 3.0 GPA or higher and have completed six GWS credits or electives, you are eligible for membership in our honor society.
  • Substitutions are possible.
    We will keep an eye out for courses that could count toward your gender and women's studies degree during advising meetings. If you took a course—or are thinking of taking a course—with a focus on gender or women that is not listed in the university catalog, it still may be able to apply to your major. Check with the chair of gender and women's studies if you would like to have a course evaluated for approval. Courses taken at other two-year or four-year colleges are the most common substitutions we make; one-time special topics courses (e.g., GLBT Theater) can be counted as well.
  • Visit the department.
    We want to meet you, learn more about your interests and share information that is vital to your success in the department. Plus we offer a t-shirt or other items with our logo on it to students who sign up for our degree programs. Stop by!