History of WGS

History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Grand Valley State University

The study of women has a long history at Grand Valley State University. In keeping with national conversations, the first courses were offered more than forty-five years ago (1973) in both William James College and the College of Arts and Sciences. Since then, faculty involved in teaching, research, and service have steadily built and expanded the curriculum. In 2015, the program received department status and a new name: Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Much has been accomplished over the 40+ years since that first course was offered. 


1973- First courses centering on women's experience offered

1988- First minor in Women’s Studies graduated

1991- Women’s Studies Program established

1997- Program expanded to become Women and Gender Studies

2002- First hire of visiting faculty with graduate work in Women and Gender Studies

2004- Women and Gender Studies moves to College of Interdisciplinary Initiatives—now Brooks School of Interdisciplinary Studies

2004- First hire of tenure track WGS faculty

2006- Major in Women and Gender Studies created

2009- Five Women and Gender Studies Majors participated in graduation

2012- Study Abroad program in South Africa established

2012- Visiting Feminist Lecturer inaugurated

2013- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) Studies Minor developed

2015- Program achieved departmental status and became Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGS)

2015- First LGBTQ Studies Minor graduated

Significant steps were made to implement these recommendations. In 1991, Women’s Studies became an autonomous unit, and the Dean of the Division of Social Sciences, Anthony Travis, authorized a ½ -time appointment for the director as well as a ½-time staff position to support the program. In the summer of 1992, substantial changes were been made to the curriculum, with a more formal structure for the WS minor. A 1993 Report called for the development of a “women’s recourse center” and established the first Women’s Festival. Additional resources were also sought and received, including: an increase in release time for the director and/or an assistant director; designated faculty lines for the program, and additional support staff.

The WGS Program continues to thrive within the Brooks School of Interdisciplinary Studies. Enrollment in the WGS courses is robust. The curricular structure has continued to develop and expand while reflecting epistemological and methodological changes in the field. In 2015, Women and Gender Studies became: Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. In 2023 WGS became part of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. The interdisciplinary study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality is core to achieving inclusion, equity, and diversity.


Page last modified September 15, 2023