As part of Eastern Washington University’s commitment to address ever-changing regional, national and global environments, the university is unveiling a new name and major for a popular interdisciplinary program that fosters activism, leadership and feminist analysis.

The new program name and major—Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies (GWSS)—comes after an extensive curriculum assessment that included a field review, surveys of current students and alumni, research of model programs nationally, and an internal curriculum review. The GWSS major offers new courses and personalized degree options to better address student needs in these changing environments.

Artwork by Favianna Rodriquez

“I am very pleased that the GWSS faculty are continuing their long practice of evaluating and thoughtfully responding to the latest in model programming,” says EWU interim President David May. “This is the kind of innovation in curriculum that shows how we can be responsive to what our students are asking for—and exactly what Eastern needs right now.”

The Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies program was founded by dedicated faculty and students and has a decades-long history of engagement. Following national trends, it was known as Women’s Studies from 1974-2007 and Women’s and Gender Studies from 2007 until now. In addition to a new name, the new major comes with many changes, but one thing that is not changing is its dedication to social justice and community engagement.

“The name of a program is often the first impression with constituents and the broader community,” says Jonathan Anderson, dean of the EWU College of Social Sciences. “Evolution of the curriculum and the new name converge in response to changing societal needs and will catalyze our program to be on the leading edge.”

The new GWSS major follows some of the best models in types of courses offered, expansion of student choice, and scaffolding that helps students successfully achieve their educational goals. It brings our sexuality/queer studies courses into our core curriculum, thus demonstrating EWU’s commitment to the field, following student requests, and in keeping with national trends.

GWSS Program Director, Judy Rohrer, PhD, says, “We put ‘gender’ first in our new name because it is a more capacious category than ‘women.’ We have offered queer/sexuality studies courses for some time. We are excited to now proudly highlight these fields in our sexy new name.”

Whether students hope to learn more about power and privilege, grapple with issues of justice, or cultivate their cultural competency to become more desirable job candidates—GWSS helps them meet personal, professional and educational goals.