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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Academics & Research

Gender, sexuality studies program pushing for greater enrollment

The Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies program is housed on the sixth floor of Agnes Arnold Hall. WGSS

The Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program is housed on the sixth floor of Agnes Arnold Hall. | Michael Slaten/The Cougar

It may not have the enrollment numbers of the biology or political science departments, but the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program combines teachings from multiple disciplines to take a deep look at its subject matter.

“In terms of why the (courses) are important — they reflect the identity and diverse students on campus,” said Ayanna Mccloud, program director of the Friends of Women’s Studies, the community arm of the program. “What happens is you have a classroom that is very diverse.”

The 26-year-old WGSS program consists of a major and two minors. The major was approved in January 2015 by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and launched November of that year.

The program relies on more than 70 faculty affiliates who teach courses for the major in WGSS, history, communication, English and other disciplines. Mccloud said the program has been growing steadily since the major was added, and the spirit of the program has always been to reflect the demographics of the campus.

“The program was very responsive to the students that we serve. Our courses reflect the diversity of what the campus looks like,” Mccloud said. “So you may not find these sorts of courses at other universities, because we make sure we have responsive courses.”

Academic adviser to the WGSS program Tanya Campos said most students tend to have a second major along with WGSS. If they are enrolled in one of the minors, the students tend to have many different career desires.

“Current students mention wanting to work with nonprofits. I also have students who’ve said they would like to go into human resources,” Campos said. “So it’s very far-ranging.”

More than 100 students are enrolled in a WGSS minor, major or certificate program, according to the WGSS website. Forty-one students are WGSS majors, 34 students are in the Women’s Studies minor and 15 students are enrolled in the GLBT minor.

“People are interested in layering and having multiple points of entry to really understand their career and also how they navigate the world,” Mccloud said. “That’s why you have increased minors and increased double majors.”

Mccloud said one student with a sports background majoring in WGSS hopes to become a gym coach. He picked WGSS as a major to help break down and understand masculinity, she said.

That’s a topic the program has started talking about more often. “So that really demystifies how people think about women’s studies,” Mccloud said.

The program has been growing steadily, but those at the department are still trying to increase it further, Campos said. She said they are trying to start a student group to promote WGSS. The program also hosts movie screenings and promotes the program to freshmen who possibly have not declared a major or minor yet or are looking to add another major.

“One big thing is while our program is still growing, the majority of our students are minors,” Campos said. “So our students are able to take courses that might also count toward their major.”

Wednesday, the WGSS program will have its 21st annual Table Talk Luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Hilton Americas. The event, which features dozens of women entrepreneurs, writers, executives and academics, is the program’s largest fundraiser of the year.

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