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Friday, May 14, 2021

New Women, Gender and Sexualities Studies major added to humanities department

By Max Brunt

The Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program will be getting its own major starting fall quarter 2018.

The Academic Coordinating Commission approved a proposal for a full 60-credit major and a new 25-credit minor with several additional courses, according to an email sent out by program director Vicki Hsueh. It will be ready to implement once it passes through the regional accreditation body.

The current program only includes a minor and the option to design a custom major with faculty input. While the custom major option gives students some freedom in designing their curriculum, the prospect of designing your own major can be daunting to some students, Western political science and WGSS professor Shirin Deylami said.

“Frankly, the onus becomes on the student to try and figure out what that major should look like,” Deylami said. She said she hopes more students will major in this department if it takes a standard approach.

The self-designed major is a lot of additional work, said current WGSS major Jillian Cobb. She was disappointed to see that Western didn’t offer a major in the department before, but still chose to design her own major despite it being a hassle.

“Even though I am graduating before it becomes an official major, I’m really excited that other people who want to pursue a WGSS major now have a pathway to do so,” Cobb said. “In the past, I’m sure many students have been disheartened or discouraged it was not an official major, resulting in them picking another major entirely.”

The custom major is also difficult because it can lack some of the peer interaction that other majors might have, Rachael Redjou, another WGSS major said.

“There is no sense of community because it literally is just you going through the classes,” Redjou said.

The WGSS program has expanded rapidly since it was incorporated into the College of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2013, Hsueh said. It called attention to the fact that Western is one of the only public universities in Washington without a Women’s Studies or equivalent major.

“I’ve never had a student who has said, ‘You know, I don’t think we need a major,’” Hsueh said. “Every single one of them has essentially said ‘Even if I didn’t want to do the major, I would still want a major.’”

Vicki Hsueh, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program Director. // Photo by Taylor Nichols

The major is 60 credits to make it appealing for double majors, Hsueh said.

The new program intends to be interdisciplinary. When Hsueh initially surveyed students in the program she found that many of them expressed further interest in intersectional studies of gender and feminism.

The program has passed all stages of review at the university level, said Marc Geisler, associate dean for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The next administrative step is approval from Western’s regional accreditation body, the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities.

“The university is accredited for what it has in terms of curriculum, so if you want to add something you need to pass it by our regional accreditation body,” Geisler said. “We don’t expect any problems with that, it’s just a process to go through.”

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