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About & Resources


The mission of the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) at The University of Texas at Austin is to promote research, teaching and learning that centers the categories of gender and sexuality, recognizing that experiences of gender and sexuality are also inextricable from race, nationality, caste, disability and socio-economic class. Through rigorous intersectional and feminist scholarship, decolonial and feminist teaching, and creative and public-facing programming, we articulate, analyze, and critique relationships among gender, sexuality, power, knowledge, oppression and liberation. As a department, we will remain an international resource for research, teaching and learning, cultivating intellectual spaces where students, faculty and community can produce and proliferate knowledge about gender and sexuality that will create a more equitable and just world.

Our areas of expertise include: feminist theory; intersectional feminisms; LGBTQ+ studies; disability studies; the history of gender and sexuality; gender, sexuality and culture; the socio-politics of gender and sexualities; and the transnational politics of gender and sexuality. This includes transnational Black and indigenous feminisms, feminisms of the global South, and gender and migration. We are committed in all aspects of our work to anti-racist and queer feminisms.

In support of our mission, CWGS works closely with other interdisciplinary programs and research centers on campus. We generate interdisciplinary educational spaces for faculty, students, and community members to create alliances across difference and together to imagine new possibilities.

Four core projects enact this practice:

  • INSPIRE is one of the university’s signature leadership program for undergraduates;
  • NEW Leadership Texas  gives college students statewide the knowledge and skills to become effective leaders in politics, public policy and public service;
  • The CWGS Faculty Development Program supports and showcases the teaching and research of newly hired faculty working in the interdisciplinary field of Women’s & Gender Studies.

A Brief History of Women's and Gender Studies at The University of Texas at Austin

Patricia Kruppa began teaching the first classes focusing primarily on women and women's and gender issues in 1972. In 1978, B.J. Fernea and Betty Sue Flowers approached Vice President William Livingston about creating a Women's Studies program, and later gathered a group of faculty to work out a curriculum.

In Summer 1979, the AD HOC Committee for Women's Studies submitted a proposal to Robert King, Dean of Liberal Arts. Professor Fernea agreed to be the group coordinator, and the first WS seminar, "Sexuality among the Anthropologists and Reproduction among the Natives," was offered in Fall 1979.

In spring 1983, several departments recognize Women's Studies as an appropriate minor field. A version of a Women's Studies concentration was created in spring 1986, but would not be approved until Fall 1987. In spring 1990, the number of faculty affiliates had grown to 60 people. A doctoral portfolio in Women's Studies was the first doctoral portfolio approved.

The Master's degree in Women's and Gender Studies was approved and began in Fall 2001.

In January 2007, the Bachelor's of Arts degree in Women's and Gender Studies was approved.

In Fall 2007, the first dual degree with WGS was approved - Master of Arts with a Major in Women's and Gender Studies/Master of Science in Information Studies.

In Fall 2008, a second dual degree program was approved - Master of Arts in Women's and Gender Studies (MA) and the Master of Public Affairs in the LBJ School (MPAff).

The Women’s and Gender Studies Departmental Honors Program became available to undergraduate students in Fall 2012.

In Fall 2013, the College of Liberal Arts Policy and Curriculum Committee approved an Undergraduate Certificate in LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies. The LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies Certificate recognizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) scholarship and acknowledges widespread faculty expertise in this field. Also a new LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies Track in-house certificate was awarded by the Women's & Gender Studies Portfolio Program.

The transcript-recognized Undergraduate Certificate in LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies debuted in the 2014-2016 Undergraduate Catalog.

The transcript-recognized minors in Women’s and Gender Studies, and LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies became available in the 2016-2018 Undergraduate Catalog.

In the Fall of 2017, Senior Program Coordinator for Academic Affairs Alma Jackie Salcedo, Michelle Broadway of the Office of Graduate Studies, and former CWGS Director Dr. Susan Sage Heinzelman, drafted a proposal for a 5-Year Integrated Bachelors to Masters Degree in Women’s and Gender Studies.

Directors of Women's and Gender Studies

1978-1979 - B.J. Fernia and Betty Sue Flowers
1980-1982 - Patricia Kruppa
1983-1985 - Jane Marcus
1985-1987 - Teresa Sullivan
1987-1991 - Laura Lein
1991-1993 - Susan Marshall
1993-1994 - Laura Lein
1994-1999 - Lucia Gilbert
1999-2001 - Desley Deacon
2001-2004 - Janet Staiger
2004-2008 - Gretchen Ritter
2008-2019 -  Susan Sage Heinzelman
2019-present - Christen Smith

We thank you for visiting our web pages and we invite you to learn more about CWGS and Women’s & Gender Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.

Christen Smith, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Women’s & Gender Studies