Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois

Gender and Women’s Studies has always held a special place in my heart throughout my almost 4 years at U of I. I have been a Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) major *officially* since the second semester of my freshman year, but I knew right away while taking my first class in the department during my first semester that it was going to become my second academic home. I came in as a freshman declared as a History major and knew that I wanted to declare a second major in Gender and Women’s Studies.

Community in GWS

The GWS department here is small but mighty and one of the most close-knit communities I’ve been a part of since coming to college. From the faculty and staff to the students, I always felt like I was joining a family rather than a department. This family has extended beyond just my class as well. I have so many friends that I met in my GWS classes who are a couple of years younger and older than I am and have even made connections with super cool alumni!

The community within the GWS department is one of the top reasons why I love the department and field so much. There is so much effort put into connecting with students on a level deeper than just through our academics and classroom experiences. You always know that your professors, the advisor, and staff members are constantly rooting and advocating for you.

The people in the GWS department also have the most creative and passionate minds that I’ve encountered while in college. The GWS department is one of the best places to go if you have something that you’re really passionate about and want to find more folks to engage with. There’s even a beautiful student gallery located in the GWS house where any student can put their artwork on display!

Academics in GWS

Now, of course, the GWS department is an academic department, and I meet a lot of people who are pretty unsure about what you even learn as a GWS major or minor. The short answer is honest any and everything. Seriously. You can take classes in fashion, gaming, and medicine in the GWS department. But, I would say that what you’ll encounter in every GWS class is critically thinking about a subject using an intersectional lens. This means always thinking beyond issues related to just sex and gender, but critically thinking about race, ability status, religion, class, ethnicity, age, sexuality, and more all at the same time about any given subject. I promise it’s not as complicated as it sounds, either.

So really, GWS is full of interesting and expansive subjects and classes. You learn a lot about theories but also a lot of praxis and what that means and can look like on all sorts of levels. Creativity is also highly encouraged in the department, so students are really given a lot of opportunities to express their thoughts and learning through various mediums.

All of these aspects and more are what make GWS such a unique, fruitful, and fulfilling department to be in. There are endless opportunities to grow as a student and professional, and also as a person. Your mind is constantly being enriched in GWS, and what you learn in the classroom is always 100% applicable to your everyday life.

So if you’re interested in analyzing race, sex, gender, class, sexuality, ability status, or really any other identity through an intersectional lens and in some cool topics, GWS might be the place for you!



Class of 2021
Hey y’all, I’m a History and Gender and Women Studies double major and a French minor from Chicago! I concentrate in all things Black and Black women studies and love long-distance running.

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