Kayla Wasserman is a senior graduating in May 2020 with majors in Art History and Gender and Women’s Studies. Find Kayla’s reflections on her GWS courses, study abroad, and her work with Sex Out Loud below.
Why did you choose the Gender and Women’s Studies major?
I decided to declare the GWS major while taking GWS 103 the second semester of my sophomore year. I took that class because it fulfilled an L&S breadth requirement but quickly found that the course material was some of the most fascinating and important information that I had encountered during my time at UW. Looking over the other courses offered through the major I saw so many interesting classes that I wanted to take. I almost wish I had another semester to take more GWS classes! I also chose GWS because I felt a sense of community within the department. I love that I am able to get to know other GWS students through our small discussion-based classes, hanging out in the GWS reading room, and attending Wednesday pizza lunches.
Has your coursework in GWS changed your approach to your involvement during college? If so, how?
My coursework in GWS has definitely changed the way I see the world and also impacted my involvement in college. Taking courses on feminist theory, pregnancy/ motherhood, human trafficking, and body politics, I have a better understanding of how gender dynamics underlie all aspects of culture. My coursework has illuminated the ways that dominant systems of oppression are linked and affect women, POC, and LGBTQ people. Studying this motivates me to pursue a future career that addresses these social issues. Also, being a GWS major helped solidify my decision to study abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa last spring because UCT has a strong African and Gender Studies program. My courses at UCT focused on gender as it relates to colonialism, centering the voices of African and other non-western scholars. These courses expanded my worldview and my understandings of gender outside of my American perspectives.
How have your GWS courses shaped your future plans?
My GWS courses have shaped my future plans significantly. The first GWS class I took, GWS 103: Women and their Bodies in Health and Disease taught by Professor Chris Barcelos initially inspired me to look into a career in women’s health post-graduation. Our first assignment in 103 was a “resource scavenger hunt” where we had to find reproductive/sexual health resources in Madison. From this assignment, I first stumbled on to Sex Out Loud and ended up volunteering and eventually working there as a Program Facilitator the semester before I studied abroad. My facilitation work with Sex Out Loud was very formative for me. I really enjoyed educating my peers about sexual health and would love to do work in the field of sex education in the future.