Major in Gender and Women’s Studies


The Gender and Women’s Studies major is 30 credits, which provides a platform for students to study how equity and social justice are connected to gender, sexuality, and identity. Gender and Women’s Studies students explore the field in disciplines such as literature, history, anthropology, sociology, public health, education, law, biology, psychology, political science, and the visual arts. In Gender and Women’s Studies courses, students develop strong analytical and communication skills through classroom discussion, writing, and independent projects.

The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies endorses the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Essential Learning Outcomes. Drawing on these, we have developed GWS Learning Outcomes for our students that are cultivated through our major coursework.

Why Pursue a GWS Major?

Gender and Women’s Studies is an interdisciplinary field, meaning what you learn in these classes can be applied to any future career of your choosing. GWS majors learn how to apply a critical lens in fields like health and public policy, social justice and advocacy, reproductive justice, non-profit administration, clinical medicine, software development, communications, media production, and more.


Skills Learned in the GWS Major:

  • Applying Frameworks of Intersectionality: (You value, respect, and learn from the diverse experiences of people of various gender, class, racial, sexual, religious, and other identities; you apply an equity and justice framework to work effectively across differences.)
  • Team Building & Collaborating: (You build collaborative relationships with colleagues, peers, community members, and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints. You are able to work within a team structure, and can negotiate and navigate differing points of view and life experiences.)
  • Creative & Analytical Thinking (You draw on intellectual approaches from Biology, Humanities, Social Science, and Feminist Theory to draw conclusions and develop new and creative arguments about human experience and social, political, and cultural issues; you apply knowledge, skills and responsibilities to new settings and complex problems.)
  • Critical Thinking & Problem-Solving (You exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues around Race/Ethnicity, Globalization, Sexuality, and Disability & Embodiment; you make decisions and demonstrate originality, inventiveness, intentionality, and care in finding solutions to problems.)
  • Speaking & Writing for Various Purposes and Audiences (You identify the audience, advance complex ideas using appropriate and inclusive style, and marshal evidence to present and justify arguments and convey meaning in thoughtful and respectful ways. You present and respond to ideas skillfully, with attention to different audiences, contexts, perspectives, and purposes; you recognize language can be a tool of inclusivity and intentionally adapt your communication terminology, style, and approach based on its evolution.)
  • Work Ethic (You apply principles of ethical and professional conduct through active involvement with diverse communities and real-world challenges, demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, and act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind.)

Course Planning

  1. Schedule an advising appointment through Starfish to discuss how the GWS major fits with your other academic interests.
  2. Browse the fall 2023 course list with the approaches and issue areas for the GWS major included.
  3. Use the planning grid as you think about how to complete the 10 courses for the GWS major.

GWS Study Abroad

Interested in GWS study abroad opportunities? Check out our Study Abroad page.

Honors/Research for GWS Majors

Are you eager to experience the excitement of original research? Research or Honors in the Major is appropriate for students considering graduate work in gender and women’s studies or who want rigorous training in research, reasoning, and writing skills useful to a wide range of career choices.

Students should consult with the undergraduate advisor to determine the best way to develop a senior thesis project through Research or Honors in the Major. In either track, students will complete a senior thesis project; students who elect to pursue Honors in the Major will also complete additional honors requirements.

Spend some time reading the Guidelines for Writing a Senior Thesis in GWS to get started. Learn more about the requirements for Honors in the Major in Gender and Women’s Studies in the Guide.


Celebrating Commencement

Spring commencement is scheduled for Saturday, May 11, 2024 at 12pm. Find details at the link below.