Major in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies

The major in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies (GSWS) Program offers students exciting opportunities to explore an array of topics related to gender, sexuality, and women. Students have a great deal of flexibility in designing a major that addresses their interests. Students can choose from core courses within the program, as well as courses cross-listed with many departments in SAS, and other schools. GSWS is also a popular double major, as topics in the field are relevant to all major disciplines.

Please contact GSWS Associate Director Gwendolyn Beetham for more information about the major, or to schedule a meeting to discuss how to declare a major:

To delare a major, you also need to fill out a declare/update field of study form on Path@Penn.

Requirements for the Major: 13 c.u.’s

To pursue the major, students take 3 required courses and a Capstone Course. For their 9 remaining courses students can choose between a track of 9 elective courses or a track of 9 courses in a concentration. Under the requirements of the major, students must complete 33 CUs total.

For students wishing to pursue Honors in the major, the requirements are listed below in “IV- Honors.”

I. 3 Required Courses:

GSWS 0002: Gender & Society

GSWS 0003: Introduction to Queer Theory

A GSWS cross-listed course in feminist theory, OR one additional course from GSWS core courses:

GSWS 0228: Studying Sex
GSWS 1490: Law and Social Policy on Sexuality and Reproduction
GSWS 1800: Introduction to Queer Art
GSWS 2700: Folklore and Sexuality
GSWS 2770: Gender, Sex, and Urban Life
GSWS 2940: Art Now
GSWS 3320: Queer Science
GSWS 3360: Feminism and the Internet
GSWS 3500: Trans Method
OR any GSWS course at the 5000 level or above.

II. 9 c.u.’s in one of two tracks: Students will fulfill this requirement by choosing from one of the concentrations listed below, or by choosing electives.

- Choose one:

Track 1: Concentration Track: 

a) Students choosing a concentration must take 5 GSWS crosslisted courses in at least two different departments and 4 Elective Courses. Please note that in addition to the courses listed here, there will always be additional courses that fulfill each requirement; schedule a meeting with the GSWS Associate Director to discuss. 

1. Feminist Studies 

2. Global Gender and Sexuality Studies

3. Health and Disability

4. LGBTQ Studies

5. A concentration of a student’s own design. This could be met by taking 5 courses within a single field or department, or a combination of departments—such as Politics and Philosophy, or Sociology & Anthropology. Other concentrations might include Media and Communication, History and English, or thematic concentrations that could combine courses in a wide variety of fields such as Family Studies, Migration Studies, Labor Studies, and so forth. Any self-designed concentration should be determined in consultation with the Director, Associate Director and Undergraduate Chair of the program and subsequently approved by the Program’s Curriculum Committee.

Track 2: No Concentration: 

Students will take 9 Elective Courses focusing on the topic of gender, sexuality, and/or women 

III. 1 c.u.: Capstone requirement:

For the Capstone requirement, the major offers a range of options:

1. A one-semester Independent Study to pursue a research topic with a GSWS affiliated or core faculty member 

2. A GSWS Graduate Seminar, with permission of the instructor. Some GSWS senior majors are very qualified to take a graduate course and would benefit from pursuing topics not available at the undergraduate level.

3. An applied project, to be taken as an Independent Study with a GSWS affiliated or core faculty member. Students will be able to participate in a local organization and design a project that would give them both hands-on experience, and the ability to analyze an issue in a real-life setting. For example, students could undertake an internship project with an organization working on issues of gender, sexuality and/or women, under the supervision of a GSWS faculty member who will advise the student about a final assignment related to their project or a research component of the project. Students could also conduct a research project with an applied dimension.

4. Write an honors thesis. Students with an overall GPA of 3.4 or better and 3.6 or better in the major are eligible to write an honors thesis for their capstone requirement. Students must apply for Honors in the major in their junior year. As a 2-credit project, the honors thesis entitles students to take one fewer elective than non-honors majors. Please consult the GSWS Associate Director Gwendolyn Beetham for further information.

Double Major in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies

Candidates for a double major should complete the same requirements those majoring in GSWS. However, they may double-count selected courses from their other major as part of the GSWS requirement. To fulfill College requirements, there need to be at least 18 distinct courses being used for both majors. 

Dual Degree with Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies

Candidates for dual degrees should meet with both a GSWS advisor and a professional school advisor. A core of appropriate courses will be designed jointly to enable the student to earn both a professional degree and a GSWS degree. It is important to note that a student must meet all basic requirements of the School of Arts and Sciences as well as those of the professional school.