Santa Clara University

Women's & Gender Studies Program

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Women's and Gender Studies at SCU?

WGST is a multidisciplinary program that brings together scholars and scholarship on women and gender from across the university. Our goal is to work collaboratively throughout the disciplines and offices of student life to promote and educate students, staff and faculty on issues regarding women and gender at SCU.

Quarterly speakers and brown bag lunches are cosponsored by the WGST Program and the Critical Gender Studies Research Initiative. Faculty and students are urged to work closely and cooperatively. Quarterly speaker series and seminars are open to all members of the program. Such speakers have included: Lourdes Portillo, filmmaker; Lilian Faderman, author; Vandana Shiva, ecologist. Students and faculty alike may apply for travel grants to present women's and gender studies research at academic conferences.

The Program’s Advisory Board, which includes a student representative as an active, participating member, selects the recipients of the Program's awards. The Mary Gordon Prize, given in honor of the Program's founder, is awarded annually for the best essay submitted by a major or minor. The Sisterhood is Powerful Award is presented to a faculty or staff member for her contribution to improving the status of women at SCU.

Why choose Women's and Gender Studies?

National studies show that Women's and Gender Studies students gain confidence and speak up more often in other courses.  Our students come from all academic disciplines and find Women's and Gender Studies useful to a variety of educational and career goals.  Frequently, the primary major defines the field in which students work, while Women's and Gender Studies defines the focus within that field.   Our alumni have gone on to graduate work and careers in education, counseling and law.

The Women's and Gender Studies Program at Santa Clara University combines rigorous academic investigation with practical questions, interrogating and challenging issues of privilege, power, stereotypes, and discrimination.  You can expect coursework that examines the gendered meanings of events, ideas, and institutions for both women and men, and that celebrates and makes visible the diverse viewpoints and contributions of women, over half the world's population.

Our History

Santa Clara University offered its first courses in Women’s Studies in 1973 (“Sociology of Sex Roles,” “Development of Sex Roles,” and “The Black Woman”). Throughout the rest of the decade of the 1970s, the number of courses offered annually gradually doubled.

The Program was born as the “Women’s Studies Program” in 1980, following an exhaustive study of national trends and local resources undertaken by a faculty and student Task Force headed by Dr. Mary Gordon, Professor Emerita, and supported by President William Rewak, S.J.[1]  Recognizing not only the academic merit of women’s studies but also the relationship of that field to issues of social justice, Fr. Rewak charged Professor Gordon with the establishment of the Program.  Professor Gordon worked with a handful of existing faculty able to teach courses in women’s studies and was empowered by Fr. Rewak to urge departments when making new hires to consider the ability to enhance offerings in women’s studies within their own disciplines.  Thus, the Program developed as an interdisciplinary program consisting primarily of discipline-based courses.  This has proven, in retrospect, to be a tremendous strength for SCU’s Program, as courses and faculty are integrated into the overall curriculum and not isolated or marginalized.  Indeed, SCU’s well integrated Program often serves as a model in discussions at national and regional conferences.

At its inception, the Program offered a certificate for completion of an “emphasis” in Women’s Studies.  The emphasis required students to complete five courses in the field.  In 1994, under the directorship of Professor Alma Garcia, the emphasis was expanded to become a minor, for which students had to complete the introductory course, WGST 50 (Gender in Culture and Society), and WGST 199 (capstone) plus five additional courses.  Since then, the requirements have been further modified to reflect the categories of the Core Curriculum; students must complete their coursework in a variety of areas, most of which are in the Core. Students completing the emphasis and, later, the minor have gone on to do work in gender justice areas, such as battered women’s shelters, law and public policy, and graduate studies in a wide variety of fields, often with a dissertation on a gender or women’s studies topic. 

In September 2004, the Program was moved from the Provost area to the College of Arts and Sciences.

Under the leadership of Professor Barbara Molony, the program was expanded to include a companion major in Women's and Gender Studies. The Board of Trustees approved the companion major in Women's and Gender Studies in February 2005.


[1]           At the national level, the field of Women’s Studies has a long and distinguished history. After San Diego State University inaugurated the first program in 1969, numerous universities followed suit.  By 1977, when the National Women’s Studies Association was founded, there were 276 programs across the United States.  By the early 1990s, there were over 600, and today there are over 700 programs nationally.  Many hundreds more exist throughout the world.  Dozens of journals in women’s studies, gender studies, queer studies, and disciplinary publications with a focus on women and/or gender (such as, inter alia, Women and Politics, Gender and History, or the Psychology of Women Quarterly) support the extensive body of solid scholarship in this area. Major disciplinary conferences devote a large portion of their sessions to gender studies, and conferences on women’s studies abound.  The Berkshire Conference, to name one, attracts approximately 3,000 scholars from throughout the world for its triennial meetings.