Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

GWSS Tip Sheet

Tips from Faculty

Illustration by Julio Salgado, commissioned by the #Health4All campaign

What is GWSS?

Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies (GWSS) is a cutting edge interdisciplinary field that examines social and political realities shaped by gender, sexuality, and power. We approach topics from transnational and intersectional perspectives, enabling students to analyze and address issues of gender, sexuality, and social difference at personal, historical, institutional, and structural levels. In our classes we study texts, histories, and experiences from the Global North and South, and examine gender and sexuality as they intersect with race, class, ethnicity, nation, ability, cisgender privilege and other forms of power.

GWSS classes are varied in method and content. Questions common in all GWSS classes are: “Whose voices and histories are we not hearing? And why?” We interrogate these questions, challenge the gendered biases in knowledge production across the disciplines, and articulate alternatives to said biases. In our classes, you can expect to conduct community based research; challenge dominant ways of knowing and learning; and engage texts that include fiction, ethnography, memoir, film, natural sciences, among others.

What can I do with a GWSS major or minor?

A GWSS degree prepares you for careers in community based non-profit organizations, law, education, social services, the arts, and a variety of business areas where demonstrating a capacity to work with diverse communities is an asset. A GWSS degree also provides a pathway to graduate study in related fields.

A GWSS minor offers intellectual support for women and underrepresented learning communities in STEM areas, and is an excellent complement for students pursuing careers in education and healthcare fields.

Tips for determining what courses to take and when to take them:

  • For the major, students are required to take 10 credits of Core Coursework: BISGWS 301 and BISGWS 302 or 303. However, we strongly encourage students to take all three Core courses. If a student completes both BISGWS 302 and BISGWS 303, 5 credits from these courses may be applied toward the student’s GWSS coursework requirement.
  • For the minor, students are required to take BISGWS 301, and may take 302 and/or 303 and apply credits towards the coursework requirement. We intend to offer BISGWS 301 every fall and winter, BISGWS 302 every winter, and BISGWS 303 every spring. It is fine to take these courses out of sequence and/or concurrently.
  • While there are no prerequisites, we recommend the following courses in preparation for the core courses: “Gender and Sexuality” (BIS 221) and/or “Introduction to Feminist Studies” (BIS 224), and/or equivalents.
  • Here is an efficient way to search for GWSS electives which do not have the BISGWS prefix: 1) go into the UWB time schedule; 2) select the quarter you are looking for; 3) select “School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences;” 4) select“Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) Schedule;” 5) hit ctrl F; 6) look for the search box in the bottom left corner of your screen; 7) enter “GWSS” and browse the available GWSS electives.
  • Students might consider taking BIS 300 with a GWSS instructor. Currently, the following GWSS instructors teach BIS 300: Raissa DeSmet; Kris Kellejian; Alka Kurian; Kristy Leissle; Alice Pederson; Julie Shayne, and Thea Quiray Tagle.

Illustration by Micah Bazant:


Major = 40 credits
In addition to the 10 credits of core classes, students will complete a minimum of 30 credits in GWSS elective coursework. A minimum of 15 of these credits must be completed at the Upper Division (300-400) Level.

Minor = 25 credits
In addition to the 5 credits of the core class (BISGWS 301) students will take 20 credits in GWSS courses. A minimum of 10 of these credits must be completed at the Upper Division (300-400) Level.

Core Courses

BISGWS 301 Critical Gender and Sexuality Studies (5 credits)
Catalog description: Explores how sex, gender and sexuality studies has emerged. Examines intersections of gender and sexuality with race, ethnicity, dis/ability, class and nation in order to understand the key terms guiding inquiry in gender and sexuality studies.

BISGWS 302 Histories and Movements of Gender and Sexuality (5credits)
Catalog description: Studies a variety of women's, feminist, and gender and sexuality justice movements around the world. Topics may include: women in armed revolutionary movements; queer activism; embodied protests; civil rights and anti-racism movements; labor activism; and feminist movements.

BISGWS 303 Approaches to Feminist Inquiry (5 credits)
Catalog description: Explores approaches to knowledge (epistemologies) and investigative practices (methodologies) that shape the kinds of questions that feminist scholars bring to social phenomena. In this class we chart key developments in and trajectories of feminist interventions through a range of disciplinary sites.


GWSS elective courses must either focus on gender, women and sexuality studies histories, themes, and experiences and/or use theoretical frameworks and methods grounded in gender, women, and sexuality studies approaches.

An illustrative list of possible elective courses:

  • BIS 219 The Politics of Sex Education
  • BIS 221 Gender and Sexuality
  • BIS 224 Introduction to Feminist Studies
  • BIS 310 Women, Culture & Development
  • BIS 339 Gender, Human Rights, and Global Cinema
  • BIS 368 Women’s Lives in Context
  • BIS 369 Women Across Cultures
  • BIS 387 Women and American Literature
  • BIS 418 Masculinity, Homoeroticism & Queer Theory in America
  • BIS 431 Issues in Sexual Politics and Cultures
  • BIS 433 Gender, Work and Family
  • BIS 436 Comparative Family Systems
  • BIS 455 Literature and Sexuality
  • BIS 463 U.S. Women’s History
  • BIS 471 Women in Art
  • BIS 486 Studies in Women and Literature
  • BISAES 368 Sex, Love, Romance
  • BISGWS 302 History and Movements of Gender and Sexuality (if not used for the Core requirement)
  • BISGWS 303 Approaches to Feminist Inquiry (if not used for the Core requirement)
  • BISSEB 331 The Family in U.S. Society

Possible elective courses from other UW Bothell schools include:

  • B EDUC 461 Educational Implications of Gender Inequality
  • BHLTH 455 Women, Culture, and Healing
  • CSS 205 Women in STEM Seminar: College Life
  • CSS 405 Women in STEM Seminar: Career/Professional Life

Tips for preparing for graduate school in GWSS and related fields:

  • Get involved in the campus GWSS community, including but not limited to attending films, guest speakers, the Gender Equity Club, student government, etc.
  • Discuss graduate options with faculty as soon as you start considering graduate school.
  • Save your coursework in your portfolio, and begin thinking about the portfolio in relation to your career interests and/or goals.
  • Develop good relationships with faculty whose work you admire. These relationships are important for your intellectual development, and beneficial should you require letters of recommendation.
  • Inquire about internship and research opportunities with faculty and/or Career Services.


Contact Professor Julie Shayne, faculty coordinator of GWSS at