Professor Meena Khandelwal speaking at the front of a classroom.

Bachelor of Arts in Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies

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Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies teaches you skills such as: critical thinking, research, writing, activism and advocacy. These skills are required in a range of academic disciplines and professions. GWSS majors can work in numerous setting such as research / advocacy / policy & programming / government and nonprofit agencies / human resources / fundraising / counseling / education / publishing / international development / or activist work. With a GWSS major, you can continue your studies in numerous academic programs or professional schools such as women's and gender studies, history, anthropology, area studies and schools of law, public health, business and journalism.

A GWSS major is also personally fulfilling and helps students to understand issues of race, class, gender & sexuality in the US and internationally.

To declare GWSS as your first or second major, go to the College of Liberal Arts Academic Programs and Student Development Office, 120 Schaeffer Hall. Although there is no formal mechanism for declaring a minor, we encourage all those contemplating a minor to meet with the undergraduate advisor or another member of the GWSS Faculty.

The BA in GWSS will be awarded on the successful completion of at least 39 semester hours (26 of which must be completed at the University of Iowa) of coursework culminating in the senior research seminar. The senior seminar will also provide a mechanism for Honors students to produce their theses. The modest number of required hours will make the GWSS major a reasonable choice for students pursuing double majors or multiple minors and/or certificates, along the lines of other majors in liberal arts fields (e.g., English, history, linguistics, anthropology). New majors may transfer up to 12 credit hours with the approval of the advisor.

Undergraduate Core (9 s.h.)

All of these:
GWSS:1001      Introduction to Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies   3
GWSS:1002 Diversity and Power in the US 3
GWSS:3005 GWSS Practicum 3

Distribution Requirements (12 s.h.)

One of these:
GWSS:3100 LGBTQ/Queer Studies 3
GWSS:3200 Theories for Gender, Women's & Sexuality Studies 3
Transnational Theory
One of these:
GWSS:3010 Transnational Sexualities 3
GWSS:3326 The Politics of Progress: NGOs, Development, and Sexuality 3
GWSS:3350 Transnational Feminism 3
One GWSS course with a global/comparative focus 3
One GWSS or other course with a race/ethnicity in the US focus 3

Electives (12 s.h.)

Students choose elective courses from this list of courses.  They must complete at least four electives (minimum of 12 s.h.), earning at least 6 s.h. in courses numbered 3000 or above. Students can count GWSS distribution area requirement courses as electives if they were not used to fulfill their area requirements. With the instructor's permission, honors students may enroll in a graduate-level course numbered 5000 or above and count it toward the electives requirement.

In choosing electives, students are encouraged to pursue a course of study that emphasizes breadth and depth in a focus area. They may choose courses through which they gain deeper knowledge within a specific discipline, such as English, Communication Studies, Social Work, Anthropology, or History. This is especially useful for students pursuing double majors, since they may count toward the GWSS major a maximum of three courses they complete for the other major. 

Students may also choose courses that allow them to focus on interdisciplinary fields such as sexuality studies, girls’ and women’s studies, global and transnational studies, or studies in race and ethnicity or in subjects areas such as social justice or health. 

Students may request permission to use upper-level courses not listed, but for the course to be approved at least half of the course's content and requirements must focus on gender and/or sexuality. For information on requesting permission to use a course not listed, contact the GWSS undergraduate adviser.

Capstone Courses


Students first take GWSS:3900 in the fall semester of their final year, which focuses on developing advanced research, reading, and writing skills and choosing capstone topics. In the spring of their senior year, students take GWSS:4090, a research and writing workshop in which students work collaboratively with their classmates to complete their creative or scholarship capstone work, including creating a poster for the end of the semester Senior Research Poster Show.

Students who write an honors thesis enroll in GWSS:4095 in the spring semester of their senior year.

This course:
GWSS:3900 Research for Public Engagement 3
One of these:
GWSS:4090 Senior Research Seminar 3
GWSS:4095 Honors Senior Thesis 3


In the fall semester of their final year, students complete SJUS:3400 which requires community service work at a related social justice organization. In the spring of their senior year, students complete SJUS:4080, in which they develop an individual creative or scholarly project that pulls together their lived and community experiences, their academic learning, and significant research. The project culminates with a poster displayed at the Senior Research Poster Show.

Students who write an honors thesis enroll in SJUS:4085 in the spring semester of their senior year.

This course:
SJUS:3400/GWSS:3400 Advocacy and Engagement Colloquium 3
One of these:
SJUS:4080 Advocacy and Engagement Capstone 3
SJUS:4085 Social Justice Bachelor of Arts Honors Senior Thesis 3

TOTAL HOURS: 39 semester hours

Important Information for Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies Majors and Minors

The interdisciplinarity of GWSS offers intellectual advantages and a wide range of cross-listed courses from which to choose. Many courses that are approved for GWSS credit are not actually cross-listed, and there are also new courses taught each semester that are appropriate but not formally approved. Thus, you must take the responsibility of ensuring that these courses will count for your major or minor.

If you wish to take a course for GWSS credit that has not been previously approved, you must e-mail the GWSS advisor the following information: course number, course title, instructor's name, course description. The advisor may request a copy of the syllabus before reaching a decision. Our general guidelines are that 50% or more of the course content must be on gender and sexuality and that, as much as possible, the student's written work should engage issues of gender and sexuality. We do not allow students to obtain GWSS credit for courses without significant gender/sexuality content by completing a paper on gender.

For the minor, all courses beyond Introduction to Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies (GWSS:1001) must be upper-level (generally but not always above 3000 level). For the major, most courses beyond Introduction to Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies (GWSS:1001) and Diversity and Power in the US (GWSS:1002) must be upper-level; we will allow up to two electives (6 credit hours) below the 3000 level, provided they have a GWSS department number.

For double majors, students may count three (3) courses towards credits for both departments.

How to Declare a Major

Students advised at the Academic Advising Center (C210 Pomerantz Center) may declare or change majors in that office.  Students with a declared major in a CLAS department may declare or change majors at CLAS Undergraduate Programs (120 Schaeffer Hall). Students are generally assigned an advisor when the major is declared; in some cases, students visit with the departmental office of the major to ask for or change advisors.