center for women and gender studies
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About the Center for Women's & Gender Studies

The mission of the Center for Women’s & Gender Studies is to create committed communities that address the challenges faced in the areas of gender, sexuality, diversity, and equity. We recognize that ending gender discrimination requires ending the related discriminations against disability, ethnicity, gender identity, race, sexuality, and socioeconomic class. We foster communities of scholars, teachers and advocates inside and outside The University of Texas at Austin through:

  • Interdisciplinary research
  • Undergraduate and graduate teaching
  • Social advocacy
  • Community partnerships

Established in 1979 by faculty B.J. Fernea and Betty Sue Flowers, the Center for Women’s & Gender Studies (CWGS) has grown to include an undergraduate degree program, LGBTQ undergraduate certificate program, a master’s degree program, two dual master’s degree programs with the School of Information and the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and a graduate portfolio program for master’s students and doctoral students.

CWGS is dedicated to closing the leadership gap through a variety of initiatives that:

  • Promote groundbreaking interdisciplinary research in the study of women and gender
  • Support undergraduate women students in their pursuit of leadership
  • Assist women faculty so that they may succeed in their chosen fields and serve as mentors and role models for their students.

In support of our mission, CWGS works closely with other interdisciplinary programs and research centers on campus. We generate interdisciplinary educational spaces for faculty, students, and community members to create alliances across difference and together to imagine new possibilities.
Four core projects enact this practice:

  • Embrey Critical Human Rights Initiative (ECHRI) supports an educational culture for gender and racial justice;
  • INSPIRE is the university’s signature leadership program for women undergraduates;
  • NEW Leadership™ Texas gives college women statewide the knowledge and skills to become effective leaders in politics, public policy and public service;
  • The CWGS Faculty Development Program supports and showcases the teaching and research of newly hired faculty working in the interdisciplinary field of Women’s & Gender Studies.

A Brief History of Women's and Gender Studies at The University of Texas at Austin

Patricia Kruppa began teaching the first classes focusing primarily on women and women's and gender issues in 1972. In 1978, B.J. Fernea and Betty Sue Flowers approached Vice President William Livingston about creating a Women's Studies program, and later gathered a group of faculty to work out a curriculum.

In Summer 1979, the AD HOC Committee for Women's Studies submitted a proposal to Robert King, Dean of Liberal Arts. Professor Fernea agreed to be the group coordinator, and the first WS seminar, "Sexuality among the Anthropologists and Reproduction among the Natives," was offered in Fall 1979.

In spring 1983, several departments recognize Women's Studies as an appropriate minor field. A version of a Women's Studies concentration was created in spring 1986, but would not be approved until Fall 1987. In spring 1990, the number of faculty affiliates had grown to 60 people. A doctoral portfolio in Women's Studies was the first doctoral portfolio approved.

The Master's degree in Women's and Gender Studies was approved and began in Fall 2001.

In January 2007, the Bachelor's of Arts degree in Women's and Gender Studies was approved.

In Fall 2007, the first dual degree with WGS was approved - Master of Arts with a Major in Women's and Gender Studies/Master of Science in Information Studies.

In Fall 2008, a second dual degree program was approved - Master of Arts in Women's and Gender Studies (MA) and the Master of Public Affairs in the LBJ School (MPAff).

In Fall 2013, the College of Liberal Arts Policy and Curriculum Committee approved an Undergraduate Certificate in LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies. A transcript-recognized undergraduate certificate program is a set of courses that allows a student to focus on an area of study in addition to the major. The LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies Certificate recognizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) scholarship and acknowledges widespread faculty expertise in this field. Also a new LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies Track in-house certificate was awarded by the Women's & Gender Studies Portfolio Program.

Directors of Women's and Gender Studies

1978-1979 - B.J. Fernia and Betty Sue Flowers
1980-1982 - Patricia Kruppa
1983-1985 - Jane Marcus
1985-1987 - Teresa Sullivan
1987-1991 - Laura Lein
1991-1993 - Susan Marshall
1993-1994 - Laura Lein
1994-1999 - Lucia Gilbert
1999-2001 - Desley Deacon
2001-2004 - Janet Staiger
2004-2008 - Gretchen Ritter
2008-Present -  Susan Sage Heinzelman


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    The University of Texas at Austin
    Burdine Hall 536
    2505 University Avenue, A4900
    Austin, Texas 78712
    512-471-5765