UP now offers gender, women and sexuality studies as a major

From the Portland Thorns to the school of nursing, gender studies can help connect UP students to the real world

By Wilder Isom | October 28, 2022 1:30pm
A group of GWSS students attended a Portland Thorns game to make real-world connections with the program. Photo courtesy of Lara-Zuzan Golesorkhi.

For many, a Sunday afternoon watching the Portland Thorns compete is a leisurely activity. For a small group of students in the gender, women and sexuality studies (GWSS) program it was an opportunity to connect with others in their group.

Led by professors Brandy Daniels and Lara Zuzan Golesorkhi, the group took the game as an opportunity to showcase how the GWSS program can connect to the world outside of school. 

Recently, women’s soccer has made waves with battles for equal pay as well as recent allegations surfacing about systemic abuse in the National Women’s Soccer League. GWSS used the game not only to help students connect with those around them but to also take the time to discuss these matters that affect everybody.

Daniels and Golesorkhi are the program leaders for the GWSS program. This is the first year that GWSS is being offered as a major in addition to the current minor program.

Brandy Daniels and Lara-Zuzan Golesorkhi at the activities fair. Photo courtesy of Lara-Zuzan Golesorkhi.

The GWSS program has been offered as a minor at the University of Portland since 2014. Both Daniels and Golesorkhi credit the establishment of the GWSS minor program to professors Alexandra Stuart and Vail Fletcher. 

“They put together the curriculum proposal, they pushed it through all of the administrative hoops,” Golesorkhi said. “And then we received the positive note last year actually, but this year is the first year where it's officially communicated that we have the major.” 

GWSS details its connection to the new core as well as the new learning outcomes on the program website

“You know, we’ve very concretely stated that our mission is feminist, it's anti-racist, it is decolonial,” Golesorkhi said. 

The Thorns game was not only a way to introduce the group to the application of GWSS but also  a way to spread the word about the program. The GWSS program also made an appearance at the student activities fair to let students know about the program and build connections with the UP community. 

“The other thing I'm really excited about is collaboration,” Daniels said. “How do we collaborate with other schools or departments and programs?”

Sophomore environmental studies major Emma Niemala is also minoring in gender, women and sexualities studies. She was part of the group that went to the Thorns game and has already noticed how the GWSS program can connect to so many areas of study. 

“I have taken environmental policy classes, and we've talked about people's relationship to the environment and nature in general, which I think is really interesting also coming from a female perspective,” Niemala said. “The way women interact with the environment is very different than the way that men do.” 

The nature of GWSS draws people from many different areas of study. Senior nursing major Destiny Kramer has found herself surrounded by gendered medical terms and other aspects of the medical realm that connect to GWSS. 

“In nursing, they're moving towards a lot of more gender-neutral language, but I feel like having the understanding that I'm getting from these (GWSS) classes helps,” Kramer said. 

Junior Emma Hippler discusses how interdisciplinary the GWSS program can be. 

“I think it's unique in the sense that you won't get a really narrow view of things,” Hippler said. “You'll have a wide variety of classes (within GWSS) you can take and a variety of things you can learn about.” 

There will be more ways to connect with the program throughout the school year. The first event occurred on Oct. 25 and looked at “Perspectives on the Midterm Elections.” The event was coordinated by the GWSS program, the Political Science program, the Student Development program and ASUP.

Golesorkhi spoke at the event about non-citizen voting. This program is a part of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge that UP President Robert Kelly committed to. 

UP President Robert Kelly at the GWSS booth during the activities fair. Photo courtesy of Lara-Zuzan Golesorkhi.

The second event, “What makes scholarship feminist?” is currently planned for Nov 2.  It will be the GWSS program in collaboration with the German Program. 

This program will be a discussion led by Stuart about feminist scholars and what makes something feminist.

Daniels is excited about how the GWSS program can help connect a number of disciplines in a concrete way. 

“As someone who does kind of heavily theoretical work sometimes it's hard to tell my students, ‘here's why this matters,’ but it does,” Daniels said. “And I think GWSS does some of that connective work.”

For those who are interested in the connections that can be made through GWSS, the ability to earn a major allows more connections to be made. The expansion of the program from solely a minor to a full-fledged major program is one that shows how applicable the GWSS program can be to all areas of life. 

Wilder Isom is the Sports Editor at The Beacon. She can be reached at isomw24@up.edu.