Program Celebrates Dynamic Decade

Mary Washington’s Women’s and Gender Studies program marked its 10th anniversary in fall 2019 with a gathering of current students, faculty, and alumni.

Paige McKinsey ’15, Sophie Mestas ’20, and Sam Carter ’14 spoke at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Women’s and Gender Studies program. (Karen Pearlman ’00)

Through the interdisciplinary major, students explore the intersections of gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Graduates take their perspectives into such careers as media, law, health, education, and social work.

Mary Washington students had been declaring women’s studies as a special major when, a decade ago, UMW’s administration decided it was time to launch a standardized program, said Professor of History and American Studies Allyson Poska, who served six years as its founding director.

The current director, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Surupa Gupta, said the program’s strength lies in its interdisciplinary nature. With only three course requirements, students can craft their own paths, choosing electives from 17 disciplines taught by more than 45 affiliated faculty members.

Students also complete a capstone project, exploring a topic of interest in depth, with guidance from a professor. They present their findings each spring at the program’s Undergraduate Research Forum.

Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Kristin Marsh, who led Women’s and Gender Studies between Poska and Gupta, said the program prepares students to make a difference in their professional and personal lives.

“They become confident in thinking critically, speaking and writing effectively, and engaging with the larger community on social justice issues,” Marsh said.

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