Scholarship and teaching related to gender, feminism, and sexuality have had a place at Northwestern for more than forty years, beginning with the founding of an interdisciplinary Program on Women in 1971. Northwestern converted that initiative into a Women's Studies Program in 1980, which began to offer an undergraduate certificate in Women's Studies. In 1991, the University made its first faculty appointments in the program; in 1992, Women's Studies awarded its first graduate certificate; and in 1993, Women's Studies was recognized as a major by the College of Arts and Sciences.
With a change of name from "Women's Studies" to "Gender Studies" in 2000, the program built upon its strong, existing foundations in women's studies scholarship and feminist theory, while also expanding its commitment to include the study of gender more broadly, sexuality studies, and their deep implications with experiences of race, ethnicity, class, and globalism. In 2007, partly on the strength of its longstanding graduate certificate program, Gender Studies become one of the inaugural participants in the Graduate School's innovative Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative, attracting Ph.D., M.A., and M.F.A. students from ever more disciplines.
In 2012, in consultation with our students and in response to the expanding range of research agendas among the faculty, the program's name changed once more, this time to Gender and Sexuality Studies. Simultaneously, the program ceased being an "adjunct major" for undergraduates, in tandem with a second department; for the first time, our seniors could graduate from Northwestern with an exclusive major in Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Today, Gender and Sexuality Studies offers more courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels than ever before, from an ever-widening array of disciplines, guiding students at all levels through long-term research projects and launching them into varied and rewarding careers.
Past directors of the program at Northwestern, in its various names and forms, have included: Arlene Kaplan Daniels (Sociology), Tessie Liu (History), Jeffrey Masten (English), Rae Moses (Linguistics), Ann Orloff (Sociology), Alexandra Owen (History), Frances Freeman Paden (Writing Program), Sylvie Romanowski (French and Italian), Tilde Sankovitch (French and Italian), Mary Weismantel (Anthropology), Mimi White (Radio, Television, and Film), and Jane Winston (French and Italian). We thank all of these colleagues and remember with fondness and gratitude those who are no longer with us.
Sylvie Romanowski (French and Italian) 1986 – 1987
I became chair at a time of transition when the Women’s Studies Certificate Program was created: the former Program on Women was split into two parts, an academic entity (Women’s Studies) and a non-academic entity, the Women’s Center...
Rae Moses (Linguistics) 1987 – 1991
Arlene Kaplan Daniels (Sociology) 1991 – 1994
Tilde Sankovitch (French and Italian) 1994 – 1996
In 1996 the Program sponsored at Northwestern a well-attended colloquium on " Women's Studies and Feminist Thought: the Next Millennium." It was a way of launching the Program into the future…
Mimi White (Radio, Television, and Film) 1996 – 1999
The most prominent development during my term was the Program’s physical move, from the Women’s Center to Kresge, providing more space for both “women’s” spheres (program/center), and also making the Program and its activities more visible and accessible to the campus at large…
Frances Freeman Paden (Writing Program) 1999 – 2000
A valiant crew of feminist faculty, students, and staff brought Women's Studies through its first decade, committed to keeping at the core of the discipline tough questions concerning gender identity and sexualities...
Alex Owen (History) 2000 – 2002
Tessie Liu (History) 2002 – 2004
A commitment to sustaining and building an intellectual community of scholars, teachers, and students was integral to the conception of the new Gender Studies Program
Jane Winston (Gender Studies) 2004 – 2005
The year 2004-05 was a period of high energy and growth in Gender Studies. We broadened our engagement with gender issues by emphatically foregrounding race, ethnicity, and a transnational perspective. This broadening defined the scholarly events we sponsored and the undergraduate and graduate level courses we offered that year...
Jeff Masten (Gender Studies) 2005 – 2008
The years 2005-08 were a time of terrific growth for Gender Studies at Northwestern, in several areas. We doubled the size of our tenure-line faculty, adding two new joint positions...
Ann Orloff (Gender Studies) 2008 – 2011
During the 2008-11, a key concern was to expand the intellectual activities of Gender Studies, especially with reference to faculty development, with programming that engaged our diverse and cross-disciplinary constituencies...