WGS on track to become department

Program upgrade considered part of cultural initiative

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Over 1,000 students enrolled in a WGS course in the 2014-15 academic year, and even more students attended events related to the WGS program, Patterson said.

Courtesy University of Virginia

A proposal to change the status of Women, Gender and Sexuality studies from a program to a department was recently approved by Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas Katsouleas.

The approval follows a recent faculty vote in favor of the change. Currently, the proposal requires further approvals before the WGS program officially becomes a department, according to the Status Report to the Ad Hoc Group on University Culture and Climate published Jan. 12 by University President Teresa Sullivan.

“The Culture Working Group considered ways to improve the University's distinctive culture and achieve the goal of ensuring that U.Va. and its Grounds are a safe and welcoming place to learn, teach, conduct research, recreate, and live for all members of the community,” the report reads.

The WGS program’s upgrade to department status was listed as one of these cultural initiatives in the report. WGS Program Director Charlotte Patterson said this change is merited by the high demand for WGS courses.

“Today, almost all WGS courses are fully enrolled — some with waiting lists — and growing numbers of students in the College of Arts and Sciences are declaring a WGS major or minor,” Patterson said in an email statement. “Given the program’s success, its move to departmental status would seem to be appropriate now and will help to ensure its continued growth.”

Over 1,000 students enrolled in a WGS course in the 2014-15 academic year, and even more students attended events related to the WGS program, Patterson said. Meghan Grumbling, a second-year College student double-majoring in WGS and Government, is one of the many students who enjoys WGS courses.

“There are two programs that I think really deserve department status, and they are WGS and African-American Studies,” Grumbling said. “There’s so many great opportunities for departments that programs don’t have, like tenured professors and more classes available, [and] bigger class sizes.”

Emphasizing the importance of WGS is significant given the historical treatment of women at the University, who were admitted late relative to other public schools, Grumbling said.

Although this is a step in the right direction, there is more work that needs to be done in order to make every field of study more inclusive, she added.

“All of these things are culminating into what will be a better culture, although I do think it needs to be a little more pervasive than singular instances of progress,” Grumbling said. “Creating a different culture is more than just [making] a department.”

Even so, Grumbling said the WGS program’s upgrade to a department will be beneficial for students, professors and WGS studies as a whole.

“When some people hear WGS, they think [it is] maybe not as academically rigorous or not as prestigious,” Grumbling said. “But bringing WGS up to a department level will bring that validation that it’s of serious academic study and it has incredible promise.”

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