College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > Women's and Gender Studies > About > History, Growth and Development

History, Growth and Development

​The Department of Women's and Gender Studies at DePaul University has existed since 1985. It was initially established as an interdisciplinary Program in Women's Studies with an undergraduate minor.  In September 1992, we began to offer an undergraduate major, a graduate level concentration through the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and a four-course, non-degree Graduate Certificate. A decade later, we went through another substantive revision of the undergraduate curriculum. At this time, the program added “and Gender Studies" to its title, reflecting contemporary trends in research, scholarship, and pedagogy in the field. In Autumn 2007, Women's and Gender Studies established a Master of Arts (MA) and a five-year BA/MA program, and a few years later began our dual MA/MSW (Master's of Social Work) Program. 

Our ability to grow our programs is due in part to the increase in full-time faculty with appointments in Women's and Gender Studies. From 1986-1995, the Women's Studies program relied on faculty located in other departments and programs to offer classes and further develop the program. In 1995, the Program welcomed its first full-time faculty member (Dr. Ann Russo). Currently, the department has four tenured faculty members (Dr. Beth Catlett, Dr. Laila Farah, Dr. Sanjukta Mukherjee, Dr. Ann Russo)
and one tenure-track faculty member (Dr. Heather Montes Ireland) who teach our core and elective WGS courses. Each quarter we are also joined by a number of adjunct faculty who contribute to the department's curricular offerings. The department also benefits from a group of affiliated faculty members who are from departments, programs, and schools throughout the university and who initiate and develop courses in their own departments that are cross-listed or carry Women's and Gender Studies credit toward the major, minor, and/or graduate degrees. 

The breadth and depth of course offerings in Women's and Gender Studies have increased over the years. Indeed, the growth of the WGS curriculum and focus is reflective of the growth of the interdisciplinary field of Women's and Gender Studies across a broad spectrum of institutions in the U.S. and abroad. A strong body of interdisciplinary scholarship and concomitant undergraduate and graduate education has emerged, and the strengths of this growing body of knowledge are its interdisciplinarity, its critical analysis, and feminist pedagogy, all of which entail approaching questions and issues from multiple perspectives. Most significantly, it's also reflective of the department's commitment to intersectional, transnational, and queer theorizing, pedagogy, and praxis. 

The WGS curriculum at DePaul has a decided focus on feminist inquiry and social justice which is connected to our
attention to recognizing and affirming people's agency, social responsibility, advocacy, activism, and social change. Our curriculum and programming demonstrate the connections between theory and praxis, research and public policy, and the academy and the community. 

The growth of Women's and Gender Studies is also evident in the increased numbers of undergraduate students who are choosing Women's and Gender Studies as a major or minor, and of graduate students choosing to pursue an MA or the Graduate Certificate. Our records indicate that, at the undergraduate level, we increased from about 10 declared majors in 1992 to about 28 declared majors, 9 double majors, and 45 currently declared minors (as of December 2023). Many WGS students choose to become double majors in an allied field to widen and deepen their knowledge as well as skills in preparation for their post-graduate futures. WGS majors double major with disciplinary programs such as Sociology, Psychology, Communication, Political Science, Philosophy, Spanish, History, and English
as well as other interdisciplinary majors such as Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies, African and Black Diaspora Studies, Latin American/Latino Studies, American Studies, and International Studies. Being able to combine Women's and Gender Studies with other fields and disciplines affords students a broader range of options when they graduate. 

At the graduate level, since our graduate programs began in 2007, we have graduated about 92 MA students and 22 BA/MA students. We have had many students in other MA and PhD Programs take advantage of our Graduate Certificate Program, and community organizers, activists, and educators enroll in the stand-alone WGS Certificate Program to enhance their work, meet their goals, and expand their careers. 

The relationship between research and social activism has always been integral to the interdisciplinary field of Women's and Gender Studies. The Women and Gender Research Initiative (WGRI) was founded in 2002 to promote community-based programs and research that inform the prevention of and intervention in gender-related oppressions. In 2011, the WGRI took a new name: The Beck Research Initiative for Women, Gender, and Community (BRI). This name honors the vision, dedication, and generous support of Irene and Bill Beck. The mission of the BRI is to develop and support faculty- and student-led research projects that work with community members to effect social change through social policy, advocacy, and community development. The Initiative is committed to documenting, collecting, and making public the contributions of individuals whose lives reflect previously untold experiences and resilience. Over the last several years, the Beck Research Initiative has benefited from the support of the Steans Center for Community-Based Service learning, and has developed, funded, and implemented several very successful community-based projects. Projects include Take Back the Halls: Ending Violence in Relationships and Schools, Teen Girls Revision East Rogers Park, and Latina Lesbian Organizing in Chicago, among many others. 

One of the central features of the department is also our commitment to offering students a unique educational experience that combines the rigorous academic scholarship of the classroom with exciting opportunities for research, advocacy, and activism within a vibrant WGS community. In addition to the community-based research opportunities offered through the Beck Research Initiative for Women, Gender and Community, the Department of Women's and Gender Studies launched the WGS Service Learning and Internship Program (SLIP) in 2012, which offers our undergraduate and graduate students' valuable opportunities for community-based experience. The mission of the WGS Service Learning and Internship Program is to develop long-term relationships with community-based organizations to create internship opportunities for students according to their area of interest, as well as broader community connections that support our students as they transition from school into careers in social service, advocacy, activism, the arts, and other areas. 

In addition to service learning and internship opportunities, the Department of Women's and Gender Studies also offers a variety of initiatives that help support a vibrant community of scholars, activists, and artists. One of the more prominent projects that closed in the Spring of 2023 was Building Communities, Ending Violence (BCEV), initiated and led by Ann Russo and a group of DePaul students in 2010. BCEV supported the development of everyday, collective, community-based interventions into everyday oppression and violence in our communities. One of its signature events was Dandelions in the Concrete, which was held each quarter and offered an evening of collective healing and transformation through storytelling, art, music, performances, poetry, and an open mic. BCEV closed in the Spring of 2023, opening up space for new projects and possibilities in WGS. 

In Fall of 2023, the department launched The Feminist Pedagogy Project. This project seeks to explore and share feminist pedagogical practices particularly attuned to intersectional and transnational courses and classrooms. The project has three aims: (1) Build an online resource to share WGS transnational and intersectional curriculum and pedagogical practices; (2) Build relationships with other WGS faculty and students across the country through the National Women's Studies Association to cultivate collaborative projects and institutes; and (3) Develop relationships with Chicago-area community colleges to foster links between community college students interested in WGS as well as create possibilities for WGS alums to teach in the community colleges.​