The University of Massachusetts Amherst
HFA - College of Humanities & Fine Arts view HFA submenu

Major in WGSS

WGSS is an exciting interdisciplinary major!  In WGSS, we are committed to an ‘integrative’ analysis, where the study of women, gender and sexuality is understood to be multifaceted, diverse, and embedded in complex matrices of power relations. Our undergraduate curriculum includes a rich set of core courses and electives that present students with the vibrant field of feminist scholarship today. The courses challenge students to critically examine the categories of analysis and aim to make the complex and multiple histories of feminisms, feminist movements, and feminist theory accessible. In addition, our curriculum encourages our students to develop critical analyses of the politics of knowledge.  With the flexibility built into the major, students can focus if they choose.

We encourage students to explore internships, independent studies, honors, and other educational opportunities in order to craft their own program to best suit their interests.  Advising is central to the major; in addition to the staff advisor each student is assigned a faculty advisor.  Students can also design a focus for their own course of study; see below.

How do I become a WGSS major?
We’ve made declaring a WGSS Major easy! 
If you a current UMass student that wants to major or minor in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, please fill out this form, and we'll be in touch! 

As soon as you are an official major, the WGSS requirements will appear in SPIRE.

If you choose to have a focused major (counting courses not in the WGSS Course Offerings guide - published each semester), contact the undergraduate advisor for information about how to submit a proposal to a faculty member for approval.

There are honors opportunities in WGSS including a departmental honors track!  Contact our honors coordinator:
Laura Briggs    And for more info on the Commonwealth Honors College:

Major Requirements (for students entering the major in Fall of 2020 and later)

Students who entered major earlier than Fall 2020 please see the undergraduate advisor if you have questions. In addition to meeting major requirements, all students must also meet University of Massachusetts 
Amherst graduation requirements and College requirements.

University requirements

Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies majors must fulfill the University graduation requirements of 120 credits, complete the General Education requirements, including 45 credits in residence, and maintain a minimum overall grade point average of 2.0 as well as a 2.0 in the major.

HFA requirements

WGSS is located in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.  Students must also fulfill College of Humanities and Fine Arts requirements, including a foreign language requirement.  See an advisor for the most up to date version of the requirements or visit  Contact the College of Humanities and Fine Arts Advising and Career Center for more information.

Department requirements for Primary Majors

--Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies majors must take at least 36 Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies credits that include the following 7 required courses:

  • WGSS 201:  Gender and Difference: Critical Analyses (offered every semester)
  • Theory class:  Students must take a course that fulfills the theory requirement (see the course guide)
  • WGSS 310 - Junior Year Writing (offered each fall)

  • WGSS 494TI - The Integrative Experience Seminar (offered in Spring) (students must have taken a course that counts toward the theory requirement)

  • A minimum of three additional classes offered in the WGSS department, 3 or more credits each, 200 level and above.

  • Additional electives for a total of 36 credits or more.

--Maintain a cumulative average of 2.0 in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies

--Complete end-of-program report and submit for approval


  • You cannot elect to take a class for the major pass/fail.  Mandatory pass/fail courses can count.  
  • Each class can only satisfy one major requirement.
  • Double majors and double degree students must see an academic advisor about requirements in particular Junior Writing and the Integrative Experience and College requirements.

How do I earn elective credit toward the major?

In addition to the 7 required courses (usually totaling 21 or more credits), students need additional credits to complete the total of 36 credits for the major.  Courses must be above a 100-level to count towards the major, with the exception of WGSS 187.  Component courses and skills courses must be documented with the the WGSS Academic Advisor.

The elective credits can be earned in any or all of the following ways:

  • Courses offered in the Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Department at the University.
  • Courses offered in other departments or at the other colleges (Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, Smith) listed as Departmental Courses in the Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Course Offerings guide.  (See notes below.)
  • Courses listed as Component Courses in the Course Offerings guide. Component courses count towards the minor if at least 1/3-1/2 of the work for the course is on women, gender or sexuality studies AND the student focuses their work on WGSS topics.  If it is not possible to adapt coursework to focus on women, gender, sexuality studies-related themes and issues, the student is encouraged to meet with the faculty member offering the class to devise a WGSS related paper topic.  If that is not possible the class can not be counted.  In the case of a component course, the student is responsible for documenting that the work done for the course is sufficient to grant Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies credit.  Under most circumstances, informing the undergraduate advisor of paper topics in component classes constitutes documentation. Note: If the course has exams only or insufficient course materials it cannot be a component course.  
  • Independent study, field work, and practicum credits may count towards the Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies degree if the content is related to WGSS.  Practicum, field work, or independent studies can be taken under WGSS course numbers, or course numbers in another department.  As in the case of component courses, the student is responsible for documenting how the work relates to their major.  A limit of 15 credits of these types of courses can count toward the major.  Honors thesis/project credits are NOT included in the 15 credit limit. 
  • If you have a focused major, and your proposal has been approved by a faculty member, you may also include skills classes.  Skills Courses are courses the student must take to learn a specific skill or background that is part of their individual course of study.  Skills courses may be counted towards the major.  For example, a student whose focus is gender and health can use a course on anatomy to fulfill credits towards their major regardless of whether that anatomy class focuses on women, gender or sexuality studies.  There is a limit of 12 credits that can be earned in this fashion.  Skills credit must be requested in writing in your proposal and approved by a faculty member.
  • If you have taken or want to take a course that is not listed in the Course Guide, please use this petition form.   

Prior to graduation all WGSS majors must fill out an end-of-program (EOP) report form, have it signed by your faculty advisor if possible, and submit to the academic advisor. The report includes your feedback on your academic program overall plus a list of all courses counting towards the 36 credits if the courses are not documented on the student’s academic requirements report.  You will not be cleared for graduation until the End of Program form is in!   The EOP is now a Google Form.  

Keep in touch with the undergraduate advisor in the department to check on requirements, as well as the College advising office.  If you are a double major, or pursuing minors and certificates keep in touch with each department or program to check on requirements.  Because WGSS is an interdisciplinary major, check your requirements on SPIRE and work with the academic advisor if you have questions.

Contact the undergraduate advisor for information about the waiver and petition process if applicable and/or fill out this form (for example if you have transferred in WGSS classes).

Additional Requirements and Restrictions

Students are responsible for ongoing contact with the undergraduate academic advisor or their faculty advisor.  Take advantage of the strong advising available in WGSS!  An advisor can help you shape your program, arrange internship credit, assist with career and graduate school planning and more!  An undergraduate advisor can correct your academic requirement report on spire if WGSS electives are not showing in the major requirements.

There is a maximum of 15 credits of independent (out of the classroom) work that can be applied to the Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies major.  All independent studies, internships, and other special projects are considered "independent work." All credits earned under course numbers 296, 396, 496, 298, 398, and 498 are subject to this limitation.  Credits earned over the 15 limit maximum can count towards graduation, but not towards the 36 credits needed for the major.  In addition, the University has a limit of practicum credits from all departments (298, 398, 498) that can be counted towards graduation.

Recommendations and Helpful Hints

We encourage students to include field work and independent study as part of their course of study.  An advisor is available for consultation about possible field work placements and there is internship assistance available in each college advising office.

Graduates continually tell us field work was a very important experience both as a way to make connections between experience and the classroom and as a way to test possible career interests and strengthen career opportunities post-graduation.

Honors options are available.   See the Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies honors coordinator for more information.

We suggest that students distribute their work evenly over four semesters with only three Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies courses per semester.  Our experience has been that more than three of our courses in one semester may be difficult for students. 

Student Involvement in the Program

The Department is always open to student suggestions. The Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Executive Committee, the decision making body for the Department, includes 2 undergraduate student representatives as well as graduate student representatives, faculty, adjunct faculty and staff.