In 1975, three professors—Charlotte Weissberg (Sociology), Kristine Rosenthal (Sociology), and Erica Harth (Composition and Literature)—penned and submitted a proposal advocating for a Women’s Studies Program at Brandeis University. 1976 saw many editorials, debates, and votes from students and faculty about the need, viability, and feasibility of the program. Finally, during the 1977/1978 academic year the interdisciplinary program came to fruition.
In the beginning this interdisciplinary program was intended solely for undergraduate students, and not as a stand-alone program of study. Rather, it was meant to be a supplement to a traditional disciplinary degree allowing interested students to incorporate women’s experiences into their field of study. In 1993 the Women’s Studies Program introduced a graduate program similar to that of the undergraduate program. It offered Brandeis graduate students already enrolled in one of nine specific PhD programs in social sciences, humanities, or the arts to earn a joint master’s degree during the course of their studies. It also allowed accepted graduate applicants in Near Eastern Judaic Studies, Sociology, or English and American Literature to enroll in a joint master’s program with Women’s Studies. The Women’s Studies minor and major were established during the 2002/2003 and the 2003/2004 academic years, respectively.
Keeping with trends in theory and scholarship within women’s studies, the Women’s Studies Program changed its name in 2005 to Women’s and Gender Studies. Five years later, in the fall of 2010, the program began to offer a stand-alone master’s degree in women’s and gender studies. In 2014, still keeping with the forward motion of theory and scholarship, the program changed its name to the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program engages the broader Brandeis community through yearly lectures and events. Additionally, as an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental program it has drawn on many talented faculty members—Joyce Antler (American Studies), Anita Hill (The Heller School of Social Policy and Management), Jasmine Johnson (African and Afro-American Studies), to name only a few—and continues to grow its course offerings.