WGS Sees Rise in Course Enrollment Numbers

Despite its small size, the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality has seen an increase in non-concentrators taking its courses over the last several years, published enrollment statistics show.

U.S. in the World 26: “Sex and the Citizen: Race, Gender, and Belonging in the United States,” can be taken for a General Education requirement and has seen a nearly eight-fold increase in enrollment since it was first offered in 2010, with a class size just shy of 200.

In addition, WOMGEN 1168: “Education, Race, and Gender in the United States” now has over 110 students enrolled in the course. Despite the high enrollment of these two WGS courses, there are only 37 WGS concentrators total in the College.

Caroline Light, the department’s director of undergraduate studies, said that the decision to introduce a WGS General Education class in 2008 was crucial to the increase in popularity of the department’s courses.

“The Gen Ed class has been tremendously helpful in bringing critical and analytical skills of gender studies to the student body,” she said.

Light added that she enjoys teaching students from a diverse array of disciplines in the course.

“It’s such an incredibly rich community with people from first-years to seniors and also people from concentrations like engineering as well,” she said.

Talia Weisberg ’17, a freshman and prospective WGS concentrator, has taken two WGS classes since she came in the fall. She said that having a wide variety of students in her classes added to the experience.

“Having so many types of concentrators brings a different set of knowledge and set of academic tools to the conversation,” she said.

Light also said that teaching the course has refined her teaching skills.

“In a WGS elective course, you can take for granted certain shared vocabulary,” she said. “I’ve found as a teacher you have to become much more fluid for applications of theory into teaching. I have to be a much better communicator and not take for granted jargony terms.”

Medha Gargeya ’14, a government concentrator, decided in her sophomore year to take the class WOMGEN 1231: “American Social Bodies” with WGS lecturer Keridwen Luis “on a whim.”

“As a gov concentrator, I knew a lot about how institutions and the law shape how people interact, but I never thought about how people had to deal with what the law and institutions had to do to them,” she said. “I really found it very beneficial. It was gratifying for me because I was able to match my legal interests with the new gender theory I was learning.”

The course, she said, inspired her senior thesis, which was on the use of social science in sex discrimination decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“That class gave me a broad historical overview of what women’s work looks like and what sex discrimination looks like,” she said. “It gave me a framework for how to approach the topic.”

She credits the department’s teaching staff with the increasing popularity of WGS courses.

“They’re so well-taught and the professors are fantastic,” she said.

Staff writer Michael S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at michael.aviyonah@thecrimson.com.

Staff writer Hamna M. Nazir can be reached at hnazir@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @HamnaMNazir.

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