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Rutgers professor explains Department of Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies name change

<p>Mary K. Trigg, the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies chair, helped with the name change.</p>

Mary K. Trigg, the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies chair, helped with the name change.

The Board of Governors has recently approved the change of name of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies to Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. 

The entire multi-layered process took more than two years to get approved, as confirmed by Mary K. Trigg, the associate professor and chair of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Institute of Women’s leadership at Rutgers University. 

She went on to discuss the detailed process from the beginning until the approval, saying that the faculty had to vote upon the name change and seek approval from the School of Arts and Sciences chairs. 

“From there the School of Arts and Sciences sent it to the Provost/Chancellor's Office, who upon approval forwarded it to the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Barbara Lee, for her approval,” Trigg said. “Upon administration approval, the Office of Institutional Research and Academic Planning processed the department name change as an information item to the Board of Governors, where it was approved at (its) December 2019 meeting.”

Trigg said that this name change reflected existing faculty expertise and engagement with sexuality studies changes in the curriculum over the past decade and greater intellectual trajectory of the field. 

“Our investigation of the 19 other Ph.D.-granting departments in women’s studies revealed that nine — a full 50 percent — have added ‘sexuality studies’ to their titles,” Trigg said.

She said she believed that institutions doing work on gender assumed that sexuality should be in the title. The proposed name change aligns more closely with the titles of many women’s and gender studies doctorate-granting institutions, as well as titles of undergraduate programs, certificates and centers. 

Trigg pointed to Barnard College’s Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies for undergraduates, the Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexuality for Ph.D. students at University of California, Berkeley and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University as examples of similar programs.

Trigg said these courses were designed to take global and comparative approaches to a wide range of issues, like cultural constructions of race, gender, sex and sexuality, as well as the issues pertaining to these identities. 

In order to explore strategies for social change, students learn how women and men mobilize locally, nationally, regionally, transnationally and globally to frame agendas that challenged racial, sexual and gender domination. 

Trigg said over the past two decades, the faculty members, as well as the intellectual trajectory of the field, has demonstrated that some of the most fruitful ways of studying gender also entail considering how sexuality informs social and cultural meanings and practices across time and space.  

“The inextricable yet irreducible relations and tensions between gender and sexuality have provided the impetus for some of the most exciting work in the field. Indeed, Rutgers’ faculty have been at the forefront in making these contributions, and we are renowned internationally as leaders in the field,” Trigg said.

Trigg said the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Ph.D. program attracts many applicants, reflecting the strength of the department. She said the first Henry Rutgers Term Chair in Sexuality, Gender and Race was recently hired and shows how committed the University is to the field.

Trigg also said that the department was still working on formally changing the names of the degree programs, including the Bachelor of Arts, Master’s and Ph.D. programs. Once all of these changes are approved, the name change would be retroactive and apply to all degrees earned in the department. 

“Otherwise, there will be no substantive departmental changes: The name change simply reflects existing faculty expertise and engagement with sexuality studies, the trajectory of the field nationally and internationally and curricular development to meet student interest,” Trigg said.

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