SWAGS students in classroom

SWAGS Major Program:

Students interested in a SWAGS major need to complete a total of nine courses, three of which are required: 100: The Cross-Cultural Construction of Gender; 200: Feminist Theory; 400: Contemporary Debates.  SWAGS 100 assumes little to no college-level experience in the study of gender and sexuality, and we advise students to begin their major studies there.

The remaining electives may be chosen from Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies offerings or may be selected, in consultation with a student's advisor, from courses given in other departments (see list of related courses).

Other Amherst or Five College courses that address issues of sexuality, women and/or gender as part of their concern may be counted toward the major only if approved by the Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies Department. Students seeking approval of an external course should give copies of the course name & number, course description, and (if possible) syllabus to their advisor and Stephanie Orion, the ADC of the SWAGS Department.

Major requirements beginning with students entering in the fall of 2015: At most 3 of the 9 required courses may be taken outside of the SWAGS Department. Also, there will no longer be a list "Related Courses."

Comprehensive Requirement:

Senior majors not writing theses will satisfy the requirement for comprehensive assessment of the major  by 1) assembling a portfolio consisting of three papers written in courses for the SWAGS major; 2)  writing a five page reflective essay on sexuality, women and gender. The portfolio and its accompanying essay are to be submitted during the first week of April. Instructions will be distributed approximately two weeks before the due date.

Departmental Honors Program:

In addition to the courses required for the major, students accepted as honors candidates will elect either Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies 498D and 499 or 498 and 499D, depending on which option better accommodates the disciplines in the thesis project. The D designation indicates that a course offers double credit.

Major Form:

To keep track of your progress towards the degree, please use our Major Form.

Related Courses

ECON 416 Evaluating Social Policy
ENGL 314 Sexuality and History in the Contemporary Novel

Writing a SWAGS Thesis for Honors in 2018-19

Student in Class

There are two things to keep in mind when considering a thesis: First, SWAGS theses often cross disciplinary boundaries.  We are a “studies” department because the significance, impact, and construction of gender and sexuality have multiple origins.  Hence a thesis focused on infanticide in the ante-bellum South might look not only to historical and legal documents but also to literary, religious and medical texts. Second, SWAGS offers a total of three thesis credits over two semesters. This means that a student, in consultation with the advisor, may take two thesis courses in whichever semester she or he chooses. This may sound delightful, and we certainly hope it sounds helpful.  But it serves as a warning of sorts, as well:  if you choose to write a thesis, we expect that more than a third of your senior year will be devoted to its production.

All majors who are considering theses should consult with members of the Department during their junior year to define a suitable Honors project and to determine whether a member of the Department can serve as an advisor. Colleagues from other departments at Amherst or in the Five Colleges may serve as second and third readers. Junior SWAGS majors who are studying abroad should communicate with prospective thesis advisors before leaving and while abroad

Prospective thesis writers must submit a proposal (3 pages plus a bibliography) to the department (swags@amherst.edu) by Monday, April 8, 2019. The proposal should address the following questions:

  1. What is your central question, and how does your proposed methodology intend to answer it? What are the inter-disciplinary dimensions of your project? Which literature is relevant to your project?
  2. Which members of the SWAGS department have you consulted about your project?
  3. Which courses have you taken that are relevant to your project?
  4.  How have research papers written for other courses prepared you for this lengthy project?

During Drop/Add period, the department chair will inform students whether they have been admitted into 498/498D (Fall) or 499/499D (Spring). Because you may not register for thesis courses until the proposal has been accepted by the department, we suggest that you pre-register for four courses you want to take.  One or even two of those courses can be dropped if the department approves the proposal. 

Continuation of the thesis course into a second semester is not automatic.  During Interterm, thesis writers must submit one completed chapter.  The department, in consultation with your advisor and taking into consideration the chapter that you have submitted, will inform you whether you have been accepted for a second semester of thesis credit. The submitted thesis should not exceed 100 typed pages of text and must be composed in a readable, standard type font.

For seniors graduating in May 2019, one copy of the thesis is due to your SWAGS thesis advisor on Friday, April 12, 2019. One bound copy of the thesis, with corrections, printed on acid-free paper, should be submitted to the Registrar by Tuesday, May 7, 2019; a bound duplicate of that final text should be submitted to the SWAGS Department office at that time.

Support for senior projects is available in the form of grants and funding through the Dean of Faculty's Office. Student Research Award applications can be accessed on the Dean of Faculty website.

Any request to the Department of Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies for funding must be submitted in writing to the SWAGS chair and the academic department coordinator.

Photos: Frank Ward