Women's and Gender Studies at USC Upstate

Women's and Gender Studies

As an interdisciplinary program of study, women's and gender studies introduces students to the scholarship, literature and creative works on and by women that are transforming the liberal arts and the professions. A concentration in women's studies allows a student to explore the histories and situations of women in different cultural and social contexts. Women's and gender studies addresses the myriad ways in which gender difference structures our social relations, cultural values, institutions, academic disciplines, and the production of knowledge.

Women's and gender studies courses introduce students to ideologies and political theories that have been used over time to explain the natures of women and men and their functions and roles in society. Women's and gender studies courses prepare students to utilize traditional and feminist perspectives to analyze gender, sex, and sexuality as biological, psychological, social and cultural phenomena. A women's and gender studies concentration is useful preparation for training in the professions and for postgraduate work in a variety of fields. On a personal level, it enhances the human potential of both women and men by questioning and redefining societal values.

Courses cross-listed as women's studies courses provide students with discipline-specific attention to these issues, whereas a cognate, IDS concentration, or minor in women's and gender studies provides a comprehensive, interdisciplinary exploration of these topics.

Courses leading to an interdisciplinary concentration or minor in women's and gender studies:
  • Familiarize students with an interdisciplinary theoretical framework in which gender is the central category of analysis
  • Encourage writing, speaking, and thinking critically about issues of gender in the contemporary world
  • Study the position and concerns of women throughout history, across the world, and from different economic, ethnic, and racial groups
  • Examine cultural assumptions about gender, race, class, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation in light of information made available by new theories and research
  • Challenge students to think critically about the ways in which gender interrelates with structures of power
  • Explore the links between discrimination against women and other forms of oppression
  • Foster an understanding of the limitations placed on individuals and on society by narrowly defined sex roles
  • Apply classroom learning to personal, academic, community, and vocational settings.
"Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women: women of Color, working-class women, poor women, disabled women, lesbians, old women--as well as white, economically privileged, heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement." - Barbara Smith, 'Racism and Women's Studies'
  • Lisa Johnson, Ph.D. Women's and Gender Studies Lisa Johnson, Ph.D.
    Women's and Gender Studies

    Dr. Johnson has directed the Center for Women's and Gender Studies at USC Upstate since July 2006. She has developed programs on campus and in the community to introduce the field of Women’s and Gender Studies as an exciting set of critical thinking skills and fresh perspectives on gender and power in personal relationships, politics, workplaces, educational settings and media culture.  

    Dr. Johnson is well published in the field of feminist cultural studies, with specializations in sexuality studies, disability studies and girls’ studies. Her scholarly work has articulated landmark positions on the feminist sex wars (Jane Sexes It Up), sex worker debates (Flesh for Fantasy), the feminist gaze (Third Wave Feminism and Television), disabled feminist intellectual history (On the Literary Nonfiction of Nancy Mairs), feminist psychiatric disability studies (Girl in Need of a Tourniquet) and crip (disability studies) feminist epistemology (Cripistemologies). Many of these works are collaborative projects that reflect Dr. Johnson’s commitment to convening and contributing to dynamic conversations among feminist, queer and crip scholars. 


    Spring 2019

    CWGS provides timely and rigorous co-curricular events to enhance the academic culture of our campus and to provide networking opportunities for our diverse community.  All events are free and open to the public and have relevant content for WGS minors and other students interested in gender as it intersects with additional categories of inequality. They can be used for extra credit at the discretion of the professor. Come celebrate this dynamic site of interdisciplinary and multicultural academic inquiry at USC Upstate!  

    January 31
    12:15 - 1:30 p.m.
    CLC 310

    "I Need a Hero": An Ecofeminist Analysis of Super Bowl Commercials, 2017-18

    CWGS Speaker Series—Dr. Beth Keefauver

    This presentation explores narratives of environmentalism in Super Bowl ads through an ecofeminist lens. 

    March 5
    5:00 - 7:30 p.m.
    HAPC 120


    Film Screening

    An intimate portrait of an unlikely rock star: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With unprecedented access, the filmmakers explore how her early legal battles changed the world for women.

    March 19
    12:15 - 1:30 p.m.
    CLC 310

    Race, Gender, and Lemonade: Beyoncé’s Re-Formation of Art History

    CWGS Speaker Series—Dr. Lex Lancaster

    CWGS Celebrates Women’s History Month

    April 9
    12:15 - 1:30 p.m.
    CLC 310

    #MeTooHigherEd: Coercion, Ethics, and the Law of Sexual Misconduct on Campus

    CWGS Speaker Series—Cara Tuttle Bell, J.D.

    With the recent advent of the #MeToo movement, a number of industries are experiencing unprecedented scrutiny of sexual harassment within their institutions. The field of higher education is no exception to the longstanding social problems of gendered power imbalances and sexual misconduct or assault. In "#MeTooHigherEd," Cara Tuttle Bell presents a holistic approach to the complexities of human intimacy and connection, the legal and ethical matters of sexual harassment and violence, and the role of institutional betrayal theory. Only by attending to these multiple levels of analysis can we begin to truly build trust, solidarity, and momentum for change.

    Cosponsored by the School of Education, Human Performance, and Health and Division of Student Affairs

  • Through curricular and co-curricular programming, the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (CWGS) provides opportunities for the campus community to examine cultural assumptions about gender as it intersects with ethnicity, age, socioeconomic class, dis/ability, body size and sexual orientation while facilitating critical thinking about the interrelationship of gender and power. For questions or to join the program, contact Dr. Lisa Johnson, director of Center for Women's and Gender Studies.

  • The vision for the Women's and Gender Studies Program includes an increase in the number of students pursuing the women's and gender studies minor, cognates, and concentrations. Students of women's and gender studies will be able to complement their major coursework in any discipline, developing specialized understanding of women's and gender contributions and experiences. To enact this vision, new courses in women's and gender studies will be developed that support our content standards and the University's metropolitan mission.


    The Lucy Stone Award for Outstanding Minor in Women’s and Gender Studies was developed in the 2008-2009 academic year. The award is named after a prominent abolitionist and female suffragist in the United States. Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. She helped organize the first National Women’s Rights Convention. Called “the orator” and “the morning star of the woman’s rights movement,” Stone published her radical views in the Woman’s Journal and delivered a speech that sparked Susan B. Anthony to take up the cause of women’s suffrage. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote, “Lucy Stone was the first person by whom the heart of the American public was deeply stirred on the woman question." Stone was also the first American woman to revert to her maiden name after marriage.

    • 2018 Winner: Tara Shae Turner for her enthusiastic community service with the Girl Scouts and her academic presentation on service-learning in Girls Studies at the Southeastern Women's Studies Association.
    • 2017 Winner: Ashley Matheson, for her excellent academic work during her time at Upstate and for her unwavering commitment to the WGS program and the Triota Honors Society.
    • 2016 Winners: This year saw the program’s first “tie” for this award. Monique Gardner received this honor for her excellent course work and presentations at the UNC-Asheville queer studies conference in 2015 and at the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association conference in 2016. Ariana Sanchez received this honor for her leadership both in class and in extracurricular activities, including being the first CWGS representative on the student senate.
    • 2015 Winner: Stacey Gullion, for her outstanding academic work, including a presentation on feminist heterosexualities at the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association in Boca Raton, Florida, and her service to Triota as a tutor for WGST 101.
    • 2014 Winner: Chase Moery for his well-rounded scholarly profile, which included bold reflection papers in a variety of WGS courses, an internship as Bodies of Knowledge symposium organizer and a multi-semester commitment to community outreach with Girls on the Run. Chase was also a founding member of Triota.
    • 2013 Winner: Samantha Swordenfor her three-semester project on beauty culture and feminist disability studies.
    • 2011 Winner: Beth Tevault for her scholarly research on representations of madness in the Victorian novel.
    • 2010 Winner: AJ Jones for his scholarly project on the politics of diversity on university campuses.
    • 2009 Winner: Lindsay Harris for her research and presentation on bisexual epistemology at an international feminist philosophy conference.
    • 2008 Winner: Andrea Miller for consistently producing graduate school level work throughout her undergraduate career at USC Upstate.


    The Emma Goldman Award was developed in the 2008-2009 academic year to reward high achievement in IDS/WGS. The award is named after a famous Marxist feminist activist who developed a philosophy of feminist anarchism, a political philosophy that foregrounds individual and collective will over the will of the government. Emma Goldman (1869-1940) is known for her vitality and charisma and was admired by her allies for being a radical free-thinker.

    These characteristics reflect the independent spirit that leads some of our USC Upstate students to create a major of their own – in the absence of a Women’s and Gender Studies major – by majoring in IDS with a WGS concentration.

    • 2011 Winner: Sarah Wilson for her scholarly research in queer/feminist theories of (trans)sexuality.
    • 2009 Winner: Andrea Miller for her scholarly research in Marxist feminism and critical race theory.

Office Hours

Located in the Media Center - Room 243, the Center provides a comfortable and professional space for gender-related student organizations to meet and for Women's Gender Studies minors or minor students to study. To reserve this classroom for a meeting, email Dr. Lisa Johnson.

Monday - 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Tuesday - 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Wednesday - 9:30 a.m.- 3 p.m.
Thursday - 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Friday -  9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.