Women and Gender Studies Concentration

Combining research, teaching, and activism focusing on the intersections among gender, sexuality, race and class.

Wanjiku Wainaina, 2018


How did you decide on the MAIS with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies (WGST) program?

I have a professional and academic background in communication and I was looking to expand my research skills in the social sciences. I was also interested in pursuing an academic project on Professor Wangari Maathai's life and work in the environment but I lacked the language and research expertise to do it.  After looking at the Women & Gender Studies website, I paid a visit to Dr. Hattery who told me more about the program and helped me see the connections between my background in communication and research goals. That is when I realized that WGST would be the natural field for me to improve my research skills and develop an intersectional framework for my future studies.

What have you learned that has really surprised you?

That very few people outside the program/field know what Women & Gender Studies is about and the few that have an idea, all think that it is solely focused on "women's problems." I was guilty of this, too, before joining the program. 

Tell us about your dream job.

Can I have 3 dream jobs? One would be to run a non-profit that would develop a series of co-curricular programs that promote intercultural and cross-cultural competencies among primary school children. The second would be a gender analyst for a multilateral organization. The third would be a university professor.

How have courses in Women and Gender Studies helped further your plans?

The interdisciplinary nature of the program has expanded my worldview – every field is interconnected and is the richer for it. WGST has also helped me develop a framework and language with which to approach my research. I have also developed a lot more confidence about my place in the global job market because I have found a niche that ties well with my background in communication.

Please share any internships, jobs, or volunteer experiences that you have taken part in?

I collaborate frequently with INTO Mason faculty on a workshop-project that is designed to promote conversation among students on various topical issues such as stereotypes and identity. A year ago, Michael Smith, INTO Mason English language faculty, introduced me to his class on dialogue and difference and this inspired my desire to help facilitate these sometimes-difficult conversations on what we imagine about "other people" in relation to ourselves.

Please share any accomplishments or opportunities that you are proud of.

  • My colleague Robert Graham and I have been nominated to the Clinton Global Initiative - University for our commitment to action project and we'll be representing GMU at Northeastern University this October.
  • I am teaching a university 100 course this semester and I absolutely love it!

Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.

I love country music from the 1980's and 1990's!