Our History

The University at Buffalo pioneered one of the first women’s studies programs in the United States, offering a "Women and Contemporary Society" course as early as the spring of 1970. 

Breaking Barriers

Like many other American universities responding to the influence of student demands in the late 1960s, UB created a division to house alternative educational enterprises. Within this framework, the Women’s Studies College (WSC) was established in 1971 and the "Women and Contemporary Society" course became a cornerstone of the curriculum.

Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, who actively participated in the founding of the Women's Studies College, defined its mission in this way:

This college is not a place to make women a subject to be studied but a place to break down prejudice built by our socialization about what women are and what they are capable of doing.

Isabel Marcus, a founder of the Gender Institute at UB and chair of the Department of Women's Studies in 1997-2002, also spoke of her vision for the Department:

Openness, discussion, exploration, challenge, contestation, rethinking issues, changing over time, taking history and figuring out how to use it, taking contemporary ideas and creating new categories and arguing with each other, being open to discussion, knowing that there is no one politically correct position but there are many positions that provide benefits to us.

Did You Know?

  • Enrollment in WSC in the 1971-1972 academic year reached 1,400
  • By 1972, the Women’s Studies Program at UB offered 45 courses
  • One of the first courses offered was "Women's Auto-Mechanics"
  • The most popular course in 1974 was "Women in Contemporary Society" with enrollment reaching 140 students

Global Gender and Sexuality Studies Today

In 1997, the Women's Studies Program became a separate Department of Women's Studies. It changed the name to the Department of Global Gender Studies in 2005. In 2009, it became a part of the Transnational Studies Department at UB.

In 2009, the University at Buffalo launched the stand-alone MA and PhD degree programs in Global Gender Studies. UB now had the first PhD degree in Global Gender Studies in the SUNY system, enticing students and faculty from all over the globe.

Within the first decade of existence, the MA and PhD programs attracted five Fulbright scholars while producing a Fulbright scholar and an American Association of University Women Fellow. Other graduates have received World Bank grants and four International Peace Fund scholarships. Additionally, our undergraduate students have gone on to prestigious graduate programs at Oxford University, Duke University, Georgetown University and New York University. 

Since 2018, the Global Gender Studies program has again become a separate Department of Global Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy.

Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, one of the founders of Women's Studies College at UB

Isabel Marcus.

Isabel Marcus, former chair of the Department of Women's Studies; first co-director of the UB Gender Institute

Alexis de Veaux.

Alexis de Veaux, former chair of the Department of Women's Studies

Barbara Wejnert.

Barbara Wejnert, former chair of the Department of Global Gender Studies

Margarita Vargas.

Margarita Vargas, former chair of the  Department of Global Gender Studies; former co-director of the UB Gender Institute

Barbara Bono.

Barbara Bono, former chair of the Department of Global Gender Studies

Gwynn Thomas.

Gwynn Thomas, current chair of the Department of Global Gender and Sexuality Studies