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College of Humanities & Social Sciences

Director's Message

Welcome to the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) program at Western. Our program offers an interdisciplinary approach to women, gender, and sexuality studies. 

Central to our program is the study of sex, gender, and sexuality. We study women's contributions as artists and anarchists, poets and politicians, public figures and private citizens. The program also examines the complexities of gender, analyzing the construction of feminine, masculine, and queer identities across time and cultures. Our focus thus includes some of the most pressing issues of today: reproductive rights, economic and political equality, health and welfare, and LGBTQIAA rights.

Above all, we aim to create an innovative and challenging experience for students at Western. Interested in examining transnational feminist movements? Eager to do an internship on women and media? Looking to get course credit for working at the domestic violence center? Hoping to develop a senior project analyzing queer graphic novels? With course offerings from more than fifteen academic disciplines, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies introduces students to exciting ideas, dynamic professors and classmates, and feminist thought and gender perspectives in small, collaborative communities of learning.

I warmly invite you to join us in our academic and social events. Check out our new website to find up-to-date information on our events, courses, faculty, and students. We have frequent colloquium with lectures, panels, and other events that address new research, current events, activism, and other timely social, economic, political, and cultural issues.

If you have any questions about the program, please contact me ( or Angela Brown (, program manager. I'd love your input, perspective, and participation.

Joint Appointments

Joshua Cerretti, Associate Professor, WGSS and History, has been a joint appointment in WGSS since 2016. Prof. Cerretti also served as interim Director of WGSS in Spring 2020. Dr. Cerretti recently published “Abuses of the Erotic: Militarizing Sexuality in the Post-Cold War United States” (University of Nebraska Press, 2019), which investigates how military values have permeated civilian culture and the connections between sexuality and militarism in the United States. Professor Cerretti's teaching and research focus on race, sexuality, militarism, and power. He has mentored students, overseen several student-faculty designed major proposals, and organized WGSS colloquium, guest speakers, and panels.  

Rae Lynn Schwartz-DuPre, Professor of Communication Studies, joined the WGSS program in Fall 2019 as a joint appointment. Prof. Schwartz-DuPre a Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at WWU and will have a joint appointment in WGSS starting this fall. Last year, she taught a feminist popular culture senior capstone in WGSS. During the 2019-2020 academic year, she will be teaching Feminist and Queer Methodologies and the Senior Capstone, drawing on her expertise and research in feminist post-colonial theory, visual rhetoric, and rhetorics of protest. She is the author of Communicating Colonialism: Readings on Postcolonial Theory(s) and Contemporary Communication and numerous articles, including “Portraying the Political: National Geographic’s 1985 Afghan Girl: Visual Images and the Bush Administration’s Post-9/11 Biometric and Identification Policy,” “A Rhetorical Reading of Katrina Exposed: Public Photography, Memory, and Colonialism,” and “Women in Debate: From Virtual to Material." 

Melina Juárez joined both the Political Science Department at WWU and WGSS as a new joint appointment faculty member in 2019. She earned her PhD in Political Science at the University of New Mexico in 2018. Her research and teaching focuses on the intersections of class, gender, race, and sexuality and their role in shaping the lived experiences, health, and happiness of Latinx and queer people of color. Her current research focuses on crimmigration — the confluence of immigration and criminal justice systems. This fall, she will be teaching a capstone seminar on the criminalization of immigration.

About the Director

I was appointed as the Director of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in 2013. I have been an affiliated faculty member of the program since 2003. I also have a joint appointment as a professor in the Department of Political Science. My research and teaching interests focus on Anglo-American political thought, identity politics and post-colonial theory, and sex, gender, and sexuality in political theory. My book, Hybrid Constitutions: Challenging Legacies of Law, Privilege, and Culture in Colonial America (Duke University Press) was published in 2010. I also have written several articles on constitutionalism, identity politics, and post-colonial theory.

My current research focuses on the role of affect and emotion in direct action protest. In the last four years, I have researched and written about the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Idle No More movement, and the direct action disability organization, ADAPT. My research examines how emotions of grief, love, anger, and elation spur and sustain contemporary political direct action. In my research, I focus more comprehensively on the role of emotion in direct action in order to: 1) better understand the formation of political groups and parties 2) better identify forms of political rationality and judgment exercised by contemporary social movements 3) address how emotions and affect are mobilized to pursue justice, particularly for more marginalized and oppressed groups.

Both my research and teaching draw on an interdisciplinary approach that combines political theory with the insights of historical research, critical theory, and legal studies. In the classroom, I find this approach highly productive in providing students with the resources to engage, complicate, and refine their understanding of both traditional and contemporary political theory. In my courses, we look at how conceptions of sex, sexuality, gender, race, and ethnicity have shaped long-inherited ideas about political participation, power and authority, freedom, rights, and liberty.

Throughout my career, I have been actively involved in scholarship in women studies, gender studies, and identity politics. I have a history of leadership and service to both the university and the Bellingham community, with a particular emphasis on projects that tackle issues of equality, justice, and violence prevention and care. In the past, I have worked with: 826 Seattle (writing and tutoring center); the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS) agency of Whatcom County as an DV/SA advocate; the South Whatcom Fire Authority as a volunteer FF/EMT.