WGSS extends $500 scholarship to students

Lexi Woodcock

As a growing program on campus, the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) program offers a $500 scholarship due March 13 to encourage students to take WGSS courses and to offset the cost of tuition at Augustana. The scholarship is relatively new, beginning in 2021, and it is now only available to First-Year students, where it was previously eligible to first and second year students. The scholarship is intended to foster interest in WGSS and encourage majoring or minoring in the program, particularly First-Years. 

Chair of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Dr. Jennifer Heacock-Renaud, is one of the faculty members responsible for the scholarship and choosing its recipient(s) each spring. Last year, two winners were selected due to their outstanding excellence.

Previous winners include Kara West, a junior triple majoring in WGSS, psychology and Spanish, Lexi Golab, a sophomore triple majoring in WGSS, creative writing and psychology and Bailey Hacker, a sophomore triple majoring in WGSS, psychology and theater with a minor in disability studies. Along with the $500, the students also receive a special moment of recognition in May at the WGSS Honors Ceremony. 

Offering a wide range of courses, the WGSS courses contain a variety of learning perspectives, such as PS or G credits. A WGSS major is not available at many other colleges or universities, which has led to an under-representative view of the department and its content among students. The Augustana WGSS program has grown immensely over the last five years, broadening students’ perception and understanding of the ever-changing world around them. 

According to Heacock-Renaud, the scholarship is funded by endowments and donors within the WGSS program in hopes to make college more financially accessible for all. The program and its members want to spark activism and encourage students to think about the issues within society, such as intersectionality, women’s oppression and concepts of gender and sexuality. 

“It is nice to be able to teach these classes on campus to get students talking about those issues and navigating what is going on in the world,” Heacock-Renaud said. “It’s a safe space for students to unpack that and to really make connections with their peers and classmates.” 

Jacqueline Isaacson, a senior double majoring in WGSS and theater, was involved in the WGSS before the scholarship was founded in 2021, but it was the WGSS program in particular that drew her to Augustana. 

“It’s wonderful, because the beautiful thing about WGSS is that you truly can apply it to every aspect of your life,” Isaacson said. “Gender, sexuality and relationships: it is the study of people. It applies to everything both inside and outside the classroom.” 

WGSS involves the theorizing and discussion of topics historically and in the present day. Crossing lines between other disciplines, the WGSS program gives students a broader understanding of the world around us and how we identify within it. 

Although it is a rapidly growing major on campus, WGSS is still not a predominant major on campus. Dr. Jane Simonsen, professor of history and WGSS, attributes this to its lack of publicity and popularity across higher education institutions, meaning students are not always aware of its presence at Augustana College. 

“It’s hard to imagine a major that is more applicable to more different fields and vocations than Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies,” Simonsen said. “There is not going to be a profession that you enter into where you don’t deal with the issues that are talked about within this program.” 

The WGSS program awards a $500 scholarship to any first-year student who has taken a class related to gender and sexuality, is a WGSS major or minor or plans to become one. To apply, simply complete this questionnaire and write a two-page, 700 word essay on why WGSS is meaningful to you and how WGSS skills might help you in the future. Submissions are due March 13 and submissions and all materials can be emailed to [email protected]

To learn more about Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, contact any one of the professors mentioned within this article or go to the Augustana Website for more information regarding the courses within the WGSS program.