Celebrating 50 years of programming!

The Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (GSWS) at Simon Fraser University grew from the first women’s studies program in Canada. During the late 1960s, members of the Women’s Caucus at SFU began to develop courses with a focus on women’s issues. By the 1970s, strong support from students inspired faculty members Andrea Lebowitz and Maggie Benston to propose the establishment of an independent Women’s Studies program. Their efforts were often met with resistance. One senator suggested that a women’s studies program was, “tantamount to allowing prisoners to create a prison education program.” However, Lebowitz and Benston’s persistence got the proposal through numerous university committees, eventually gaining Senate approval in 1975.

Innovations in research, excellence in teaching, and commitment to community engagement characterized the program’s growth throughout the next few decades. The Ruth Wynn Woodward endowed chair was established in 1985, bringing innovative social justice research to SFU. The program gained full departmental status in 1991 and today offers major, joint major, minor, extended minor, MA and PhD programs. The department expanded its reach to become the department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies in 2010, reflecting an ever more diverse range of interdisciplinary research and teaching as well as broader societal needs for nuanced critical thinking in this area.

GSWS brings feminist, queer, and intersectional understandings to the analysis of power and how it operates locally and transnationally. GSWS continues to build an interdisciplinary environment that nurtures and promotes critical research and scholarship, engaged teaching, and meaningful community service.

Fifty years later, GSWS has come a long way since the passionate efforts of its founding faculty members and students. With your support, we will continue our commitment to cultivate innovation, intellectual freedom, social justice activism, diversity, and transformative resistance to inequality.

'I am many'

GSWS 50th anniversary artwork titled 'I am many' was created by Vancouver-based artist, Sara Khan.

Sara Khan was born in Birmingham, England in 1984 and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. She holds a BFA (with honours) from National College of Arts, Lahore (2008). She was selected for the Bag Art camp, an international art residency in Bergen, Norway (2012). She was also selected for the Vancouver Mural Festival (2018).

She questions the seemingly ordinary characteristics in the people surrounding her or moments of our day to day routines by observing the remarkable hidden within them. She also draws out these observations to find a place for things that are ever present but often overlooked. Slowly laying out translucent layers of watercolour, she works toward pronouncing some areas, while covering others entirely. As if to say “you didn’t belong but now you do, or you did belong and now you don’t.” It is in this way she brings the abhorrent and the fantastic together to form one complete picture.

GSWS 50th programming included: