The below testimonials from some of our WGSS alumni showcase the value of a degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Columbia University.

Alumni Testimonials

Isaac Jean-Francois, '20

Knowing is experienced and processed in the body. I came to the Institute and WGSS to process the unfolding of that knowing through my time at Columbia College: how might this knowing, especially as it is inflected by my experience as a black queer listener and reader of color, be sought after and discussed in a collective? I took Jack Halberstam's Queer Theory in my first semester of college and it changed the game for me. The body, in all of its marked and troubled forms, was a contested site where people of all grooves could come together to form an ensemble of care and looking after in the body's shape-shifting jive. 

The Institute held space for student screenings of films and discussions where I was able to present in informal and formal settings on topics like black queer desire, queer filmmaking practices and black feminist responses to Afro-diasporic image-making. I had the opportunity to host, as an undergraduate, award-winning artists, a legendary House members and a world-renowned filmmaker and critic––where else can you do that at a massive research university? The Institute continually made my work possible. 

Now, as I pursue my doctorate in African-American and American Studies, I feel prepared to continue with the energy to shake up the already given and authorized forms of knowing. 

Alia Persico-Shammas, ’16:

I was contacted yesterday by my High School English teacher, who was asking alums for advice for graduating seniors to put in the school newspaper. I wrote to her: “If you want to take a class in college that will change your life forever, take a Women’s Studies class.” I really feel like taking Intro to Women’s & Gender Studies has changed the way I think about everything I see, read, and learn, and I often times find myself thinking that everyone should be required to take it.

Lauren Nevitt, ’13:

Nearly every single article I read during my daily news intake invokes many of the debates and issues that were explored in Intro to Women’s & Gender Studies.  In moments like these I realize how valuable and integral this class has been to the way I see and absorb the world around me on a daily basis. Even in articles that do not directly address gender, I find my head spinning with issues of intersectionality and other theories/debates from class. I want to express my infinite gratitude for this class—perhaps the most valuable of my classes in my time at Columbia.

Emma Kaufman, ’08:

The Institute has offered me a coherent, open, supportive, and challenging space for critical work at a large, urban university. The professors are hands-down the toughest and best I’ve ever had. They have redefined my intellectual experience at Columbia, motivated my hopes and goals for the future, and encouraged me to explore how critical social engagement can, does, and will change the world. Beyond the professors, the interdisciplinary structure of the unit has pushed me to see the intersectionality not only of race, class, gender, and sexuality, but also of often isolated disciplines. The Institute is easily the best thing about my academic experience at Columbia.

Monica Ager, ’07:

I was able to have extensive personal contact with my professors, including my thesis advisor and the undergraduate coordinator Elizabeth Povinelli — a benefit that is unheard of in other departments.

Andrew Hao, ’05:

I really believe there exists a great degree of personal and scholarly commitment from the Institute's professors to their students, teaching, and material. In terms of the skills of reading, writing, research, and classroom debate, I could not have been better trained than at IRWGS. Many of my peers in graduate school, and certainly at Columbia, never had the chance to take such an extensive regimen of seminars nor to work so closely with professors, until their M.A. studies.