Feminist Studies Undergraduate Education

Feminist Studies is an interdisciplinary department and major that explores the ways that gender, intersecting with race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, and other differences, shapes and is shaped by social, economic, political, and cultural forces and institutions. UCSB is one of more than 500 colleges and universities that conduct teaching and research in this important area.

The Feminist Studies curriculum is composed of its own core interdisciplinary courses as well as a variety of courses selected from disciplines within the humanities and social sciences.

Read more about what students graduating with a B.A. Feminist Studies will learn by downloading the Program Learning Outcomes sheet.

The department invites qualified, curious and motivated applications for the FWS Feminist Studies/LGBTQ Research and Honors Community. You do not need to be in the L&S Campus Honors program, and the GPA requirement is 3.0 overall and 3.5 in the major.
For more information, including about how to identify a faculty advisor, please email the Chair of the Department, Laury Oaks, oaks@femst.ucsb.edu or come into the office. We have a library of past senior thesis projects you can review.



The Feminist Studies major can form the basis of an excellent liberal arts education. It can also be used as preparation for careers in law, social service, public policy, the arts, publishing, teaching, and as preparation for graduate study in the social sciences or humanities generally or Feminist Studies in particular. Feminist Studies students can consider careers in local, state, and national government, in politics, in humanitarian efforts such as Americorps and the Peace Corps/Vista programs, in community service organizations, and other forms of non-governmental organization here and abroad.

Tanya Paperny, 2007 graduate

I entered UCSB in 2003 without a declared major. I tried out linguistics and philosophy, and considered majoring in both, but once I took my first class with Leila Rupp, I made up my mind. The major, which was called "Women's Studies" at the time, blended my love for writing with my interest in social analysis. One of my early papers for Leila's class was about social expectations for women's hair (yes, hair), and it was the first time I truly examined how my position as the child of refugees and my various identities play into how I carry myself and am perceived in the world. I was so relieved that my lived experience was finally welcome in an academic setting. (As the leader of UCSB's Queer Student Union from 2004-2006, I also found important intersections between my coursework and my on-the-ground education.) Some course highlights include a graduate-level course with Professor Grace Chang about violence against women, which transformed my understanding of state violence and structural racism; making a short satirical film (with fellow major Amara Jade!) after studying social movement and film theory with Professor Jacqueline Bobo; and digging into science and the treatment of intersex people with Professor Laury Oaks. I also enjoyed getting to take courses in different departments given the interdisciplinary nature of the major, and explored sexual minorities in the military, U.S. social policy, and coming-of-age literature. 

That last course, "Emotion, Girlhood, and Coming of Age Fiction" with Professor Barbara Tomlinson, truly changed the course of my life. I'd always been a writer, ever since childhood, but I doubted my skills. (I considered double-majoring in creative writing in the College of Creative Studies but let fear and self-doubt hold me back). Taking BT's class my last semester of college helped me reconnect with my calling. We read one novel a week, and it was the first time in college (don't tell anyone) that I read literally every single word of everything that was assigned. We read so many incredible books that have stayed with me: Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis" and Danzy Senna's "Caucasia,"  among others. I was hungry for literature and loved the honest and vulnerable small-group discussions about society, gender, and writing. It was a gift.

Today, I've translated my love for writing and social analysis into a career. My freelance writing about violence, trauma, and resilience has appeared in outlets like The Atlantic and The Washington Post. As an editor, I support an education nonprofit and underserved kids. And as a volunteer, I tutor adults who are getting their high school credentials. I've done literary translation, personal essays, and poetry, and I'm working on my first book — a project which began as an undergraduate senior thesis under Leila's guidance. And in everything I do — whether art or activism — I aim to keep my eye on equity and justice. I know that lens was sharpened and strengthened because of the brilliant staff and faculty at UCSB's Feminist Studies department.

In 2021 Tanya Paperny was awarded the Hazel Rowley Prize for her work on Tender/Fierce: The Life and Death of My Revolutionary Prababushka. You can read more about Paperny's work and the Hazel Rowley Award here.

Riane Torres, 2017 graduate

"I came in as a transfer student and decided to change my major to something I was interested in and enjoyed. Feminist Studies gave me tools to analyze and critically think about everything I engage in, from our society to politics to the geeky media I consume. Feminist Studies pushed me out of my comfort in many ways and led me down paths I thought I would never do.

Feminist studies led me to do my senior thesis, with the help of the URCA grant and to Professor Barbara Harthorn and Professor Laury Oaks, I conducted research on Asian American female STEM majors who change to non-STEM majors.

I am currently working as a freelance writer to critique and analyze my geek subculture hobbies (anime, manga, video games, television, etc.) through a feminist lens before I go to grad school."

To read some of Riane's work titled, "Not Enough Anime Prepared me for This: Studying abroad in Japan as a Feminist Studies Student" please click here.

Claire Breen, 2016 graduate

"I graduated from UCSB in June 2016 with a double major in global studies and feminist studies. During my time at UCSB I wrote a senior honors thesis in the feminist studies department on gender, voice, and podcast popularity, which actually earned me an honorable mention at the undergraduate research colloquium. After I graduated I worked with a daily public affairs show at KPFA in Berkeley, CA and beginning in January I'll be interning with NPR's podcast "How I Built This" hosted by Guy Raz at the NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. Interning at NPR has been a dream of mine for a while, so it's pretty exciting to be able to live it out. I feel forever indebted to the feminist studies department for the incredible education, mentorship, and friendships I gained over the course of my 4 years. Declaring a feminist studies major was by far the best decision I made during my time at UCSB."


Shane Stringfellow, 2014 graduate

"Shane Stringfellow was admitted to UCSB as a Psychology major, but after taking a Feminist Studies course, found a passion for LGBTQ studies. Now, as a double major in Psychology and Feminist Studies, Shane performs research and work that he thoroughly enjoys. “Next thing I know, it’s my senior year and I’m applying for an URCA grant and conducting my own research,” Shane said.

With the help of an URCA grant and his [Feminist Studies] grad student mentor Carly Thomsen, Shane undertook a research project on redefining the concept masculinity. “The best part about my research was being able to conduct all of the interviews that I did…it really allowed me to centralize the voices of my participants as people who are actively producing knowledge in their everyday lives.”' To read more about Shane visit https://undergrad.research.ucsb.edu/portfolio/shane-stringfellow-14/.


Ruiqi (Angel) Ye, 2014 graduate; College of L&S Honors Student

"Among my majors, Feminist Studies is my favorite because it gives me the critical lenses to understand myself, my surroundings, and my relationships to other human beings. I love love love the feminist studies program at UCSB, especially its focus on theories. These theories allow me to think critically about the social justice work that I am doing right now and fuel my passion for making the progressive space more inclusive and diverse!"
Angel is a Field Organizer at Change Corps; Degrees Not Debt campaign photo



The major allows students to explore aspects of gender-related issues in a department with a deep commitment to diverse approaches to social justice.

The Department of Feminist Studies also offers minors in Feminist Studies and in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Studies.

Jake Picker, 2014 graduate; College of L&S Honors Student

Change Corps Field Organizer
"In my social justice work, one of the top criterions we look for when hiring a candidate is "politics." We want to hire people that have a strong analysis of power and a strategy to tackle that power. While one may not need to be well versed in the theories of Foucault to excel in grassroots organizing (haha), I think my feminist studies education helped me develop a critical analysis of the deep inequities in our society and I see "people power" as a remedy to those inequities. 
Additionally, the feminist studies department absolutely fostered my academic writing skills. Once I knew I could write an "A" paper graded by Professor Oaks or BT, I knew I could write just about anything! To be able to write clearly and concisely is a valuable skill in my job where I am expected to write letters to the editor, op-eds, and media releases. I wouldn't be as proficient a writer as I am today without the femst department kicking my butt :) "
Degrees Not Debt campaign field photo
Jake and Angel both working for Change Corps