WGS 101: Window on WGS

Course Syllabus, Manual and Resource Guide

An opportunity to experience and analytically reflect in writing on the diverse cultural and intellectual life of Wake Forest, with an emphasis on Women’s and Gender Studies events and topics. Conducted through Sakai. Pass/Fail only.

Course Information

  • 1 credit hour
  • Two class meetings per semester
  • Instructors for the semester: Wanda Balzano and David Phillips
  • Due dates: TBA for first 3 essays; TBA for all 7 essays; TBA for summary essay.
  • Information on events that can be used for WGS 101 credit will be posted on the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Event Calendar. Attendance for events sponsored by the WGS department is highly encouraged.  If there is specific information from instructors regarding an event, it can be found by clicking the description of the event.

 Course Requirements

Attendance and short essays for 7 events (1 to 2 pages), plus a 3-page summary/critique/course review at end of semester. Reflection and analysis essays are required within one week of event.

  • Complete at least 3 essays by the midterm date (see syllabus) in order to receive a passing grade for the course. Please note that this is a requirement, and, therefore, compulsory.
  • Please note that the submission of an essay that does not meet the following criteria (specified below) will not be considered acceptable, but will instead be rejected pending revision and resubmission. Feedback will be provided for all submissions.  The course allows no repeats for credit in subsequent semesters.
  • By TBA, at 5 p.m. all 7 essays should be completed and posted to Sakai.
  • By TBA at 5 p.m., your summary essay should be completed and posted to Sakai.
  • When posting/submitting your essay, be sure to label it using your LAST NAME,  a HYPHEN and the EVENT NAME as listed on the calendar. For example, a lecture given by Professor Shannon Gilreath titled “The End of Straight Supremacy” can be labeled as YOUR NAME – GILREATH TALK.docx.

Course Focus

Listed events, including major campus events such as theatre performances, lectures, etc. are available on the WGS website News & Events page, located at the following web page: http://wgss.wfu.edu/news-events/calendar/. The focus is largely on WGS-related offerings. No student requests for additions to the officially listed events will be entertained within two weeks of an event, with the exception of suddenly announced  compelling events of campus-wide interest.

Sample List of Campus Events for Reflection and Analysis (R&A) Essays

Examples of possible items include:

  • Academically relevant events sponsored by the SGE (Students for Gender Equality)/GEA (Gender Equality Alliance)/BSA (Black Student Alliance)/ASIA (Asian Student Interest Association)/DAC (Disabilities Awareness Coalition)/TREE House (Tolerance, Respect, Education and Environment), DFP (Documentary Film Project);
  • Selected Theatre/SECCA/Reynolda House/Art Gallery/Museum of Anthropology/Dance/Music offerings;
  • WGS-sponsored film offerings;
  • WGS-sponsored symposium;
  • WGS-sponsored seminars/presentations by students or faculty;
  • Tribble lecture series;
  • Selected WGS-related events at Salem College, WSSU, WFU Medical Center.

Writing Criteria

For each Reflection and Analysis essay you submit, reflect upon and provide responses to the following questions and assignment items, referencing in your discussions the principles and concepts of Women’s and Gender Studies.  See the sections on “Recommended Readings” and “Principles and Important Concepts of Women’s and Gender Studies” below for details.

1) Summarize the event (briefly) and your initial response to it. What is its context, starting point, and aims? Did it make you feel uncomfortable in any way or challenge any of your assumptions, and did you experience difficulty in understanding or relating to any part of this event? If so, try to identify what it was that you did not understand or that made you feel uncomfortable. Concentrate on your personal experience and your reaction, asking yourself, “Why did I feel like this?”

2) Describe the audience, thinking in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, age, class, etc. What was the audience’s response to the message? Did you sense approval, disapproval, or some other response? On what basis?

3) Include in your essay a brief statement of what makes this event different from those you normally might attend.  Consider in this statement what specific elements about this event link it to Women’s and Gender Studies (see below for a summary of the principles of Women’s and Gender Studies and the link to Recommended Reading).

4) Critique the event by connecting it to an idea, issue, article/chapter or theory you are familiar with through your own studies and experiences.  Use this knowledge to relate the event to an exploration of the dynamics of gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity, and class. In what way does the event and/or its message reflect upon ideas of justice, equality, power, cultural difference, social practices, etc.? It is crucial that you respond fully on this topic in order to received credit for your submitted essay.

5) Go beyond description of the event or performance to a reflection of its effects on you and a short critical analysis of it.  A reflection should look retrospectively back at the experience and discuss its emotional, theoretical, and/or social impact on you from your own personal perspective.  A critical analysis should succinctly explain the meaning and/or purpose of the event, focusing on the subject of analysis, not on yourself.  If the purpose has been to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?  If the purpose has been to challenge or to persuade, can you provide evidence or logical reasoning to support these claims?  If the purpose was to entertain, how did it affect your emotions? Did it make you want to laugh, cry, or be angry?  Why?

6) Consider creatively the most effective way to succinctly reflect what you have learned from the experience, event, or performance in your written essay and analysis.

Writing Tips

1) You may be creative in your response and employ unusual methods, such as imagining yourself to be a visitor from the future examining the assumptions made from a very different perspective, or imagining the experience from the perspective of a different gender.  If you choose to employ an unusual writing device such as this, be sure to provide a rationale for your choice and explain the reasons behind the approach you have taken to discussing the event.  Also, be sure to relate your discussion of the event to principles and concepts of women’s and gender studies.

2) Refer to the Writing Checklist (separate document) in preparing each of your essays.  It provides a summary of the topics to consider, questions to respond to, and issues to explore in your reflection and analysis.

3) Be sure to keep a back-up of all written work for this course!  If you compose your essay using the online interface on Sakai, it may not save correctly.  Instead, write your assignments using MS Word and attach in Sakai.

Titling Your Essay

Please title your Microsoft Word Documents with your last name and the name of the event you are discussing in your Reflection and Analysis essay, separated by a hyphen.

 Instructor Feedback

Course instructors will provide written feedback on all essays submitted within one week of the submission date.  If you have successfully completed the assignment by (a) answering the questions listed above in “Writing Criteria” and (b) adequately engaging in a discussion of how the event you attended enhanced and/or expanded your understanding of topics of women’s and gender studies (see section below on “Principles and Important Concepts of Women’s and Gender Studies”) you will be assigned a passing grade for the assignment.  If you are not given a passing grade on the assignment and are asked to revise and re-submit your essay, please do so using the track-changes device.  Then, please post your revised paper to us through the Sakai website.  We will give you feedback after reviewing your revised submission.

Sample Essays

Please see Samples 1 and 2, which are excellent examples of the type of essays we expect from all of you!  These samples are located on our course Sakai website in the Course Documents folder (under RESOURCES).  Please also see this folder for a sample essay for the course summary assignment.

Principles and Important Concepts of Women’s and Gender Studies (summary)

As stated in the Writing Criteria section above, it is essential that your critique and discussion of the events and lectures you attend relate to the core issues of Women’s and Gender Studies, including the dynamics of gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity, and class.  In what way does the event and/or its message reflect upon ideas of justice, equality, power, cultural difference, and social practices?  What insights does it provide on these topics?

As described in the Mission Statement of the Program in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS),  “A guiding premise of the WGS program is that masculinity, femininity and gender in general are cultural constructs of pervasive social importance that intersect with issues of class, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.”  Thus, WGS “seeks to promote academic study and dialogue on a broad range of topics related not only to women’s contributions to the fundamental fields of human knowledge and achievement, but also to interdisciplinary studies of feminisms, masculinity, sex, gender and sexuality.”

The goals of Women’s and Gender Studies and the goals of this course are to provide opportunities for the following:

Understanding your own life and the lives of others from new perspectives

  • Asking why problems of sexism, racism, classism, and heterosexism exist and persist. Women’s and Gender Studies promotes the analytical measurement and the literary exploration of such lingering social ills, and strives to promote civil dialogue and study on these and related topics
  • Learning to question and more deeply perceive the social norms we hold and the stereotypes about gender that are prevalent in society
  • Encouraging the study and open and civil discussion of a wide array of topics that can lead to greater understanding about and among diverse cultural groups
  • Exploring the meaning and impact of identity as a primary means of organizing our social lives by pursuing an intersectional analysis of gender, race, sexuality, class, and nationality
  • Exploring gender with the tools of multiple disciplines in order to better understand how knowledge and value take different forms depending on a variety of social variables
  • Using gender as a category of analysis in reflecting on how gender is manifested in your own life
  • Making connections between gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, nationality and other social categories in your discussions and analyses of various subjects
  • Understanding how social, historical, and psychological forces which are organized by the central concept of gender shape us (in both visible and unseen ways) as individuals
  • Learning from the experiences of women and individuals of different economic classes, sexual orientations, and cultural and racial backgrounds
  • Crossing boundaries of traditional disciplines by raising important questions about the way our society is organized and about our main social and political institutions
  • Questioning assumptions that we typically make about social categories, as well as about the gendered structure of the world that is often taught and reinforced through socialization practices and education
  • Using the insights gained from attended events and lectures to critically examine the institutions that have shaped our society’s definitions of roles related to gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, and nationality
  • Transforming the university’s organization of knowledge by reaching across these disciplinary and epistemological boundaries

In preparing your essays for submission, carefully consider these opportunities and how your experience in attending a lecture, presentation, or event expanded your understanding of these issues.

Recommended Readings

Michele Tracey Berger and Cheryl Radeloff, Why Women’s and Gender Studies Students Are Changing Themselves And The World (New York: Routledge, 2011). Electronic book DDA.

Online Version of WGS 101 Syllabus and WGS Calendar

The WGS 101 syllabus is located at the following website:


The WGS calendar for this class is located at the following website: http://wgss.wfu.edu/news-events/calendar/

Uploading Files to Sakai

Please view the following YouTube video on uploading your files to the course dropbox in Sakai.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxtZ5tkaBVo  (Note: This 37 second video is customized to the Sakai website at Rutgers, but it is the same process.  Use Firefox to view this YouTube video.)  Here are the instructions:

1.      Log into Sakai at sakai.wfu.edu.  Go into the course website by clicking on the link once you’ve logged in.

2.      On the left side of the screen is a drop-down menu.  Select the option labeled “Drop Box.”

3.      Once you’ve clicked on this option, a folder will appear with your name.  Next to the folder is a button that says “Add” with a drop-down button.

4.      Choose the “upload file” option in this drop-down menu. 

5.      You will be taken to a separate screen and click the browse button.  Choose the file you want to upload from your computer.  Under the browse box is another box that says ‘display name’.  In this box, type the file name you want to be displayed for your instructors. [In this case, the name to input is your last name and the abbreviation for the presentation or event you’ve attended.] 

6.      A button at the bottom of the screen says “Upload Files Now”.  Click this and you’re done!

 Sakai Safe Practices

This course will use the university’s learning management system, Sakai.  Sakai can be accessed at http://sakai.wfu.edu by logging in with your WFU username and password.  Here are few important things to keep in mind while using Sakai:

  • Always use Firefox when accessing Sakai.  Chrome is not fully compatible with all tools.  Multiple browser tabs open can also be problematic, especially with some tools in Sakai such as Test and Quizzes.
  • When working on longer responses, it is best to start writing your work in a text editor and paste that text into Sakai using the “Paste from Word” icon.  Since the system is web-based, intermittent glitches can easily cause work to be lost.  Always keep a copy of your work on your computer’s hard drive to save time and to protect your data.
  • It is particularly important to use a wired connection when taking a test, quiz, or posting a lot of content that will be graded (e.g. blog or forum posts).  Wireless connections can be unpredictable.
  • It is also recommended that you use your WFU-issued ThinkPad.  Some devices, especially tablets, such as iPads, are not completely compatible with Sakai.


If you have questions at any time on your completion of an assignment, or of the changes you need to make in resubmitting a returned assignment, please contact both of your instructors by email.

Professor Wanda Balzano:    balzanow@wfu.edu

Professor David Phillips:       phillips@wfu.edu