The roots of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program begin in the mid-seventies. Betty Harbert, a history professor at [then] SOSC, created the first summer series of courses focusing on women, "Women Today," in 1975. In 1976 her course offerings included "Women in History" and "The History of Women's Protest." In 1978-1979, when Harbert was Director of Curricular Affairs, she coordinated the development of a multi-disciplinary course, "Women and Society," and represented SOSC at the Northwest Women's Studies Association meeting that year. The next year she prepared a proposal for SOSC to grant a degree minor in Women's Studies.
Rosemary Dalton also had a significant influence, first as a part-time psychology instructor and counselor, then as creator and coordinator of Women in Transition, (WIT). WIT was situated within the Women's Center, serving non-traditional and returning women students. In 1979, Dalton and Harbert together coordinated the Summer Forum series.
In 1981, Harbert's proposal for a SOSC minor in Women's Studies was approved. The Women's Studies Program was now an official reality. SOSC appointed Psychology professor Karen Salley as the first Director.
Under Salley's leadership, the Women's Studies Council was created, and the scope and focus of the program was defined. Working with the Graduate Council, Salley helped create an interdisciplinary Master's Degree with a focus in women's studies. She continued to work diligently through both good and difficult times, resigning the director position in 1990.
She was succeeded in 1991 by Shelley Eriksen, Adjunct Professor in Sociology and Anthropology. Eriksen helped to reshape the Women's Studies Council and to expand the offerings of the program. She convened an all-campus Women's Studies Advisory Committee composed of faculty and staff who--while not teaching for the program--wish to contribute to its governance and future direction as an interdisciplinary program. She also created the SOU feminist seminar, an all-campus faculty study group on feminist scholarship. As program director, she helped resurrect the Rogue Valley Women's History Project, a community/campus cooperative that facilitates the local celebration of Women's History Month events.
In 1999, Susan Walsh, Interim Director, coordinated the first Southern Oregon Women in Higher Education conference to bring together female students, faculty, staff, and members of the community who associate with two- and four-year colleges and universities in the southern Oregon region.
Barbara Scott Winkler was hired as Director and Assistant Professor in Women's Studies in 2000. She was promoted to Associate Professor and currently teaches the introductory course WS 201: Women in Society and WS 409: Practicum that are required for the Women's Studies minor. She also teaches seminars on U.S. and International women's movements and on the history of sexuality in the U.S. She is the faculty advisor for the Women's Studies Student Club and works with the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Council to promote feminist education on campus.
The Women's Studies program changed its name to Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies in the fall of 2010. The name change was a topic of discussion with students, staff, and faculty, for over a year. Ultimately, the name change was found to be necessary in order to more accurately represent and be inclusive of the courses and materials taught through this program at SOU.