Honors Thesis

Eligibility Requirements

WGSS majors who have strong academic records may choose to participate in the Honors Program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. All WGSS honors students must take Feminist and Queer Research Methodologies (preferably during the fall of their junior year) and write an honors thesis during their senior year.

Students who have maintained an overall cumulative 3.65 grade point average through 5 semesters and have at least a 3.65 in the WGSS major are eligible for Latin Honors. Students who do not meet the GPA requirements for Latin Honors can still earn Departmental Honors. To qualify for Departmental Honors, students must have maintained a cumulative 3.5 grade point average through 5 semesters and have at least a 3.65 in our major.

Selection of Primary Thesis Director

The student is responsible for finding a primary honors thesis director from among the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies faculty and associated faculty. In selecting the thesis director, the student should be attentive to the research interests and areas of expertise represented by the faculty and select the individual whose expertise most closely relates to the student’s proposed thesis topic. The student must obtain the consent of the faculty member. (Students should note that faculty members periodically take leaves of absence and may not be available during the semester when the student intends to complete the thesis). Students must also find two other faculty members to agree to be on their honors committee. These readers will serve in an advisory role during the thesis-writing process and evaluate the thesis. At least two of the three members of the thesis committee must be WGSS-core or WGSS-affiliated faculty.

Students should discuss their plans with their proposed thesis directors early, preferably in the fall of their junior year. Early planning is especially important if the student is going abroad second semester junior year.

Applying to the Honors Program

Application to the program must be made by March 17 of the junior year. An application consists of a 1-page application form, 3–4-page thesis proposal, 1–2-page bibliography, and current (unofficial) student transcript. Please send the completed form and documents via email to cbarounis@wustl.edu.

  • Application: The application form includes the following information: name, email address, and signature of the faculty director who has agreed to supervise the thesis. Also required are the names, email addresses, and signatures of two faculty members who have agreed to be readers of the completed thesis.
  • Proposal: Students should consult with their thesis director while working on the draft of the proposal. The proposal should be 3–4 pages, double-spaced. It should outline the central issues or problem to be investigated during work on the thesis. The proposal should contain the following:
    • brief overview of the topic
    • clearly stated research question(s)
    • brief literature review  
    • method(s) to be used
    • timetable for the project
    • an acknowledgment of whether IRB approval will be needed and when you plan to submit that application
  • Bibliography:  12-page preliminary bibliography
  • Copy of the student (unofficial) transcript (printed out from WEBSTAC).

*Please note that these items may be submitted via e-mail if the student is abroad.

Note: Any work that involves human subjects, whether interviews, surveys, testing, etc., may require application to and approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Students planning to use human-subject research done abroad must have received prior IRB approval from Washington University for this material to be used in the honors thesis. If applicable, make sure to include this process in your proposal and in your timetable. IRB applications must be submitted by May 1. IRB approval must be obtained by September 1, or the honors project cannot continue.

Acceptance Procedure

All honors proposals will be reviewed by the WGSS Honors Thesis Committee. Students will generally be notified of their acceptance or rejection by mid-April. In some cases, students may be asked to revise and resubmit their proposals.

Accepted students should register for WGSS 499 (Honors Thesis: Research and Writing) in the fall; with approval from the thesis director at the end of fall semester, students will be able to register for WGSS 499 for the spring.

General Guidelines

  • An honors thesis is an original work. For students who plan to earn Latin Honors, the recommended thesis length is 50-70 pages, typed, and double-spaced, including bibliography. For students who plan to earn Departmental Honors, rather than Latin Honors, the recommended thesis length is 35-50 pages or a comparable creative or public intervention project. However this can vary and the specific length of the project should be determined in consultation with the thesis director.
  • Work should begin on the honors thesis in the summer before senior year. Thesis directors and students should consult to devise a reading list or other plan for preliminary research to take place before fall semester.
  • Frequent meetings with the thesis director should take place during both the research and the writing part of the thesis. Weekly meetings are customary. To help students stay on track, it would be advisable for the student and their thesis director to work together set up a schedule of writing deadlines for fall and early spring semester.
  • The thesis director will counsel students on research process, analysis and argument, and presentation. The thesis director will also read drafts and make suggestions on revisions.
  • While students work most closely with their thesis director, the two readers are available for consultation. For the sake of continuity, discussions between readers and student should also be communicated to the thesis director.
  • The introduction should explain the topic/state the research question and clearly state the thesis. The student should conduct and write a literature review. This task consists of surveying the literature to review existing research about the topic and then situating the thesis work within this scholarship.
  • The thesis should be written in a clear, concise fashion, as a double-spaced, typed document.  It should have a cover page with the title, student’s name, the month and year, and the names of the thesis director and second readers.
  • For footnotes and sources, students should use the style and format that is appropriate for the subject; students should check with their thesis director to ascertain what format to use.
  • A preliminary full draft must be submitted by February 1 to the thesis director. The director should provide suggestions for revision to the student preferably by February 15.
  • A final draft, one that incorporates the feedback of the thesis director, must be finished by March 1 and copies given to the thesis committee.
  • After the thesis has been turned in, evaluated, and approved by the student’s committee, minor revisions can be made. The final version of the thesis (printed and spiral bound) should be turned in to the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department by the last day of classes, along with a digital copy for the department’s records.
  • Please remember that doing an honors thesis is demanding and takes a great deal of time and effort. It is strongly recommended that the student develop a schedule, in consultation with the thesis director, for the research and the completion of the thesis so that deadlines set by the program and the College can be met.

Evaluation of the Thesis and How Honors are Determined

The thesis committee (director and two readers) will review the thesis and if the committee determines that the work earns an A or A-, the student will receive Honors.

For students who are eligible for Latin Honors: levels of Latin honors are determined by GPA and are based on those seniors participating in the honors program in the College of Arts and Sciences. Latin honors will be calculated once spring grades for the eighth semester are submitted, and the breakdown is as follows:

                      Top 15% GPA:    summa cum laude

                      Next 35% GPA:   magna cum laude

                      Remaining 50%:  cum laude

For students who eligible for Departmental Honors: this designation will appear on their transcript as “Honors earned in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.” However, they will not receive the Latin designations outlined above.

Other Requirements for Honors

  • Participation in the spring Undergraduate Research Symposium: All honors thesis students are required to present their work in the Undergraduate Research Symposium which takes place in April. The research posters must be dropped off at the WGSS Office within one week of the symposium.
  • Participation in the WGSS Senior Presentations: During the Monday of reading week, students will be expected to give a 10-minute presentation of their honors thesis to WGSS faculty and students at the WGSS Senior Presentations.

The research symposium and honors presentation are requirements that must be completed in order to receive Honors..


Junior year:  

  • March 17: Completed applications due. Consider also applying for the Andrea Biggs Undergraduate Research Award (due March 17). For more details, see: https://wgss.wustl.edu/undergraduate-awards
  • Throughout April: Students notified of acceptance. Begin working on IRB application (if required).
  • May 1: Deadline for submitting IRB application. Approved students should also meet with thesis director to determine summer reading list and agree on work that will be completed by fall semester. 

Senior year

  • September 1: IRB approval (when applicable) must be secured by this date, or honors may not proceed.
  • October 15: Literature review should be complete and submitted to honors thesis director.
  • December 15: Approximately 50 percent of the thesis should be complete in draft form and submitted to the advisor. The fall grade is largely dependent on achieving this goal. Other chapters should be outlined for completion by February 1.
  • February 1: Completed draft due to thesis director
  • March 1: Revised draft due to thesis committee
  • Before March 31: Sign up for Undergraduate Research Fair
  • By April 1: Recommendations for honors made
  • April:  Participate in Undergraduate Research Fair. Within one week of the Undergraduate Research Fair, students should deliver their research poster to Crystal Odelle in McMillan 210 to be displayed in the WGSS hallway. Students should also email a digital copy of their poster to Cynthia Barounis (cbarounis@wustl.edu).
  • Last day of classes: Final bound version of thesis due to Crystal Odelle in McMillan 210 and final digital version due via email to Cynthia Barounis (cbarounis@wustl.edu). It is also customary for students to give a bound version to their thesis director.
  • Monday of Reading Week:  Present honors work to WGSS faculty, students, and public as part of the WGSS Senior Presentations.

Former Honors Thesis Students


Julia Birnbach: "After the Fact is Never After the Fact: Examining Change and Justice in Intervention with Perpetrators of Sexual Assault"

Syndni Perry-Anderson: "From What Threat? A Transfeminist Discourse Analysis of the 2021 Attempt to Legislate the Erasurer of Trans* Student-Athletes in Missouri"

Danielle Sarraf: "Re-Centering Human Trafficking Intervention Efforts: An Evaluation of the Intersection of Human Trafficking and Health in St. Louis using a Public Health Lens"


Dahlia Lehman: "Untwisting the STEM: Examining Gender Disparities in Lag, Introductor STEM Courses:

Siddi Vora: "Find the Incredible You: Sex, Gender, and Incredible India!"


Louisa Judge: "A Room of Their Own: Trauma-Informed Hospital Design"

Lizzi Kehoe: " Help the Helpers-On Vicarious Trauma"

Julia Pasquinelli: "Confronting Sexual Assault at Washington University"

Gabriella Ruskay-Kidd: "Sexual (Mis) Education"

Erica Williams: "Phenomena of Ivies, Pearls, and Polished Girls: Examining the Visual, Embodied, and Sonic AK "

Theaivin Yousef: "A Sense of Steel: Race and Affect in Post 9/11 United States"


Elise Hu: "Homosexuality and Attitudes in Non-Affirming Churches: The Necessity for Family-Like Friendships"

Alyssa Hunt: "The Utility of Risk Assessment to Inform Judicial Decision-Making in Civil Orders of Protection at the St. Louis Domestic Violence Court"

Monica Sass: "The Silence Will Kill You": Implications of the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 on Experiences and Perceptions of Same-Sex Intimate Partner Violence in South Africa"


Molly Brodsky: "Other Knowers, Other Growers: Gender-Conscious Farming and the 'Alternative' Agriculture Movement"

Sally Rifkin: " Cultivating Community: Towards a Black Women-Gendered Alternative Food Politic"

Carly Wolfer: "Lets Talk about Sex, Baby: Communication between Casual Sexual Partners in the College Hookup Culture"

Emi Wyland: "The Embodied Intimacy of Survival: Peer, Partner, and Client Intimacies of Transfeminine Sex Workers of Color in Tangerine and Afuera"

Priyanka Zylstra: "(Re)Locating South Asian Women in Apna Ghar: Evolving Cultural Narratives Within Domestic Violence Intervention"


Katie Chew:  "Widening the Scope: Exploring Student Experiences Responding to Sexual Violence on Campus"

Gayelyn Golde:  "Trouble in Paradise: Investigating Rape-Collusive Attitudes, Beliefs, and Practices on a Boarding School Campus"

Bianca Kaushal:  "Invisible Violence: Battered South Asian Women's Experiences in the American Legan System"

Ryan Paige:  "Elevating Spaces, Changing Communities: Black Women's Participation in the Metropolitan Chicago YWCA, 1915-1925"


Cameron Kinker:  "Contextualizing Transgender Health Care: Meanings, Experiences, and Future Hopes of Trans Adult in the St. Louis, Missouri Region"

Hannah Waldman:  "Abusive Warfare, Not Welfare Abuse: Contextualizing the Intersection of Intimate Partner Violence and Social Welfare Policy"


Christy Marx:  "Barriers to Access: An Analysis of Obstacles to Obtaining Services for Bosnian Immigrant Victims/Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence in St. Louis"

Mackenzie Findlay:  "Understanding Malagasy Women's Preferences for Reproductive Health Care"


Vinita Chaudhry:  "Desi Queer Pride: Experiences of South Asian Queer People in New York City"

Danielle Green:  "Best Cock on the Block: An Analysis of Partnered Dildo Use"

Ariel Frankel:  "The Intersection of Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in South Africa: How Xenophobia Affects Immigrant and    Refugee Women in Cape Town"

Elizabeth Handschy:  "Reworking Heteronormative Understandings of Eating Disorders to Include Alternative Sexualities"

M. Annie Houghton-Larsen:  "Hope but No Change: President Barack Obama's Gender Politics"

Louisa Kornblatt:  "Court Literacy: How Petitioners Weave Their Narratives of Abuse through the St. Louis Domestic Violence Court"

Moira Moynihan:  "Responses to Violence Against Women in French Immigrant Communities: Understanding the Benefits of an Equality-Driven Mode of Advocacy"

Ryan Sasse:  "Queering the Rainbow Nation: An Ethnographic Analysis of how Cultural Norms and LGBT-Inclusive Policies Shape South Africa LGBT Identity Culture"

Wolf Smith: "Where's Our Safe House? Examining the Relationship between LGBTQ+ Communities and the Domestic and Sexual Violence Resources in St. Louis"


Laura Dietrich: "The Good Gals Represent the Bad Guys"

Rosa Heyman: "The Intersectional Opportunity: The Shortcomings of the Media Coverage of the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas Sexual Harassment Hearings"


Ashley Brosius:  "Understanding the Impact of Sex and Gender on Legal Proceedings and Outcomes: A Case Study at the St. Louis County Domestic Violence Court"

Wesley Sebring:  "Crafting Sex and Gender: Intersex Medical Experience in the Early to Mid-Twentieth Century United States"                 

Dan Woznica:  "Reading Robert R.": The Production of Knowledge about America's First AIDS Patient


Ayla Karamustafa: "The Stigma of Male Sexual Fluidity: The Limitations of  Conceptualizing Masculinity within Informal  Public Spaces"


Robert Harvey: "The Involvement of Men in Service Provision for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence: A Survey of Contemporary Thought"

Cari Sekendur: "Hooking Up as Cyborgs – Text Messaging and Facebook for Sexual Self-Efficacy in College Culture"

Lauren Weiss:  "Keeping Students Safe: A Proposal to Address and Prevent Dating Violence at Washington University in St. Louis"


Alana Burman:  "More Like Our Imaginings: Performing the Transformation of Second Wave Theory Building in the Feminist Utopian Fiction of the 1970s"

Caitlin Gaskell:  "All Are Welcome: The Roman Catholic Women's Ordination Movement and the Motivations of Its Participants"

Anne Lascoe:  "Writing the Breast"


Melissa Goldman: "Professional Sex: A Healthy Approach to Legislating the U.S. Commercial Sex Industry"    

Shaina Goodman:  "Silence, Survival, and Shalom Bayit: The Implications of Jewish Religious and Cultural Values on the Experiences of and Provision of Services for Jewish Victims of Domestic Violence"


Kristi Nigh:  "Moving Beyond "It Just Happened": Using Literature to Transform Female Adolescents' Experience of Sexuality and Desire"


Alexis Wolfer:  "Children of Violence: An Examination of the Inter-generational Cycle of Violence Model and its Impact on Children Who Witness Domestic Abuse"


Rishi Rattan:  "Sexing Them Up, Cutting Them Off: Implications for the Treatment of Intersex Infants by Addressing the Management and Outcome of Male Infants with Ambiguous Genitalia in the United States Through a Postmodern Feminist Bioethical Lens"

Erika Sabbath:  "Can the master's tools, dismantle the master's house? Feminist approaches to organizational democracy"          


Melissa De Jesus:  "BDSM (Un)Bound? Sexual Practice, Stigma and Community"

Mia Eisner-Grynberg:  "On Account of Sex: Setbacks, Strategies, and the  Equal Rights Amendment"