Alum Spotlight: Hailey Capps, "What Can You Do With A GWSS Degree? Anything and Everything"

Submitted by Whitney Miller on

Hailey Capps, a recent graduate from the University of Washington, finished her double major in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and Communication in the spring of 2022. She is currently pursuing her Master of Education (M.Ed.) at the UW School of Education. As she began her postgraduate journey, she shared how her experience in the GWSS department has shaped and continues to shape her current path.  

Capps understands the struggle of finding a major that fits not only your academic drive but also your passion for the surrounding world. During her first years at UW, she dabbled in business courses but realized that numbers and math weren’t for her. She, like many other students, did not know how to find a major that would support both her strengths and passions. Capps headed to her academic advisor for guidance on this dilemma.  

When she explained her passions surrounding women’s empowerment, fighting the patriarchy, and connecting directly with people, her advisor outright told her that she should major in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. Not really knowing much about this major, Capps took the Introduction to Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies course (GWSS 200) and “absolutely loved it.” She continued taking courses and before long decided GWSS would be her major.  

The courses she took within the department shaped her path toward higher education. Capps originally believed that making a difference only came from higher-level policy changes and wanted to pursue what she was learning in GWSS through politics. However, she had an “eye-opening experience” in Indigenous Feminisms, a GWSS course taught by fabian romero. In the class, she learned “often the biggest impact comes from being boots on the ground and working with people in your community, rather than from huge policy changes that might not actually have an effect on people's day-to-day lives.” This course was “a huge thing that moved [Capps] away from politics and towards education.” Learning about inequity, lack of resources within certain communities, and how to impact people on a deeper level, Capps found a passion for higher education that was supplemented by GWSS. “Being able to fight those inequities through education is a really powerful tool.”  

Now, Capps is in the Leadership in Higher Education Program at UW where she focuses on educational inequities and how they play out and can be challenged in colleges or universities. “In the GWSS department, we focused heavily on inequity, systems of oppression and marginalization, and opening our perspective to other people’s experiences. I think having that background has been really helpful in understanding some of the concepts that we’re going over in my program. We have been talking a lot about structural racism, classism, and the experiences of first-generation students and students of color. I feel like I got a really solid, deep foundation of these concepts and ideas in GWSS.”  

Lastly, Capps gave some parting advice for GWSS undergraduates. “I truly believe that you could use a GWSS degree for anything.” Capps resonated with the real stress that students face, in finding that first job after college with this degree. These are very real challenges that undergraduates will all come to face as they near graduation. However, Capps reiterates that with a GWSS education you can really go anywhere because “the knowledge that you gain, because you're learning about the real world and the people around you, it can be applied to any field -- like tech, science, education, you can honestly apply it to anything.” Broadening her advice to undergraduates in general, Capps uses her personal experience to really emphasize the point for students to “find something that really lights you up inside and makes you excited to go to class and learn.” To do this, she emphasizes utilizing all the resources that are offered and reaching out to people around you. Capps also left a parting message for those who haven’t decided on a major yet: “Think about GWSS. The professors are brilliant, kind people, and I can honestly say that the knowledge I gained in this department changed my life and outlook on the world”.  

Story Credit: Deborah Jin, GWSS Winter 2023 Communications Intern