Professional Development

The School of Graduate and Postgraduate Studies (SGPS) at Western encourages graduate students to participate in professional development and career-related courses, workshops, talks and events.  (see As well, the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) offers a number of specialized professional development opportunities for students, as well as other ways to get involved in activities that enable students to gain meaningful experience and add to the strength and presence of our community at Western. 


Graduate students can get involved in a number of leadership positions within GSWS and/or the university. Within GSWS, the Graduate Student Representative attends GSWS department meetings and graduate committee meetings to represent graduate student interests. Opportunities also exist for students to get involved in: i) organizing the GSWS Graduate Student Symposiums (see below); (ii) the peer mentorship program; and/or (iii) the GSWS graduate student collective. A call for involvement in these positions is circulated by the Graduate Student Representative each spring. 

Within the university more broadly, opportunities exist for students to act as representatives for the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) and PSAC 610 (one student representative is required each year for both). The call for these opportunities is made in late August/early September. GSWS graduate students have also been involved as commissioners for SOGS (accessibility, pride, indigenous and women’s commissioners are available each year), and as part of initiatives within the SOGS equity committee, which is responsible for overseeing the graduate student support program, as well as other equity initiatives on campus. 

Training and Skill Development

Professional Development course: The value we place on professional development is reflected in our required coursework. Our core course on Professional Development supports our students in their roles as Teaching Assistants by providing them with support for skill development in feminist pedagogy. Other topics include: scholarship application writing, CV development, abstract writing and submission, conference presentations, and publishing in journals and edited collections. At least one class focuses on non-academic grant writing and alternative career pathways.

Course Development: Our Qualifying Exams (more traditionally known as comprehensive exams or ‘comps’) include the development of at least one course outline. Our former PhD students have found this option extremely helpful in building their teaching portfolios and enhancing their marketability for academic positions.

Teaching Assistantships (TA): The GSWS has a thriving undergraduate program. Our MA and PhD students play a vital role in our department as TAs who support course instructors and mentor undergraduate students. TA assignments are assigned to MA students for one year and to PhD students for four years as part of their guaranteed funding package, and are made to accommodate undergraduate program needs, graduate students’ course schedules and, where necessary, child care needs. Other necessary accommodations should be discussed with the Undergraduate Chair.

Research Assistantships (RA): Some of our graduate students work as research assistants on funded research projects supervised by our core and affiliate faculty members. These are typically circulated by the Grad Chair and faculty members as opportunities arise.

Annual Conferences, Symposia and Speaker Series

Annual GSWS Conference: Annually, GSWS hosts a conference that is organized by our faculty members on themes relevant to contemporary discussions and debates in feminist theory and practice. Graduate students can get involved by assisting with various aspects of conference planning and organization, and may be invited to participate to present a paper should their research area overlap with the conference theme. Please visit the main page for updates on events, and reach out to the Graduate Chair and/or Graduate Coordinator if you like to get involved.

Visiting Speaker Series: Each year, GSWS invites speakers from other universities to give talks on their areas of research. Attendance is expected for GSWS faculty and graduate students. The committee that organizes this series includes a graduate student member. Please contact the committee Chair to indicate your interest in participating in this committee. 

Annual Graduate Student Conference: Since its inception, the graduate program has hosted a conference in May-June to showcase the work of our graduate students. This provides an opportunity for our MA and PhD students to present their research-in-progress to their colleagues and to receive feedback from students and faculty in a supportive environment. A call for abstracts is circulated by the Graduate Chair in April. Participation is strongly encouraged.

Graduate Symposium: This student-led interdisciplinary initiative holds monthly sessions where students can present their work-in-progress.

Flaunting It: This annual undergraduate conference on gender and sexuality encourages student participation across the university and is organized by one of our graduate students. Additional roles for graduate students may be available.

Queer Research Day: Sponsored by the Sexuality and Gender Research group, this event provides a venue for some of our graduate students and faculty to present their research.

Please see for a list of these and other events sponsored by GSWS.