The Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program (WGGP) has had an interdisciplinary and international focus since it was founded in 1980 with the name “Women in International Development.” WGGP has spent the last 40 years producing research that examines the importance of gender across disciplines, educating students who work in communities across the world, and providing programming that addresses contemporary global challenges.


Colleen Murphy has been the Director of WGGP since 2013. Murphy is a Professor of Law, Philosophy, and Political Science at the University of Illinois. Since that time, the program has doubled the number of graduate students enrolled with a minor in Gender Relations in International Development (GRID) and added a Certificate in Global Health for undergraduate students. GRID students’ research projects cover a wide range of disciplines but all students are gaining skills in research and policy analysis in order to address global human security and gender equity issues.  

In reference to WGGP’s work since 2013, Murphy says: “We’ve really established our presence. It was always a campus wide program, but I’m really proud of ways we strengthened collaborative ties across campus in pockets of campus that historically weren’t connected.” Those pockets include collaborations with the Grainger College of Engineering, College of Fine and Applied Arts, School of Labor and Employment Relations, and the School of Social Work where the GRID minor is housed.

A program that Murphy is particularly proud of organizing was a 2016 conference that brought Honorable Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN Special Envoy for Climate Change, to campus to talk about climate justice. Robinson is President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, an organization that addresses the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and marginalized communities.

Research is also an important part of the WGGP mission. A collaboration on the research project "Cross-Cultural Understandings of Power Harassment in Higher Education: Awareness and Actions” is underway. Once the project team has Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, they hope to distribute a survey and begin to capture the variations in how people define what constitutes harassment. This will explore the extent to which knowledge is shared, or not, across different campus constituencies.

A headshot of a woman with dark hair pulled back. She is wearing a pearl necklace and earrings. Photo from WGGP Facebook page.A celebration of WGGP’s 40 years was originally planned for spring 2020 but has been moved to the fall due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. The exact date is still being finalized but WGGP expects over ten alums will return to campus for a symposium to talk about the impact of the program on their current work. Murphy notes that every global challenge has gender dimensions and WGGP has always cultivated partners across disciplines. This will ensure that the 40th Anniversary Symposium will celebrate WGGP’s history and emphasize the program’s essential role in the C-U community as the world deals with global challenges like the current pandemic. One alumna who is scheduled to participate in the symposium is Khalida Malik who worked for the United Nations World Food Program. Malik received an international award for her work supporting the education of girls in communities dealing with conflicts and natural disasters.

In March 2021, the library will showcase a display that highlights key events from WGGP’s 40 years. This will coincide with Women’s History Month and WGGP’s annual celebration with the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities of International Women’s Day. Right after Women’s History Month, WGGP will host a symposium on “Migration and Game Design” on April 8, 2021. This symposium will feature Lual Mayen, founder of Junub Games, and examine how game design can foster empathy toward migrants coming from Central and South America.

With WGGP’s access to interdisciplinary and international resources and contacts, there is discussion right now about new ways to provide programs during times of social distancing. Additionally, students pursuing the Certificate in Global Health are already engaging with issues of global health policy, access to health care, and delivery. The Barbara Yates Endowment provides a healthy financial basis for all future WGGP programming.

Murphy says, “We’re thinking about how we can be responsive and what kinds of audiences we want to reach. We are thinking beyond the University of Illinois, not just by bringing people here but by the audience that we’re reaching and what we’re doing.” In addition to hosting timely conversations, Murphy wants WGGP to host programs to expand their reach in C-U as well as internationally. Murphy states: “We are serious about wanting to engage with the community.”

You can stay connected with WGGP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and you can sign up for the newsletter on their website. All events and programs are open to the public.

Photos from WGGP Facebook page.