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Sonja Watson appointed new director of UT Arlington Women’s and Gender Studies

Friday, March 7, 2014

Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

News Topics: faculty, liberal arts

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The University of Texas at Arlington has named Sonja Watson, an assistant professor of modern languages and an expert in Spanish and Afro-Caribbean literature, as the director of the University’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program. She will begin her duties in August.

Watson plans to promote global women’s issues such as economics, STEM and health disparities in conjunction with the established Women's and Gender Studies Program.

Watson joined UT Arlington in 2007 and served on the advisory board of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and as a faculty fellow of the Center for African American Studies. Previously, she spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in Saint Louis.  

Watson earned her undergraduate degree in 1995 from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. She holds a master’s degree in Spanish and doctoral degree in modern foreign languages with specialization in Hispanic literature/applied linguistics from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn.

“Dr. Watson is a renowned scholar in Afro-Hispanic, Latin American, African diaspora and Caribbean studies, and a respected teacher whose cross-cultural research will help to provide critical understanding of women, gender and power in a global context,” said Beth Wright, dean of the UT Arlington College of Liberal Arts. “She is committed to furthering knowledge about women, men, gender, sexuality and their many diverse lenses, and encourages the critical examination of traditional theoretical perspectives.”

Watson is a recipient of grants from UT Arlington to create an online writing center for upper-division Spanish composition courses, and to interview hip hop artists in Panama for research on Afro-Panamanian identity and cultural performance. She received the Panamanian Council of New York award for having served as an exemplary scholar, advocating the message of ethnic dignity and socio-economic justice for African descendants in the Americas. Watson is the author of the newly published book, “The Politics of Race in Panama: Afro-Hispanic and West Indian Literary Discourses of Contention” (University Press of Florida, 2014), which deals with the forging of the Afro-Panamanian identity.

“I am honored by this appointment and excited about the opportunity it provides me to contribute to the field of women’s and gender studies,” Watson said. “Women’s and gender studies is a key component to not only the humanities but also to other disciplines across campus and the community at large.”

Watson acknowledged the tremendous growth that UT Arlington’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program has witnessed under past and current leadership, adding that she plans to continue this leadership by “promoting global women’s issues such as economics, STEM and health disparities in conjunction with our established program.”

Watson succeeds Desirée Henderson, who has served as director since 2010. Under her leadership, the program developed the women and gender studies curricula, and both the first Women’s Studies Scholarship Endowment and the Student Association for Gender Equity were established.  She will continue as a member of the English faculty.

The Women’s and Gender Studies Program was founded in 1974 as the Women’s Studies Program in the College of Liberal Arts. It began offering an academic minor in 1991. Visit for more information.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit to learn more. Follow #UTAdna on Twitter.


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.