about us

The Sexualities Project at Northwestern (SPAN) was created in 2010 following the establishment of a new endowment at Northwestern intended to support research and education on “life sciences, biomedical sciences and social sciences as those fields relate to the study of human sexual orientation and human sexuality.” Working together with a diverse group of Northwestern faculty members, co-directors Héctor Carrillo and Steven Epstein proposed a new initiative, which was funded by the Provost for an initial period of three years (2010-13) and has been renewed for an additional five years (2013-2018).

Issues related to sexuality and sexual identity invites apparently inexhaustible public debate about the political and cultural implications of sexual diversity and its relationship to morality, equality, and social justice. Yet, we lack fundamental knowledge about many central aspects of the social structuring of sexual identity and the social and cultural implications of sexual practice. A pivotal and consequential example of this lack concerns the tightly intertwined social, psychological, biological, and biomedical factors that link sexuality and sexual orientation with health. SPAN is a broad-ranging initiative to promote research and education on sexuality, sexual orientation, and health in social context. While anchored in social scientific frameworks (including scholarship on identity, rights, policy, and immigration), the initiative is intended to be broadly interdisciplinary.

SPAN is located within the Gender & Sexuality Studies Program but operates in conjunction with Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health at the Institute for Policy Research as well as the Science in Human Culture Program (SHC). It therefore marks a unique collaboration among three interdisciplinary campus units.

Interim Director (2016-17)

Department of Linguistics
2016 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-4090
Phone: (847) 491-7020
Fax: (847) 491-3770

Gregory Ward received his BA in Comparative Literature and Linguistics (with honors) from the University of California-Berkeley in 1978, and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1985. He has been at Northwestern since 1986 and is currently Professor of Linguistics (having served as Department Chair from 1999-2004). In addition, Ward is a member of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Advisory Board and an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Philosophy. Ward’s primary research area is discourse/pragmatics (the study of contextual meaning), with specific interests in pragmatic theory, information structure, intonational meaning, and reference/anaphora.

He has published over 80 papers (including 4 books) and given over 150 talks and presentations. Recent publications have investigated deferred reference, event anaphora (with Andrew Kehler), functional compositionality (with Betty J. Birner and Jeffrey Kaplan), and generalized conversational implicature and the semantics-pragmatics boundary (with a research team). With Birner, he co-authored Information Status and Noncanonical Word Order in English (Benjamins, 1998). With Laurence Horn, he co-edited Blackwell’s The Handbook of Pragmatics (Blackwell 2004), and with Birner, he is co-editor of Drawing the Boundaries of Meaning: Neo-Gricean Studies in Pragmatics and Semantics in Honor of Laurence R. Horn (Benjamins 2006). From 1986 to 1998, Ward was a consultant at AT&T Labs – Research, working on intonational meaning. He was co-PI on an NIH grant (1991-1996) to study sentence processing and was on an NSF grant (2003-2007) to study dialogue prosody for voice response systems. In 2004-05, he was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and from 2004-2007 he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA). In 2009, Ward was elected a Fellow of the LSA.

He currently serves on five editorial boards. At Northwestern, Ward teaches courses in pragmatic theory (Reference, LING 371; Pragmatics, LING 372; Implicature, LING 373), experimental methods (Experimental Pragmatics, LING 317), and gender and sexuality studies (Language & Gender, GSS 234; Language & Sexuality, LING 327).  In 2012, Ward received the E. LeRoy Hall Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.


Department of Sociology
1810 Chicago Ave
Evanston, IL 60208
Phone: 847-467-0516
Fax: 847-491-9907

Héctor Carrillo is Professor of Sociology and Gender & Sexuality Studies at Northwestern. He is also a member of the governing council of the Latina and Latino Studies program. He is a Faculty Associate in Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health at the Institute for Policy Research, and a member of the Center for Forced Migration Studies at the Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies.

Professor Carrillo studies the intersections between sexuality, migration, and health, with a particular focus on gay and bisexual male Mexican immigrants living in the United States. He also studies the sexual identities of heterosexually-identified men who are sexually attracted to other men, and the cultural meanings attached to adult male circumcision as an HIV prevention strategy among Mexican male and female immigrants. He is the author of The Night Is Young: Sexuality in Mexico in the Time of AIDS (University of Chicago Press, 2002).

Carrillo serves on the advisory boards of the journals Sexualities, Sexuality Research & Social Policy, and Sexualidad, Salud y Sociedad: Revista Latinoamericana. He is a council member of the Sexualities Section of the American Sociological Association; served on the selection committee for the Social Science Research Council’s Sexuality Research Fellowship Program; and served on the Faculty Consortium Steering Committee and the Consortium Group on Sexuality Research Training of the National Sexuality Resource Center (NSRC). Carrillo was co-chair of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Science track for the XVII International AIDS Conference, which took place in Mexico City in August 2008.

Steven Epstein

Steven Epstein (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)

Department of Sociology
1810 Chicago Ave
Evanston, IL 60208
Phone: 847-491-5536
Fax: 847-491-9907

Steven Epstein is Professor of Sociology and John C. Shaffer Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern. He is a former director of the Science in Human Culture Program and the interdisciplinary graduate cluster in Science Studies. He is a faculty member at the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, a faculty affiliate in the Gender & Sexuality Studies Program, and a Faculty Associate in Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health at the Institute for Policy Research.

Professor Epstein studies the contested production of knowledge, especially biomedical knowledge, with an emphasis on the interplay of social movements, experts, and health institutions, and with a focus on the politics of sexuality, gender, and race. He is the author of Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge (University of California Press, 1996) and Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research (University of Chicago Press, 2007). He is a co-editor of Three Shots at Prevention: The HPV Vaccine and the Politics of Medicine’s Simple Solutions.

Epstein serves on the advisory board of the journal Sexualities; is a former Council member of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Sexualities; served on the selection committee for the Social Science Research Council’s Sexuality Research Fellowship Program; and served on the American Sociological Association Committee on the Status of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons in Sociology.

Faculty assistance

Leadership in conducting SPAN activities is also provided by

Associate Director of Gender & Sexuality Studies

Administrative assistance

Eliot Colin

Eliot Colin

Eliot Colin (sexualities@northwestern.edu) provides support as the the Program Assistant for SPAN. They can be reached at 847-467-4957.

Before joining SPAN, Eliot completed Loyola University Chicago’s Master in Social Work program, where they developed student affairs programs geared towards LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty. They are additionally involved with trans and queer communities via RAD Remedy, an organization devoted to improving trans health access.

Jasmine Tucker

Jasmine Tucker

General administrative support is also provided by Jasmine Tucker (gender@northwestern.edu), the program assistant for the Gender & Sexuality Studies Program.

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