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Gender and Women's Studies

Administrative Unit:Gender and Women's Studies
College/School: College of Letters & Science
Admitting Plans:M.A.
Degrees Offered:M.A.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor, Graduate/Professional Certificate

Faculty: Professors Bloch, Collins, D'Acci, Ferree, Friedman, Hyde, Lepowsky, McClintock, Pondrom, Schulenburg, Tesfagiorgis, Tripp, Uttal; Associate Professors Enke, Ewig, Houck; Assistant Professors Garlough, Ipsen, Kim, Lindsay, Samuels


Gender and women's studies is a well-established field of scholarship—a multidiscipline with its own body of theory, its array of accepted methods, and a history of scholarly contributions focused on the place of gender and women in society. Its research and teaching seek to expand the understanding and appreciation of gendered lives and experiences, both historically and in contemporary societies. In building this understanding, scholarship encompasses the arts and humanities and the social and natural sciences.

Scholarship and teaching in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies actively engages with multiple dimensions of the social, political and cultural dynamics of power. For example, gender and women's studies scholars explore how gender is intrinsic to global processes, how these processes intersect with local, regional and national identities, and how gender itself is shaped by race, ethnicity, dis/ability, nationality, sexuality, class, caste, age, and religion. Gender and women's studies scholars make contributions both by reevaluating past knowledge and by developing new interdisciplinary research methods and theories. Many academic disciplines, in fact, have undergone paradigm shifts that have been directly influenced by the theoretical and research approaches developed in the field of gender and women's studies.

Department faculty members and affiliates represent 54 different departments across eleven colleges and schools; they bring together a broad range of interests, research agendas, and teaching styles. The curriculum reflects this interdisciplinarity and offers students an opportunity to apply gender analysis in fields such as African American studies, African studies, American Indian studies, anthropology, the arts, Asian American studies, Chicana/o and Latina/o studies, disability studies, education, health sciences, history, international studies, literature, law, media, philosophy, political science, psychology, sociology, sexuality studies, and visual culture. Faculty members have national and international reputations both as disciplinary scholars and as gender and women's studies scholars. In publications, leadership and awards, the department is among the most visible gender and women's studies departments in the country.

During a period of activism and debate that extended across the University of Wisconsin System, the Women's Studies Program was established in 1975. It has grown steadily from a small program offering three courses a year to one of the largest and most well-respected programs in the United States. An undergraduate major serves more than 100 students each year; an undergraduate certificate serves approximately 150 students; a master's program admits approximately five students each year; and a Ph.D. minor and certificate at the graduate level are also offered. The department is the administrative home of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies certificate, which serves approximately 50 students per year. In 2008, the program achieved department status and changed the name to the Department of Gender and Women's Studies.

The department lists approximately 90 courses, both crosslisted and specific to the department. Many courses are available to both advanced undergraduate and graduate students. Some enroll only graduate students. The department offers 20-24 courses each year, augmented by crosslisted courses from other departments. Selected courses are also offered in the summer.

Master's Degree 

The master's degree in gender and women's studies provides advanced feminist training in gender analysis for students with a variety of academic backgrounds and career plans. Incorporating local, cross-cultural and transnational emphases, the curriculum encourages students and faculty from the humanities, arts, social sciences and natural sciences to develop innovative ways of expanding knowledge about gender in global, local, and historical contexts. As the name Gender and Women's Studies indicates, the M.A. retains the emphasis on women's lives and situations that has historically informed the field of women's studies, while also emphasizing the incisive import of gender as a category of analysis transforming knowledge about, for example, masculinity and men's lives, transgendered lives, as well as other complex topics. The degree engages the wide-ranging and multidisciplinary perspectives associated with gender studies and women's studies: queer studies, transgender studies, sexuality studies, race and ethnicity studies, disability studies, area and global studies, cultural studies, postcolonial and transnational studies.

The M.A. curriculum draws from the strengths of current course offerings in the program, as well as from methodologies and course offerings in other fields and departments. Among the domains of inquiry explored within the curriculum are: work, family and education; social movements, the state and civil society; bodies, genders, health and sexualities; individual, collective and communal identities; communications, technology and culture industries; politics of representation, media and cultural practices; migration, immigration, labor and political economy; militarism, international relations and governmental processes; intersectionality of systems of women's oppression; and arts, performance, and visual cultures. Some courses investigate these topics at the global level while others focus on the local, regional or national levels. The curriculum ensures an over-arching transnational and cross-cultural framework. Courses use interdisciplinary methodologies and/or disciplinary approaches.

The degree program is designed to be a two-year full-time sequence; however, the program is also flexible enough to allow part-time students to pursue the M.A. All students are expected to maintain satisfactory progress in the graduate program in accordance with the regulations of the Graduate School and department policies.

Each student will complete 30 credits of course work plus a thesis or a comprehensive exam project. Of the 30 credits, at least 15 must be in designated courses in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies. The remaining credits may also be departmental courses or may be chosen (entirely or in part) from graduate-level courses in other departments and programs in the university. All courses should be selected in consultation with the DGS and/or the adviser, who must approve the selections.

Degree requirements include: 30 credits, 15 of which must be in courses in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies; GWS 880 Proseminar—Graduate Study in Gender and Women's Studies; GWS 900 Research in Gender and Women's Studies; a graduate level feminist theory course; and a thesis project or exam.

To remain in good standing in the M.A. program, certain deadlines must be met in a timely fashion. (1) Students are expected to file their advisor form by the first week of classes of their second year of study. (2) Students are required to have a thesis or exam committee arranged by the first week of their fourth semester. (3) Students are required defend their thesis or complete their exams by the end of their fourth semester; formal requests for an extension of the time for the thesis or exam will be considered, but not guaranteed. Failure to meet any of these requirements may result in a student being asked to leave the program.

Doctoral Minor 

Graduate students can pursue a doctoral minor in gender and women's studies. First, it is necessary to choose a "home" discipline and be admitted as a graduate student in one of the many departments that offer doctoral degrees. It is then possible to get substantial and systematic training in the field of gender and women's studies in numerous ways. Most graduate programs allow graduate students to receive graduate credit for courses numbered 300 and above in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies. The training is greatly aided by the presence of excellent library holdings and a women's studies librarian.

Graduate students who wish to pursue an Option A external minor in gender and women's studies should consult the associate chair of the Department of Gender and Women's Studies. Option A requires a minimum of 10 credits in an external minor program (single disciplinary or multi-disciplinary). Fulfilment of this option requires the approval of the minor program. Generally, the associate chair serves as the advisor and will help the student plan a course of study in conjunction with the student's departmental advisor. Students are expected to achieve a B or better in four courses at the 300 level or above in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies. One of the courses must be GWS 900 Research in Gender and Women's Studies. Directed study courses do not count toward the minor.

Graduate students who wish to pursue an Option B minor combine course work with a gender component from two or more departments outside the student's major department. The student's home department is responsible for approving an Option B minor.

Graduate/Professional Certificate

The certificate in gender and women's studies at the graduate level may be earned by students enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Generally, the associate chair serves as the advisor and will help the student plan a course of study. Students must meet all of the following requirements in order to earn the certificate at the graduate level:

  • Enrollment in a graduate program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
  • 15 credits of academic course work in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies at the 300-level or above.
  • Students enrolled in courses at the 300-600 level should inform the instructor that they are taking the course for a graduate-level certificate and will complete additional readings/assignments consistent with expectations for a graduate student.
  • 9 credits must be in residence at UW–Madison. A maximum of 6 credits may be transferred from other institutions.
  • 3 credits must count as humanities courses (H, Z, or L).
  • 3 credits must count as social studies courses (S or Z).
  • 3 credits must count as natural or biological science (N, B, W, X, or Y). For the purpose of the GWS certificate, GWS 431: History of Childbirth in America (S) may be counted toward this requirement.
  • With the approval of the certificate advisor, a course external to the Department of Gender and Women's Studies may be counted toward the certificate, provided that women and/or gender are the core focus of the course.
  • Directed study courses (WS 699, 999) may not be used toward the certificate.
  • A 3.0 grade is the minimum for courses counting toward the certificate. All courses must be taken for a letter grade (no pass/fail courses).

Gender and Women's Studies Research Center 

The Gender and Women's Studies Research Center was established in 1977 to promote scholarly interactions among women and gender studies researchers on campus, as well as linkages with women's studies centers and scholars nationally and internationally.

The research center engages in different kinds of activities to stimulate gender and women's studies research, including organizing lectures, colloquia, workshops and conferences, featuring campus, national and international speakers and creative artists. The center promotes research collaboration and externally funded research projects, provides proposal writing support, sponsors an honorary fellow program, facilitates networking of women and gender studies scholars across campus, and fosters links with other gender and women's studies research centers around the country and the world.

These exchanges, as well as other events sponsored by the center, serve to draw together faculty, graduate students, and community members for mutual enrichment. Questions about the center should be sent to the director of the Gender and Women's Studies Research Center, 110 Ingraham Hall, 1155 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706.

For more information: Associate Chair, Department of Gender and Women's Studies, 110 Ingraham Hall, 1155 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-4703; wsp@mhub.facstaff.wisc.edu; www.womenstudies.wisc.edu.