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Chairperson and Graduate Director: Professor Utz McKnight, Office: 104 Manly Hall


The Department of Gender and Race Studies (called Women's Studies until November 2009) offers a course of study leading to the master of arts degree in Women's Studies. The MA in Women's Studies is designed to support feminist research. The program emphasizes interdisciplinary and cross-cultural methodology. It provides a conceptual framework, analytical training, and bibliography and research tools for feminist studies. The program is designed for students from a variety of humanities and social science backgrounds with interest in gender studies and the status and roles of women in society, past and present.


Graduates of the MA program will have the skills to continue graduate work toward a PhD in a humanities or social science discipline. Training in feminist studies and research methods will also enable graduates of the MA program to enhance their work in other careers, such as law, health care, criminology, social work, public welfare, and education.


Graduate work in Women's Studies and African American Studies is also available to students whose degree programs permit them to select courses in other programs and divisions. A master of arts concentration in Women's Studies may be taken through the Department of American Studies of the College of Arts and Sciences and through other cooperating departments and programs. Admission and programs of study are subject to the guidelines presented by the appropriate department or program.



Admission Requirements

The requirements for admission to the Graduate School are detailed in the Admission Criteria section of this catalog. All applicants to the Department of Gender and Race Studies must submit test scores from either the Graduate Record Examination or the Miller Analogies Test in support of the application. International students must submit results of the TOEFL as well. It is preferred that each applicant to the MA program have an undergraduate major or minor in Women's Studies, or the equivalent, and a major in a humanities or social science discipline. Each applicant should have a grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale and satisfy minimum requirements for admission to the Graduate School. Students with deficiencies in undergraduate preparation may be required to take additional credit hours. Financial assistance is available in the form of research/teaching assistantships and fellowships for qualified students. Applicants who wish to be considered for research or teaching assistantships or fellowships should file their applications by February 15.



Degree Requirements for the MA in Women’s Studies


Students must meet all requirements in the Degree Requirements section of this catalog. 


Students complete a minimum of at least 30 hours in courses numbered 500 or above. All MA students will successfully complete a 9-hour core program consisting of WS 530 Feminist Theory: Contemporary or WS 535 Black Feminism; WS 532 Issues and Problems in Women’s Studies Research; and WS 570 Gender, Race, and Class: Cross-Cultural Approaches. Students have the option of writing a thesis (Plan I) or passing a comprehensive exam described below (Plan II). A grade of “B” or better must be earned in all courses. 


Plan I (thesis plan) requires at least 30 hours of coursework which will include 9 hours of core courses, 15 hours of elective courses, and 6 hours of thesis research. Students must submit a proposal before writing the thesis and defend the thesis before a committee of three graduate faculty, including at least one from outside the department.


Plan II (comprehensive exam) requires 30 hours of coursework which will include 9 hours of core courses and a comprehensive exam. The master’s comprehensive exam is an oral defense of a portfolio of three exemplary research papers written during the student’s program. The papers should be selected by the student and be prefaced by an original 10-page essay introducing the portfolio. The 10-page preface should explain how the three are reflective of the student’s program of study. To pass the exam, the student will defend the portfolio and preface before a three-member graduate faculty committee.



Core course requirement

WS 530 Feminist Theory: Contemporary 


WS 532 Feminist Methodologies


WS 570 Transnational Feminisms



Additional requirements


WS 599 Thesis Research


WS Elective


Electives (departmentally approved)




Course Descriptions

WS 500: Independent Study in Gender and Race Studies. One to six hours.
Independent study on any subject pertaining to the study of gender and race. Projects are conducted under the supervision of a professor in the chosen field and must be approved in advance by the program director.

WS 503: Seminar in Teaching Gender and Race Studies. Three hours.
This course explores pedagogical theories and practices advanced by feminist and cultural studies scholars and teachers. Students actively develop their own teaching philosophies and strategies for teaching gender and race in both small and large classroom settings through an array of applied exercises, modules, and workshop activities. 

WS 510 Special Topics. Three hours.
Seminar format. The course offers an interdisciplinary approach to a topic central to Women’s and Gender Studies, which varies by semester.

WS 520 Women and Work and Labor. Three hours.
A study of various gendered facets of work, locally and globally, changes in labor laws, patterns of labor migration, and labor relationships, through assorted writings, such as testimonials,, novels, reports, and essays.

WS 521 Gender and Race Studies Practicum. Three hours.
Allows graduate students the opportunity to participate in an internship or service-learning project under the individual guidance and supervision of a chosen faculty member in the department.

WS 525 Feminist Theory: Major Texts. Three hours.
Part I in a Women’s Studies course sequence, this course establishes a baseline of knowledge of feminist theory in order to prepare students for the study of contemporary feminist theory in WS 530. This course is open to graduate students from all disciplines with an interest in feminist theory and does not serve as a prerequisite to Part II in the sequence. With an emphasis on issues of sex, gender, and sexuality, this seminar focuses on feminist theoretical challenges to prevailing narratives of subjectivity, power, and embodiment.

WS 530 Feminist Theory: Contemporary. Three hours.
Part two in a graduate-level course sequence, this course is open to graduate students from all disciplines with an interest in feminist theory. Its interdisciplinary approach to contemporary feminist theory focuses on recent debates spanning approximately the last two decades of feminist theorizing.

WS 532 Feminist Methodologies. Three hours.
This course explores feminist research methodologies that emerge from epistemological critiques of the traditional and non-traditional methods that inform how knowledge is produced in studies of gender, race, class, and sexuality. This course will examine a number of qualitative research methods used across a range of disciplines and prepare students for a reflexive and dynamic encounter with the design of their own research topics.

WS 535 Black Feminism.  Three Hours.

This seminar exposes students to the key figures, texts, and concepts that constitute Black feminist thought.

WS 540/WS 541 Seminar in Gender and Race Studies. Three hours.
Topics vary each semester. Graduate students are required to conduct extensive independent research. The course focuses on a topic of specialization particular to the individual faculty instructor.

WS 560 Critical Readings of Slavery and Emancipation. Three hours.
This course will introduce students to the major themes, issues, and questions related to slavery and emancipation in the United States through readings, discussion, and written assignments. Reading selections will emphasize gender, resistance, identity, politics, labor, cultural expression, and memory. Issues and questions include: lives and experiences on enslaved people; what did it mean to be an enslaved person? How did enslaved people understand their own condition? What brought an end to the widespread use of slavery in the Atlantic world in the nineteenth century? What was the fate of newly freed people during Reconstruction?

WS 570 Transnational Feminisms. Three hours.
Prerequisite: WS 530, WS 532, WS 535 or equivalent.
This dynamic field of study works to decolonize the contested terrain of knowledge production upon which the lives, histories, and subjectivities of women are constituted and reconstituted within global relations of power and privilege. Examines current transnational feminist debates that think beyond national borders to analyze postcolonial legacies and the impact of global capitalism and neoliberal political economies on gendered lives.

WS 590 Women and Law. Three hours.
This seminar's major focus is the impact of the law on the status and lives of women.

WS 592 Memory, Identity and Politics: Gender, Race, and Class.  Three hours.
This interdisciplinary course explores the ways in which memory and the past construct political identities and the interplay of race, class, gender, and ethnicity in its social construction through readings, discussion, and student research. Reading selections include core theoretical texts on memory studies and specific case studies from the United States and the Atlantic World. Issues and questions are: how memories are constructed, translated into identities and political action; bases of shared memories and contested memories; political memorialization and the effects of collective amnesia; and how “communities of memory” are developed, sustained, and dissolved.

WS 599 Thesis Research. Three to six hours.
The focus of this research may involve traditional or community-related research on the student's approved thesis topic in Gender and Race Studies.

WS 635 Seminar in Feminist Literary Criticism. Three hours.
Intensive study of the writings of one particular critic or theorist, or an exploration of feminist criticism and theory involving works by several key figures. This course is the equivalent of EN 635 Seminar in Literary Criticism, when its subject is feminist literary criticism and theory.



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