Current Students, Overview

Graduate Program Overview

All students entering the Ph.D. program take a selection of courses, including the required core interdisciplinary seminars in the Department of Women’s Studies. All students must pass a general examination given annually in August. Students entering the program with a bachelor’s degree are expected to take the general examination by the summer before their fifth semester. Students entering the program with a relevant master’s degree are expected to take the general examination the summer before their third semester. Students are also expected to complete a second year interdisciplinary paper. At the end of the fifth semester, a review of student progress by the departmental faculty is required. The assessment of students’ progress is based on their portfolio, which includes the following: GPA, faculty evaluation of required coursework, general examination, the second year interdisciplinary paper, and the plans for completion of the language requirement. This assessment is the basis for the student’s continued participation in the doctoral program.

Students are expected to take their major field exam within two years of successfully completing their General Exam requirement. Following the major field examination, students select a dissertation committee to be approved by the faculty of the Department of Women’s Studies and the Graduate School. On approval of the dissertation prospectus and successful demonstration of reading competency in a language other than English, students are advanced to candidacy. Students are awarded the Ph.D. after successful defense of the dissertation.


Students will be advised for their first year by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).  The DGS will assist students in developing an initial plan of study and exploring research interests and the resources of the university, suggest courses and faculty, and assist in identifying a research focus. By the end of the first year, students will identify an appropriate advisor. Although this advisor will typically serve in this role for the rest of the student’s career, students may at any time speak to the DGS to request assistance in transferring to a different advisor.

By the end of the second semester students are also expected to have identified a faculty member (referred to as the “first reader”) with whom they will work to complete their second year paper. This faculty member may or may not be the student’s advisor. It is expected that if the student chooses a faculty member who is not their advisor, they will do so in consultation with their advisor.

The student’s major field committee also serves an important role. Near the beginning of the fifth semester, students must identify a three-person major field committee that will approve the student’s overall course of study, assuring that the student has been adequately prepared in a major field and for the writing of a dissertation. The major field committee must include the student’s advisor (who will serve as chair), one affiliate faculty, and one scholar of the student’s choice.

Upon successful completion of all coursework and other major requirements for the PhD a student selects a dissertation committee consisting of five persons, including at least two departmental faculty members, one affiliate faculty, and two other scholars of the student’s choice. The dissertation chair must be either a departmental or affiliate faculty member.

Students may request in writing to change their advisor or committee members through the DGS.