Current Students, Requirements

Academic Stages to Degree

General Examination (Ph.D.)

The general exam list includes readings from WMST 601, 602 and 621 for the prior two years, as well as other books and articles the faculty consider basic to our field. The list changes annually. The exam is administered in late summer or early fall (recently, over the 3rd or 4th weekend of August). A three-person faculty committee makes up, administers, and grades the exam.

The exam is a written take-home examination that students have 72 hours to complete. Students will meet with the examining committee after taking the exam to obtain feedback and their grade within 45 days from submission of the exam. Exam grades will be “pass,” “pass with conditions,” or “fail.” Students who fail will be permitted one make-up; the date for this make-up must be prior to the beginning of the spring semester.

Second-Year Interdisciplinary Paper

All students are required to produce a 25-40-page (including reference list) second year interdisciplinary paper no later than October of the student’s fifth semester, in time to be included as part of the student’s portfolio review. Students are expected to examine a topic and make use of, and illustrate their knowledge of, more than one disciplinary perspective. Students may revise an already written seminar paper or write a new paper.

Major Field Examination

Students are expected to take their major field exam within two years of successfully completing their General Exam requirement. In this exam, students will demonstrate a strong theoretical understanding of feminist theory, in-depth knowledge of interdisciplinary perspectives in their field of specialization, and a competency in at least two methodologies/approaches appropriate to the exploration of their areas of inquiry.

The student’s major field committee will assist in designing and articulating a broad major field, advising on appropriate courses, and preparing the reading list for the exam. The format for administering the exam will be determined by the committee in consultation with the student.

The department has identified the following areas that draw on the strengths of the research faculty (departmental and affiliate). They serve as a guide for the breadth required of a major field and provide a descriptive language for research areas broadly recognized by practitioners of women’s studies. Students may select one of these broad major areas or create new designations for their own self-designed field.

(1) Gender, Race, Racialization, and/or Diaspora Studies;

(2) Women’s Movements, Global and Local;

(3) Bodies, Genders, Sexualities;

(4) Gendered Labor: Households and Communities;

(5) Art, Culture, Technologies, and Social Change.

Examples of recent major fields are:

– 20th Century Lesbian Theory, History, Culture & Literature

– Canadian Studies and Feminist Movement Histories

– Towards a Queer Asian American Critique

– Feminist Perspectives on Transnational Capital and Racial Formations

– Black Visual Culture and Social Change: Diasporic Feminist Visions

– Black Queer Feminist Thought and Pedagogy

– Resituating Reproduction within Technoscientific and Transnational Feminist Frames

– Black Women, Spirituality and Social Justice in Contemporary Popular Culture

– Disabling Inequalities and Intersecting Identities

– Intersectional Approaches to Prostitution, Juvenile Justice and Racialization

– Intersecting Between Collective and Interpersonal Violences


The doctoral dissertation represents an original contribution to the field of Women’s Studies and a commitment to its interdisciplinary pursuit of meaningful knowledge. The first step in writing a dissertation is to develop and defend a prospectus that will serve as a guide for the actual writing of the dissertation. The prospectus is prepared under the supervision of the dissertation chair and in consultation with other dissertation committee members.

When the student has completed a draft of the prospectus satisfactorily to the dissertation committee chair, the chair convenes a meeting of the full dissertation committee, at which the student presents the prospectus to the committee. During this meeting, the student is provided the opportunity to engage with faculty to demonstrate the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the work. There are four possible outcomes after a prospectus defense: 1) the prospectus may be approved as submitted; 2) the committee may suggest approval with minor revisions; 3) the committee may suggest major revisions to strengthen the prospectus and request that the student resubmit a revised prospectus for another reading; or 4) the committee may disapprove the prospectus, provide significant feedback on proposed changes, and request another prospectus defense.

A student is advanced to candidacy following successful defense of the dissertation prospectus and all other pre-dissertation requirements (required courses, General Exam, major field exam, second-year paper, an approved portfolio review, fulfillment of the second language requirement). A student must be admitted to candidacy for the doctorate within five years after admission to the doctoral program and at least six months before the date on which the degree will be conferred.


A student’s dissertation must be completed within nine years after starting the doctoral program, or within four years after advancing to candidacy, whichever is greater. After the dissertation is completed, an oral defense is required (and revisions to the dissertation may be requested) before the PhD is conferred.

Other Requirements

Language Requirement

Doctoral students must show competency in a language other than English. This may be done by successful completion of language courses through the intermediate university level or by successful completion of a language exam administered by the department and graded by one department member or affiliate faculty fluent in that language. The Women’s Studies language exam tests both comprehension and translation skills. International students who passed the TOEFL and anyone who has passed an intermediate college-level language course within five years prior to admittance to the Women’s Studies doctoral program are exempt from this requirement. The language requirement must be completed before advancement to candidacy.

Portfolio for Assessment of Continuation in Graduate Program (Ph.D.)

A portfolio will include the following:

1. Brief student statement of work completed and future plans (2-4 pages)

2. Copy of transcript

3. Faculty’s written evaluations of student’s required course work

4. General Examination grade

5. First reader’s summary and assessment of Second-year Interdisciplinary Paper

6. Evidence of, or a plan for, language requirement completion

7. Teaching evaluations

8. Updated advisor form with all relevant signatures (including having identified major field committee members)

9. Updated curriculum vitae

Students’ portfolios must be completed and submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies by November of their fifth semester. The departmental faculty review each portfolio to determine if the student should continue in the program and will notify the student of her/his status at the end of fall semester. There are four possible outcomes of the portfolio review: Approved, Additional Information is Required with Re-evaluation in Spring, Inadequate Progress, Inadequate Progress with Decision to Terminate.

The renewal of funding is based on adequate progress to degree.