Thursday, July 31, 2014
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New options in women’s studies dept.

Boston University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will be launching a new certificate program in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies in the fall 2013 semester, officials said.

GRS Associate Dean Jeffery Hughes said this certificate program for graduate students is comparable to an undergraduate minor in women’s issues.

“The purpose [of this program] is to provide a place where graduate students, typically ones doing a dissertation research on some topic that involves women, have some common place to discuss them [women’s issues],” Hughes said.

Hughes said this program is exclusive to graduate students who want to pursue an extra qualification in women’s studies. Students studying subjects such as English, sociology, history and political science could all benefit from this certificate program.

Hughes said graduate students who have taken courses in women’s studies are already informally pursuing this WGS certification. This program gives their courses of study a formal label, which could be important for them while attempting to enter the job market.

“[Pursuing this certification] implies to a future employer, primarily a college or university, that this student is not just qualified to teach straight English courses, but has taken a curriculum and thought about women’s issues more broadly,” Hughes said.

Only students who are already enrolled in a graduate program can apply for this WGS certification program. He also said there has been significant demand for this program, and there are up to 20 students expected to enroll this upcoming fall semester.

Psychology professor Deborah Belle said in an email that the creation of the certification program was inspired by an existing interdisciplinary undergraduate course, WS 101/102, called “Gender & Sexuality: An Interdisciplinary Introduction.”

“For two years now we have been co-teaching it [WS 101/102] … The experience of learning from faculty members across [the sciences] who focus on shared questions about gender and sexuality has been extraordinary,” Belle said. “We want to provide that sort of experience to our graduate students as well.”

Belle said she expects students in GRS graduate programs such as english, sociology, religion, history and psychology to enroll in this graduate certificate program. She said many recent graduates have expressed that they wish they had the opportunity to experience such a program.

“Students pursuing this certificate will learn how folks in different disciplines think about and study questions very closely related to their own intellectual interests,” Belle said. “Becoming aware of ways of thinking outside one’s own discipline can lead to exciting new directions.”

Carrie Preston, BU associate professor of English, said in an email that this is the first time BU’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program is becoming involved in graduate education. She said this graduate certificate will increase the general importance of gender and sexuality studies at BU.

“This certificate program also represents one response to the charged debates about the future of programs like WGS,” Preston said. “As gender and sexuality are increasingly being integrated into all the disciplines and departments, women’s studies programs have been embroiled in contentious debates about whether or not they have accomplished their mission.”

Preston said this certificate will expand career opportunities for students in fields involving policy development, nonprofit organizations and public health. Candidates will be required to take four courses focused on women, gender and sexuality, students and must attend a practical workshop on teaching in the field.

She said two of these required courses can be selected from the student’s chosen program or from any other subject across the university. One required class is the newly offered WGS 801, called “Theories and Methods in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.”

The fourth course must be an interdisciplinary, team-taught course in the Boston-area Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies.

“WGS hopes to encourage an interdisciplinary exploration that considers the ways gender and sexuality impacts our minds, bodies, identities and imaginations,” Preston said.

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