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BU has launched a new certificate program in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies (WGS) to provide an interdisciplinary platform for graduate students interested in these studies.
“Across the nation, gender and sexuality are increasingly being integrated into all disciplines and departments,” says Carrie Preston, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of English and WGS director of graduate studies. “The graduate certificate enables students enrolled in graduate programs across the University to pursue comprehensive study in the vibrant, interdisciplinary fields of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and receive institutional acknowledgement of their work.”
The new program provides “a common ground” for graduate students researching a topic involving women or gender or sexuality issues, says W. Jeffrey Hughes, a CAS professor of astronomy and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences associate dean. “For example, it will bring together a student in English studying 19th-century women authors with a student from political science studying the suffragette movement, and someone else from religion studying gender or sexuality issues as they relate to organized religion,” he says, and allow them to discuss women’s issues from multiple perspectives.
The program has already drawn interest from GRS graduate students and those from the School of Law, the School of Medicine, the School of Theology, and the College of Fine Arts.
Ryan Weberling (GRS’17) says that questions of gender and sexuality have informed his research and work activities since he was an undergraduate and a youth development worker. These questions persisted after he began a PhD program in English and American literature at BU, but “without a formal curriculum,” he says, “I was unsure how to order them or discuss them as part of my degree program.” The new certificate program has “pulled these loose ends together for me in a set of course requirements and provides a tangible outcome in the form of a professional credential.” He says the coursework so far has been exhilarating.
The program was inspired, Preston says, by the introduction two years ago of an undergraduate minor program designed to supplement students’ work in their respective majors. “We wanted to do that for the graduate level as well,” she says.
While the certificate is designed primarily “to make our students better and more rounded scholars and teachers,” Hughes says, it will also make them more marketable. “It will provide them with a formal qualification that shows that they have studied women’s issues and are prepared to teach women’s issues courses.” Many universities and colleges will find that attractive, he says, because they’ll essentially be getting “two for the price of one”—a historian or a literary scholar who can teach women’s studies as well as history or literature. Preston says the certificate program will help students compete for jobs in academia by preparing them “for positions in policy development, nonprofit organizations, public health, and other fields.”
Weberling says he feels confident the new program will provide him with more flexibility when it comes time to market his research and teaching experience. “Job descriptions continue to be increasingly specialized, but often request a combination of abilities and interdisciplinary interests,” he says. “The certificate will give me something to point to as an example of the different approaches I take to my work.”
Candidates in the program must take four courses focused on women, gender, and/or sexuality to earn the graduate certificate. Required courses include the new graduate seminar Theories and Methods in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, an interdisciplinary, team-taught course offered by the MIT-based Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies, and two relevant courses from University graduate schools. Among these are GRS’ Women in the Muslim World, Gender and Judaism, and Gender in Literature and Film; the College of Communication’s Women and Film; LAW’s Feminist Jurisprudence and Domestic Violence; and the School of Public Health’s Women and Health Policy.
Certificate candidates must also participate in a pedagogical workshop, organized by the director of graduate studies, that focuses on the challenges graduate students face when implementing gender analysis in their curriculum. There will also be an optional monthly WGS graduate symposium series.