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Lingua Franca's Real Guide to Grad School—Humanities

Table of Contents


22.   Introduction
21.   Graduate Student Existence
22.   The Rise of the Research Scholar
23.   Finances
24.   Admissions
25.   Rankings
26.   Teaching


27.   Art History
28.   Classics
29.   Comparative Literature
10.   English
11.   Ethnic Studies
12.   Film Studies
13.   French
14.   German
15.   Musicology
16.   Philosophy
17.   Religion
18.   Spanish
19.   Women's Studies


20.   Museum Studies
21.   Performance Studies
22.   Cognitive Science


222.Hirings and Tenurings


Maybe it's a passion, an instinct, or a quirk of character. Maybe you like to wrestle with complex problems. Maybe you cannot rest until you track down the missing pieces of an intellectual puzzle. Maybe when you helped run a psychology experiment you felt you had found your calling. Perhaps specialized prose, or political theory, or Chomskyan linguistics no longer intimidates you. Maybe at this point you simply know that you want to continue your studies but are not interested in going into business, law, or medicine. Or maybe you just like what you've seen of the life your professors lead. There are hundreds of good reasons to go to graduate school—but let's get real.

No matter what your motivations, to decide to get a Ph.D. in the humanities or social sciences at the beginning of the twenty-first century takes guts. Your favorite undergraduate professors may have already warned you about the relentless pace of the work, the often petty disputes among different factions within a discipline, and the capriciousness of the academic job market. But you've probably already made the decision to pursue your passion about a subject no matter what the challenges.

Having a passionate commitment is one thing, but knowing how to choose among hundreds of graduate departments is something else. Of course, you can ask your favorite professors about particular departments in a field, but even the most helpful and well-connected professors can't always maintain a grasp on the whole of their individual disciplines: They often contain too many subfields. So how else can you learn about what's out there? Those guidebooks currently available are either "how-to's" about a single facet of graduate school (admissions, financial aid, the dissertation, the job search), or compendia of departmental addresses, phone numbers, and degrees offered—valuable information, but useless when it comes to deciding which department is best suited to your interests and goals. And most of these guides provide no analysis of the disciplines and never stick their necks out by identifying particular departments and scholars.

Let's say you are an aspiring geographer who is interested in global politics, comfortable with digital technology, and intrigued by the spatial organization of large cities. Knowing what the usual guides tell you won't help determine how friendly a given department is to the latest theories of world political systems, nor will it help you grasp the issues raised by the popularity of computer mapping, and no guidebooks inform you of how scholars interested in the city are viewing urban geography today. Lingua Franca's Real Guide will not only brief you on the debates between traditional geographers and Marxist theorists but it will also tell you about the latest work by computer-mapping whizzes and feminist geographers, as well as the ways that theorists of geography are now making connections between local and global issues that affect city life. And we'll tell you how the job market in the field has shaken out in recent years.

Your first scholarly task as a prospective graduate student, then, is to meld the advice you'll get elsewhere with the analysis and guidance that Lingua Franca's Real Guide offers. Many graduate students and professors have told us that they went into graduate school flying blind. No one had ever outlined for them more than a subfield or two of any discipline, and apart from what they learned in introductory undergraduate classes, no professor had talked with them about the history of a discipline, from its origins in the research university to its present dimensions. And when they did discuss their graduate school plans with faculty, the talk seldom touched upon the deep intellectual currents that roil beneath the surface of today's debates. Unlike other graduate school guides on the market, then, which organize columns of information on a school-by-school basis, Lingua Franca's Real Guide approaches the topic discipline-by-discipline, giving you a better sense of each field's development and of how different programs compare within a given field.

Each chapter begins with a couple of brief biographies of your future comrades—grad students currently working on their doctorates within each discipline. While no one student is representative, these profiles are meant to bring the graduate experience to life—the breadth of a field and the myriad expectations and aspirations that students have about doing graduate level study. Some have known from an early age that they wanted to be professors; others experienced an intellectual epiphany in high school or college; still others find themselves in graduate school almost by chance—you'll be sure to find examples of all of these types in any graduate program. More significantly, some are engaged in work that is at the cutting edge of the discipline, while others are firmly rooted in traditional approaches—you'll likely find students all across this spectrum, as well, regardless of which school you choose.

"The Why Study It?" section provides a general sketch of a discipline's aims and suggests a few of the major questions you'll need to consider before making your decision about which program—and even which field—you'll apply for. You may, for instance, find that your growing interest in sociolinguistics is better explored in an anthropology program, or that your love for Buddhist sculpture would find better expression in a religion than an art history department. While this section may disabuse you of some idealized notions, it should replace them with a real sense of what it's like to do work in the field as a graduate student and a professor and what the intellectual issues are that you will be facing.

"How Has It Taken Shape?" gives the history of each discipline to the present day, since an educated decision about graduate school depends not only on knowing what the current intellectual climate is, but also on understanding how it got that way. How, for example, did art history come to be divided between object-oriented scholarship and theoretical work? Are all economists allergic to philosophical questions? What's the difference between a Ph.D. in religion and one in theology? Or between one in historical musicology and one in ethnomusicology? What do cultural anthropologists and physical anthropologists have in common? Seminal thinkers, books, and articles that have had an impact are mentioned, and it will be worth your while to acquaint yourself with the ones you don't already know—after all, this sort of independent research will be expected of you as a graduate student, and there's no time like the present to become accustomed to it. And if you do go on to graduate school, you'll be expected to know the discipline's history as well. (You may even want to reread this part again on your way to your new academic home just so that a professor's offhand reference to "the De Man affair" in comparative literature or "the Vail model of training" in psychology won't catch you totally unawares.)

We know, though, that what really brought you to Lingua Franca's Real Guide is the information contained in "What's Your Next Step?" Here we present a current snapshot of the discipline, the sort you might hope to get from consulting an impartial and omniscient senior professor in the field. Because no such creature exists, of course, we've assembled one for each discipline out of many interviews with senior and junior faculty, as well as administrators and grad students, at colleges and universities around the country. Here's where you'll find out not just which departments have the top professors in the discipline overall, but also which ones have noted specialists in the subfield that really interests you; not just which schools offer the best libraries, labs, or museums, but also which ones offer the most support for their graduates on the job market; not just the schools with the biggest funding packages, but also the ones with the most pedagogical training—something that will mean a lot to you as you stand for the first time in front of a group of expectant undergraduates. Equally helpful will be the description of the hurdles you will have to clear during the early years of graduate school, such as language exams and core curriculum requirements.

We began collecting this information by looking at departments that are standard-bearers. Such departments, often at older and richer institutions, are the ones that students and professors mention most often as past models of excellence. Yet today's departments are much less likely to be patterned after a few elite models: While the professorial star system and institutional name brands are still significant, their importance varies greatly from discipline to discipline, and so we discuss the workings of the prestige system on a discipline-by-discipline basis. Though a degree from an Ivy League institution or one of the great public universities is often still valuable on the job market, to apply only to these schools is a grave mistake. We made a point of quizzing professors and graduate students about which lower-profile departments might be the best places to go to study particular topics or to employ particular research methods. Don't be surprised when this guide points to places you may never have heard of, and to areas of research new to you, since we identify departments according to their specialties—something no rankings have done. Which communication departments favor the study of the political economy of the media? Which favor media effects? Which geography departments will train you in Geographic Information Systems? If you're a linguist, where can you study dialectology, sociolinguistics, or cognitive science? For students of French, which departments specialize in Francophone studies?

Eventually, of course, you'll be looking for a job, and though it might seem premature, we offer a brief assessment of your possibilities in "Are There Jobs Out There?" After all, graduate school isn't just an intellectual labor of love, it's also training for a very specific profession—that of the research university professor—and yet increasingly these positions are few and far between. In most disciplines, you can spend several years after graduation in low-paid short-term or adjunct teaching positions (often working at several different institutions simultaneously) before finding a tenure-track job, and chances are good you'll end up at a school several rungs below the classic research institution you've been trained for. And then, you may not find an academic position at all. With that in mind, we also mention work possibilities outside of the university system—an increasingly common topic of discussion among grad students—and we even offer you some options if you leave school after receiving just an M.A.

And finally, for more information, our "Resources" section will point you toward professional organizations, Web sites, books, and journals that will give you an even richer sense of what each discipline is about today.

You'll also find a number of smaller chapters. Some deal with issues that cut across the disciplines—like the place of teaching in your graduate school career and the problems with the university rankings released by groups like U.S. News & World Report, Princeton Review publications, and the National Research Council. Others chapters introduce some of the fields that are springing up in the fertile soil between existing disciplines. In virtually every field, much of the most exciting work crosses disciplinary boundaries and falls under the rubric of one or more "studies": cultural studies, African-American studies, American studies, medieval studies, and many others. Only a few of these, however, have established themselves as free-standing, Ph.D.-granting departments. We cover three of them here—performance studies, museum studies, and cognitive science—and as more of these programs gain critical mass and become viable disciplines of their own, they will be covered in future editions of Lingua Franca's Real Guide. Caveat emptor, however: As you talk to professors about graduate school, it's best to ask realistic questions about the best places to do interdisciplinary work. Is such research better for your second book and not for your dissertation? Does everyone praise the latest work at conferences but then hire quite traditional scholars? You'll have to judge the state of the newest work in conversations with as wide a range of people within a particular discipline as you can.

As with every book you'll read in graduate school, Lingua Franca's Real Guide is only one piece of the research you'll need to do. It will answer many of your questions, but with luck it will raise others that you will have to answer through further reading and through discussions with professors and students at any university you consider. Because departments and disciplines are not static, you should verify that the information we have provided is still current and complete. Star professors in particular are highly mobile, and your dream of studying heterodox economics at a particular institution may be foiled by the departure of even one or two of a given university's faculty. Nonetheless, if you read our overviews carefully—along with the background chapters on graduate student existence, the research scholar, admissions, and finances—you'll have a much better grasp of the big picture than all but a few students. You'll come away with a realistic—and often hard-nosed—assessment of the terrain of the academic landscape, as well as your chances for finding a home in it.

Who Studies It?

Many students enter women's studies programs to develop skills that will enable them to improve women's lives. Consider the ambitions of Insook Kwon, who in 1995 entered the Ph.D. program in women's studies at Clark University after earning an undergraduate degree in South Korea and an M.A. at Rutgers University. While living in South Korea, Kwon was incarcerated for helping women textile workers unionize. She was the first woman to win a lawsuit brought against the South Korean government for sexual torture endured in prison. With the money awarded her by the court, she founded the Labor Human Rights Center in Seoul, South Korea. Her research focuses on women and militarism in South Korea, and on Korean women's resistance to imperialism. After completing her Ph.D., Kwon plans to continue in academia, but she also plans to return to South Korea eventually and augment her academic research on Korean women with hands-on work in the women's movement. She writes columns for several South Korean daily newspapers.

Other women's studies students focus on literature and the arts, many of them examining the cultural construction of gender in a range of "texts"—literary, legal, scientific, or mass media. Patti Duncan, a doctoral student and visiting assistant professor at Emory University, is at work on a dissertation that examines how Asian-American women writers—Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Anchee Min, Mitsuye Yamada, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Trinh T. Minh-ha, among others—use silences to complicate the simplistic histories of Asian-American culture often taught in the United States. Duncan's thesis integrates Asian-American studies, history, literature, philosophy, postcolonial theory, and feminist theory. Like many women's studies students, she hopes to pursue university teaching after completing her Ph.D., but she also plans to remain politically active by working with Asian-Pacific communities; immigrants' rights groups; and lesbian, gay, and bisexual organizations.

Why Study It?

Outside observers do not always know what to make of a field that supports the work of students like Kwon and Duncan who aspire to be both scholars and activists; unlike such fields as English—which at least once had a well-defined mission and curriculum—women's studies has never followed a single, prevailing mandate and many debate whether it even should. The National Women's Studies Association (NWSA), founded in 1977, states in its constitution that women's studies refuses to accept sterile divisions between the academy and society, and that the field is designed to help women bring an end to all manner of discrimination. In practical terms, this means that women's studies scholars not only take an activist approach to theoretical questions, but also use theory to help them think about activist issues.

Further, like its twin sister, the feminist movement, women's studies is always reassessing its topics, methods, and practices—making it one of the most self-conscious of academic disciplines. In particular, great attention is placed on recognizing the interdependence of gender, race, class, and sexuality.

The result has been that undergraduate women's studies programs have tended to have close ties to activist projects—to counseling centers and issues of labor, education, sexuality, and community welfare—both inside and outside the university community. Graduate women's studies programs build on such ties, and yet for some students it is still an adjustment to actually study—as an academic research topic—activist work in which they have been deeply involved. As well, women's studies departments, often strapped for resources, sometimes find that a university community makes nonacademic demands that they can't handle. Ruth Perry, professor of English and women's studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that sometimes, "They want us to deal with the bulimics when we just want to theorize eighteenth-century literature." Yet it is precisely the dynamic relationship between the theoretical and the practical that defines this discipline.

How Has It Taken Shape?

The sheer variety of scholarship and activism taking place within women's studies makes the field difficult to categorize. As an academic research discipline, women's studies is among the youngest in this guide—the first undergraduate for-credit classes in the discipline were offered in the late 1960s, and doctorates didn't appear until the 1990s. Women's studies has always been inextricably linked with the feminist movement, which itself grew out of the civil rights, New Left, and black power movements. Female members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) set up one of the first women's studies courses at the New Orleans Free School in 1966. (The Free University of Seattle, founded by students at the University of Washington at Seattle, established one of the earliest courses in women's history in 1965.)

Women's studies emerged from the tremendous influx of women into academia in the 1960s and from the new consciousness inspired by the then-nascent women's liberation movement. As women started to enter male-dominated fields, they began talking to their female colleagues about the sex biases in their disciplines. However, as Ruth Perry points out, at that time they rarely had colleagues in their own departments, so they would seek out the token women hired elsewhere. From its very beginnings the field was a cross-disciplinary conversation. These scholars found that they often shared experiences of marginalization in their respective fields. Sociologist Alice Rossi, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, for example, received her Ph.D. in 1957 but could not find an academic position until 1969. That year Rossi and several female colleagues who faced similar problems founded the Women's Caucus of the American Sociological Association. Other women activists took up academic careers to advance feminist goals. Sara Evans, now a prominent historian of U.S. women at the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities, is an example. As an undergraduate, she studied with one of the few professors then specializing in women's history. After activist work in the Chicago women's liberation movement, she began graduate school in 1969, intending to help put women's history on the map as an academic research subject.

By the early 1970s several fledgling women's studies programs had received administrative approval. The discipline slowly began to take root, though not at the most elite and high-profile institutions (the University of Pennsylvania being one of the notable exceptions). By 1977, when the NWSA was founded, there were 276 formal programs. This figure did not include every college or university that offered a few women's studies courses—a much higher number. By 1980 there were 332 well-established programs. Ten years later, the 1990 NWSA Directory of Women's Studies Programs: Women's Centers and Women's Research Centers listed 621 programs, with 102 of them offering graduate work in women's studies (minors, concentrations, degrees). Beverly Guy-Sheftall's 1992 Ford Foundation report on the status of the discipline put the count at more than 900 undergraduate programs; that number has continued to grow. The 2000 NWSA Directory, which was not complete when this guide went online, is expected to list over 700 graduate programs.

During the 1970s, women's studies scholars put much of their energy into establishing their field's academic legitimacy—winning administrative support within universities, locating hard-to-find materials about women's lives for their courses, and conducting original research. As with many other new fields, women's studies was linked in complex ways to the available sources of institutional support—in the early days of the field, the Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Rockefeller Brothers, Mellon, Helena Rubinstein, Russell Sage, Exxon, and Lilly Foundations contributed generously to the field. The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, the National Institute of Education, and the Women's Educational Equity Act (all operated under the Department of Education) supported research about women throughout the 1970s, as did the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation.

The effects of this funding history cannot be overestimated. Foundations were generous with money in order to "get the word out," to counter the discriminations of the past, and to kick off research. Still, a great deal of progress was made on shoestring budgets, thanks largely to the enthusiasm, devotion, and hard work of the discipline's founding scholars.

Once a critical mass of feminist scholars and programs had established itself in the academy (by the early 1980s), women's studies emerged as a discipline of considerable pluralism but also one in which three broad aims of scholarship could be identified.

One objective has been simply to bring the study of women into fields that have traditionally neglected it—which turns out to be practically every area of human knowledge. In the early 1960s, books by women were largely left off English syllabi, and history classes dealt little with women's movements or even women's daily lives in the past. Women's studies and its influence on theory and research in other disciplines have changed all that.

Another aim has been to transform our understanding of what knowledge is and how it is produced and reinforced. Although they've approached these subjects from different vantage points, philosopher Sandra Harding of the University of California at Santa Cruz, and sociologist Patricia Hill-Collins of the University of Cincinnati, for example, both point to alternative forms of being and knowing, emphasizing the role of subjectivity, emotions, and experience in the generation of knowledge.

And finally, other feminist scholars, often with more direct ties to political reform and activism, have focused much of their work on challenging conventional methods of research. They explore the problems surrounding quantitative approaches; question the hierarchical power relationships between researcher and researched; and propose techniques for incorporating process, conflict, and contradiction into their methods. In Translated Woman: Crossing the Border With Esperanza's Story (1993), for example, University of Michigan anthropologist Ruth Behar includes an economic and political analysis of her relationship with her subject, a poor Mexican market woman. In Compelled to Crime: The Gender Entrapment of Battered Black Women (1995), sociologist Beth Richie, a longtime activist against domestic violence in African-American communities, offers her analysis of incarcerated women who have been battered or sexually abused as an alternative to simpler cause-and-effect approaches to understanding crime. Whether a project is anchored in historical research, theoretical scholarship, or activism, women's studies tends to view it on multiple levels—examining its basic assumptions, its place in the research programs of the university and general society, and its possible social ramifications.

A major topic of debate in the field is the recent shift from the study of women to the study of how gender is culturally constructed, and gender's effects on men, women, and society as a whole. Advocates of gender studies claim that the dearth of scholarship on masculinity in women's studies is detrimental to the field because gender cannot be understood by examining femininity alone. Critics consider "gender studies" a backlash against feminism, a ploy to remove women's lives as legitimate subjects for research. The rhetoric of gender, they maintain, is increasingly used in a neutral fashion that avoids questions of power, privilege, and women's subordination. To study gender, they fear, would be to strip women's studies of politics. "This conversation goes on at most women's studies departments and has for a long time," says Ruth Perry. "It is not really between two deeply divided factions, but about the best strategies for the field, especially for researchers working on gender in new ways."

The place of postmodern theory within women's studies is another vexed issue. Both feminism and postmodernism represent challenges to intellectual orthodoxy, and both emphasize cultural construction, the notion that gender roles and other social relations are not natural and static but historically and culturally contingent.

At the same time, elements of postmodernism can be inimical to the activist strain of the women's studies mission. French literary critic Roland Barthes's proposal that there is no such thing as "the author," for instance, is viewed suspiciously by feminists who are wary of any theory that eliminates the privileged status of the author at the very moment that works by women authors are finally entering the canon.

Critiques have also been leveled against women's studies from both the right and the left. Christina Hoff Sommers and Daphne Patai have objected to what they see as the ideological dogmatism and overpoliticization of the field. From the left, some have argued that feminist theory has been insufficiently sensitive to differences of race, class, and nationality. Though a term like "patriarchy" might seem self-evident, can it be mapped in any meaningful way across the differences in experience of Afghani women living under the Taliban and New York socialites negotiating unequal inheritance laws? In what ways can both be said to be victims of patriarchy?

None of these debates is destroying the field—on the contrary, they have enlivened it in terms of theory, and probably helped it to attract student interest. And women's studies scholars have already begun to address such questions. Feminism/Postmodernism, a 1989 collection edited by historian Linda J. Nicholson, of SUNY Albany, In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics by Gayatri Spivak, (1987) and Feminists Theorize the Political, a 1992 anthology edited by philosopher Judith Butler of the University of California at Berkeley and historian Joan Scott of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, have all offered perspectives on the implications of these issues for feminism.

There is plenty of good news for women's studies scholars, not the least of which is the steady growth in the number of both graduate and undergraduate programs in the field, as well as the more than eighty centers for research on women at such institutions as Brown University, Stanford University, Wellesley College, Barnard College, Smith College, Radcliffe College, Penn, Rutgers, SUNY Buffalo, Vassar College, and many others. After decades of fighting for legitimacy, women's studies has established itself.

What's Your Next Step?

There are graduate women's studies programs at more than 170 colleges and universities—from master's programs, to minors and concentrations embedded within traditional disciplines, to the freestanding interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs at Clark, Emory, the University of Iowa, Minnesota-Twin Cities (where it's called feminist studies), Union Institute, and Washington-Seattle. New Ph.D. programs have just been established at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Maryland at College Park, and Ohio State University is in the process of establishing a doctorate program also. The growth of undergraduate women's studies has yielded many more academic jobs in the field; in response, women's studies is professionalizing.

Doctoral degrees in women's studies, however, are a 1990s invention—the first Ph.D. wasn't awarded until 1995—and it's one that is still being tested. Echoing many of her colleagues at other institutions, Ellen Lewin, an anthropologist who chairs Iowa's women's studies Ph.D. program, says, "We're training people to be different from ourselves. We [the graduate faculty] don't have degrees in women's studies. We all have backgrounds in other things." There may still be only a handful of freestanding Ph.D. programs in women's studies in the United States, but their ranks are growing.

The programs at Emory and Clark, both of which began in the early 1990s, are the oldest and best established. The Emory program is the best funded—as a jealous graduate chair at another institution put it, the program has "more money than God"—with ten core faculty, all of whom have joint appointments with another department. (Over fifty faculty are associated with the program in some way.) The women's studies program has especially close ties to literature, anthropology, and theology/religion. Emory regards itself as a training ground for future scholars, and, accordingly, most of its students hope to take up academic careers—although many of them will continue to be involved in projects outside the university. Currently, there are thirty-eight full-time Ph.D. students at Emory, most in their mid-twenties to early thirties. There are also about fifty students in the certificate program, which offers graduate students in traditional disciplines official recognition for focused research and course work in women's studies. Emory accepts four to six Ph.D. students annually, and they all receive full funding for four years. According to students there, the guaranteed funding and the university-wide emphasis on teacher training are among Emory's greatest assets.

At Clark, the thirty interdisciplinary women's studies faculty are all based in traditional disciplines, although efforts to implement joint appointments are under way. The program has a development and geography emphasis and a strength in the social sciences. One of Clark's distinguishing features is that the women's studies Ph.D. candidates form an unusually diverse group: More than a third are from the developing world; many have activist backgrounds; and more than one-third are of "nontraditional" age (between thirty-five and sixty). Clark's first Ph.D. students entered in 1992, and there are currently fifteen full-timers. The program awarded its first Ph.D. in May 1997 to a student who had already landed a tenure-track job at California State University at Long Beach. The Clark program accepts two to four students annually, all with tuition waivers, but offers stipends to only one or two incoming students. For those who get them, stipends are renewable for up to three years, after which the students must fend for themselves. Some have earned money by teaching at Clark while others have found intermittent teaching jobs at area colleges. Although at least half of Clark students plan to teach at the university level upon graduation, the majority seek to combine teaching with policy work or community activism.

Iowa admitted its first Ph.D.'s in the fall of 1998. In the fall of 1999 there were eight students in the program; about four or five students will be admitted each year. The Iowa program has particularly strong ties to anthropology and is also solid in literature, history, film, and transnational and postcolonial studies. There is also a new program in sexuality studies at Iowa, to which the women's studies program is closely connected. Funding is adequate but not lavish; Lewin says, "we're not offering luxury rides, but so far we have managed to get everyone funded" through a combination of university and outside fellowships, teaching assistantships (especially in English comp; Iowa lacks an undergraduate women's studies program), and resident assistantships (for grad students willing to live in dorms as advisers). The program has a core faculty of ten, only one of whom has a full-time women's studies appointment. Washington-Seattle has an equally new Ph.D. program of similar size, its faculty interests are eclectic, ranging from militarism and masculinity to modern Chinese history and from Third World feminisms to the psychology of violence against women.

Minnesota-Twin Cities's feminist studies, like Iowa's, requires students to acquire substantial expertise in a particular discipline, but has close ties to the school's other interdisciplinary graduate programs (cultural studies, medieval studies, international studies). The program, which began in 1997, will admit about two or three new candidates each year; so far it has been able to fund several with a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, and a few others have had outside support. In the future, students who don't get fellowships should be able to get T.A. jobs. Feminist studies has eleven full and forty-two affiliated faculty and is especially strong in feminist theory, feminist pedagogy, U.S. multiculturalism, and global studies on women and gender. The Center for Advanced Feminist Studies, a renowned and cutting-edge interdisciplinary research center, is a particular bonus to the program.

The single most active private funder of women's studies˝related projects has been the Ford Foundation. From 1972 to 1986, Ford funneled more than $70 million into women's studies, and the foundation has continued to lead other donors in both the number and the total annual amount of awards. In the 1990s, that funding zeal lessened, but even as recently as 1998, Ford contributed nearly $1.5 million to finance women's studies from Ho Chi Minh City to Wellesley, Massachusetts. More recently, women's studies projects in developing nations, as well as U.S.-based research on Third World women, have received funding from other major foundations, including the Carnegie Corporation and the MacArthur Foundation. Unfortunately, though, many successful programs that depended on federal support were left high and dry during and after the Reagan-Bush era. A 1985 study concluded that from 1980 to 1984, while federal moneys allocated to all types of research rose almost 80 percent, funding for research on topics related to women either declined or disappeared entirely from the eight federal programs and departments primarily involved in generating the funds. The loss of these critical funds has not been offset by subsequent increases in support from private foundations. Today, a few high-profile grants notwithstanding, the vast majority of women's studies programs receive no outside moneys, and only 4 percent of programs reporting in a 1985 Ford Foundation report relied on grants for more than one quarter of their budget.

Because Ph.D. programs in women's studies are still relatively young and small, money tends to be tight, and new students may feel the pinch even at a secure and growing department. The dispersal of existing funds has by no means been predictable, and new students should carefully investigate the flow of funds to particular departments. In general, programs with close connections to an area studies or an international affairs program elsewhere in the university have managed to do well even in the academic funding crunch. Nevertheless, partly because so much work is done collaboratively, the financial hardships in women's studies—like the windfalls—tend to be shared by the whole program. And as mentioned above, since teaching may figure as one of your sources of income, be sure to ask how much you'll be asked to teach (if at all), and what sort of reimbursement you'll receive for it. The chapter on teaching discusses some of pluses and minuses of being a grad student instructor.

More practically, you should talk to current graduate students to find out about a given school's reputation for such things as mentoring and dependable funding throughout the entire program of study. Above all, be sure to ask about the job-placement record for graduates—something you can also check out at Lingua Franca's on-line hirings and tenurings listings. It's even worth asking about the number who abandon the program partway through, a possible sign of troubles within the department. You should be on the lookout for tensions and rifts, but be careful not to conclude too much from only one or two personal testimonies, and bear in mind that graduate study at the best of institutions can be grueling—a certain amount of grumbling will be common everywhere.

The two newest programs are at UCLA and Maryland-College Park. The program at UCLA, which admits no more than two or three new candidates a year, is particularly strong in women's health, as well as film, history, literature, and Chicana studies. Most students will be funded through fellowships. Beginning in 2001, the feminist journal Signs: The Journal of Women in Culture and Society will be located at UCLA, which should add to the new program's prestige. Maryland-College Park (the home base of the NWSA) has a particular strength in African-American studies as well as in feminist theory; women's movements; feminist analysis of cultural production; women, work, and family; and gender, race, and sexual identities. The program has ten core faculty and nearly eighty others who are affiliated with it in some way. Students will be funded through a combination of fellowships and assistantships. Maryland-College Park students have an unusually high number of required courses (five); this program places particular emphasis on creating an intellectual community among the students.

Prospective students may also want to look into joint Ph.D. programs, which offer a double doctorate in women's studies and another discipline. Some of these programs are better funded and provide access to more university-wide resources than the women's studies Ph.D. programs mentioned above. Harvard University offers a Ph.D. in religion, gender, and culture; and the University of Wisconsin at Madison offers an M.A. and Ph.D. in women's history. Since 1994 Michigan has launched joint programs in women's studies and psychology; women's studies and English; and women's studies and history. The university guarantees five years of funding for all students enrolled in these joint programs.

A couple of schools combine a women's studies M.A. with a more advanced degree in another field. Brandeis University's women's studies program offers a master's with ten of the school's Ph.D. programs. Cincinnati offers one with a J.D. degree, currently the only degree combination of its kind in the country, though some other institutions are considering similar arrangements.

Other schools now offer full master's degree programs in women's studies, while many more offer certificates or concentrations within traditional disciplines; the amount of financial support in these programs varies widely. Ohio State's M.A. program accepts about fifteen students a year and provides all of them with either teaching or research assistantships. Students in that two-year program can choose to take comprehensive exams or to write a master's thesis as their final project. At San Diego State University, the two-year-old program funds about half of the eight or so students accepted each year and offers about three graduate women's studies courses a year, with another five advanced undergraduate courses available to graduate students.

Georgia State University admits eight to ten students annually to its master's program but gives only one of them a fellowship. Many students there pursue degrees part time in order to continue their careers or to earn a living while they study. Georgia State offers about six graduate level courses annually. The Rutgers master's program, one of the few one-year programs, offers the largest number of women's studies courses at the master's level in the United States—thirty-two per year—but does not offer stipends or fellowships. The University of Arizona at Tucson funds the majority of its students through teaching or research assistantships and offers twenty-two courses per year. Arizona-Tucson also offers specializations in women's studies through its anthropology, literature, history, and sociology Ph.D. programs.

Barbara Luebke, professor of journalism and women's studies at the University of Rhode Island, recommends that prospective students carefully investigate a graduate program's internal politics as well as the external campus politics that might affect women's studies. "Feminists choosing a program need to be aware of the climate for feminists on a campus. Can they be comfortable there? There are places with unrest." She also recommends that students closely examine the admissions standards of programs they're considering, since at some schools students may enter without much undergrad background in women's studies. As a result, says Luebke, the courses in the program may be "dumbed down," disappointing students who have a strong women's studies background and are seeking intellectual challenge. (This is more likely to happen in master's programs, which are far less selective.)

Are There Jobs Out There?

Despite the many programs, centers for research, and women's studies lists at university presses, students still must consider where they can put their talents to work. Where do women's studies students find jobs? As a group, graduates of women's studies master's programs tend to pursue a wide range of careers. These programs do not necessarily assume that students will go on to complete a Ph.D. and so accept students with diverse goals. To date, for example, graduates of the M.A. program at Ohio State have gone on to law school, to a variety of Ph.D. programs, and to government, art, editing, or social service positions. One Ohio State graduate now runs a black studies program at another university. The University of Alabama has one of the oldest women's studies M.A. programs in the country. Now twenty-two years old, it has been very successful in placing alumni in jobs in its region. About one-third of Alabama's M.A. graduates teach in universities, while others have pursued administrative careers in higher education or jobs in editing and publishing. Some direct and staff women's centers, and many recent grads have gone on to law school.

It is only at the doctoral level that these career trends change: Doctoral programs in most disciplines regard it as their central mission to produce the next generation of professors. Given the historic marginalization of women's studies and the tight job market throughout academia, it seems reasonable to be skeptical of the marketability of a women's studies Ph.D. But surprisingly, the employment prospects for the new crop of graduates look good. Undergraduate women's studies programs are proliferating rapidly and, as Berenice Carroll, president of the NWSA, points out, "those programs are looking for people trained in women's studies." Just a few years ago, there were no such people; now many programs will be eager to have them. Says Carroll, "I think it is realistic to say there is a growing demand." Other women's studies administrators and professors echo Carroll's optimism, noting that there are still so few Ph.D. programs, each graduating so few students each year, that, for some time to come there should be relatively little competition for such positions. But as M.J. Maynes, Minnesota-Twin Cities's director of graduate women's studies, puts it, "We don't know yet. That's why we're keeping the numbers small. We're being cautious at this point." And Iowa's Ellen Lewin warns, "Outside women's studies, [job prospects] are more problematic. We insist they do concentrations, but anthropology departments probably won't consider them anthropologists." On the other hand, Carroll says emphatically, students enrolled in joint Ph.D. programs (those that offer a double degree in women's studies and a more traditional discipline), "should have little difficulty getting a job."

So far the handful of women's studies Ph.D.'s—all from Clark and Emory—have done well, landing jobs in women's studies departments (some tenure track, some not), prestigious postdocs, or administrative positions at women's colleges. The career trajectories of the new crop of women's studies graduates are quite promising, but remain largely unmapped. Ellen Lewin points out that many of her graduates may end up combining community and academic work: "There's an experimental feeling to all this. Just as they're going to do scholarship somewhat differently, [the new Ph.D.'s] will probably end up in careers somewhat different from what we can imagine."


National Women's Studies Association
(301) 403-0525

Web Sites
Women's Studies Programs, Departments, & Research Centers (links to more than 500 programs)

Artemis Guide to Women's Studies Programs in the U.S. (links to over 250 programs, organized by state)

Women's Studies on the Internet

UIUC Women's Studies Searchable Database the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library

Women's Studies Programs in the U.S. (lists over 600 programs)

Graduate Programs in Women's Studies (an international list, organized by degree type, maintained by Smith College)

Voice of the Shuttle: Web Page for Humanities Research-Women's Studies, Gender Studies, Queer Theory

Further Reading

Compelled to Crime: The Gender Entrapment of Battered Black Women(Routledge), Beth Richie

Feminism/Postmodernism(Routledge), Linda J. Nicholson, ed.

Feminists Theorize the Political(Routledge), Judith Butler, Joan Scott, eds.

Guide to Graduate Work in Women's Studies(NWSA), Karen Kidd, Ande Spencer

In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics(Routledge), Gayatri Spivak

NWSA Directory of Women's Studies Programs: Women's Centers, and Women's Research Centers(NWSA), Laura Nichols, Linda Martin

Translated Woman: Crossing the Border With Esperanza's Story(Beacon), Ruth Behar

Women's Studies in the United States(Ford Foundation), Catherine Stimpson, Nina Cobb

Women's Studies Graduates: The First Generation(Teacher's College Press), Barbara F. Luebke, Mary Ellen Reill


Feminist Issues

Feminist Review

Feminist Studies Gender & Society

Signs: The Journal of Women in Culture and Society

Women's Studies International Forum

Schools Mentioned in This Chapter






California State-Long Beach




Georgia State



Maryland-College Park


Michigan-Ann Arbor

Minnesota-Twin Cities

Ohio State



Rhode Island


San Diego State



SUNY Albany

SUNY Buffalo



UC-Santa Cruz


Union Institute






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