Joint PhD Programs

Joint PhD Graduate Programs

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Historical Overview
Graduate Chairs
Doctoral Programs Committee


Required Courses in Women’s Studies

Cognates and Other Requirements

Satisfactory Progress

Master's Degrees

Continuous Enrollment
Joint PhD Student Handbook

The University of Michigan Women’s Studies Department offers four joint interdisciplinary PhD options. It offers no stand alone PhD program.

The available joint PhD programs are in:

By choosing one of our joint PhD degrees, students benefit from:

  • Opportunities for interdisciplinary research and mentoring with a diverse faculty community dedicated to excellence
  • An active cohort of students involved in both Women’s Studies and another discipline
  • The intellectual and financial resources of a top-tier research university.

The joint degree is unique in that it combines grounding in one of four disciplines, training in feminist theories and methodologies, and interdisciplinary coursework in Women’s Studies. Students fulfill requirements in two units and pass a preliminary examination in both their disciplinary department and in Women’s Studies. In some cases, the dissertation project will be centrally located in the discipline and informed by feminist theory and/or methodology; in other cases, the project will exist at the intersection of the discipline and Women’s Studies as an interdisciplinary endeavor.

For more information on applying and admissions to the joint PhD programs, please click here for more information.

Historical Overview

In 1982, the Women’s Studies Department established a Graduate Certificate to serve graduate students already enrolled in a terminal degree program. Functioning as a supplement to a PhD or terminal degree, this 15-credit program sought to offer formal training in a field that until then was either largely self-taught or reflected only in dissertation research.

Twelve years later, we began to offer an interdepartmental doctoral program for small groups of students whose work cannot or should not be constricted by parameters of traditional disciplines. These doctoral students have the opportunity to acquire the conceptual and methodological tools grounded in the interdisciplinary perspective of Women’s Studies. With an interdisciplinary faculty committee that provides shaping direction from an early stage, these students benefit from the kind of collaborative mentorship necessary to develop and complete an interdisciplinary dissertation.

The first students were admitted to the joint doctoral programs in English and Psychology in 1994, followed by History in 1999. During that period, the Department committed itself to staffing a Graduate Chair position, which oversees student progress and program policies. A joint doctoral program was approved with Sociology in 2002, with the first students to be admitted in 2004. Although there remain challenges, the joint doctoral programs have been extremely successful as a doctoral experience, and their success has created a distinctive niche for the Department nationally. In addition, the joint PhD programs have richly benefited the Department as a whole: undergraduates profit from PhD students’ teaching grounded in feminist pedagogy; faculty appreciate being able to engage in a sustained manner with an individual’s training in an interdisciplinary field; and students contribute to the production of knowledge in novel and creative ways.

History of Women’s Studies Graduate Program

1982 Women’s Studies Certificate (18 credits) established
1994 English and Psychology joint PhD programs established
1995 Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG) established, including Community of Scholars Program for graduate students
1996 WS Certificate reduced from 18 to 15 credits
1998 First Graduate Chair in Women’s Studies
1998 Abigail Stewart, Anne Herrmann, Sidonie Smith, “The Joint Doctoral Program at the University of Michigan” Feminist Studies 24:2 (summer 1998)
1999 History joint PhD program established
2001 WS 501 (proseminar for first year joint PhD students) created
2004 Sociology joint PhD program established
2006 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Studies Certificate Established

Women’s Studies Graduate Chairs

1998–99 Domna Stanton (Romance Languages)
1999–00 Suzanne Raitt (English)
2000–01 Domna Stanton (Romance Languages)
2001–03 Peggy McCracken (Romance Languages)
2003–06 Anne Herrmann (English)
2006–09 Deborah Keller-Cohen (Linguistics)
2009–11 Adela Pinch (English)
2011–12 Amal Hassan Fadlalla (Afroamerican and African Studies/Anthropology)
2012-14 Leela Fernandes (Political Science)
2014- Lilia Cortina (Psychology)

Doctoral Programs Committee (DPC)

The Doctoral Programs Committee (DPC) handles all administrative and policy matters pertaining to the joint PhD programs.

The DPC:

  • Oversees the admissions process
  • Makes and coordinates funding decisions
  • Decides on curricular and policy changes
  • Tracks student progress

The committee is chaired by the Director of Graduate Studies and consists of a liaison from each participating department. The liaison in most cases will be a faculty member with a joint appointment in Women’s Studies and the department.

Faculty liaisons for 2014-15:

  • WS and English: Petra Kuppers
  • WS and History: Dena Goodman
  • WS and Psychology: Abby Stewart


The Women's Studies Director of Graduate Studies is the primary advisor for first-year Joint PhD students. It is recommended that first-year students consult with the Graduate Director at least once a term. The DPC liaison is considered a secondary advisor for first-year students. This person is familiar with both sets of requirements and should also be helpful in constructing a joint program. All fourth- and fifth-year students will be advised by their dissertation chairs. In all years, the WS Graduate Director continues to be an important resource. Please see the individual program section for more details.

Required Courses in Women’s Studies

The four joint doctoral programs in Women’s Studies all have the same basic Women’s Studies course requirements. Additional requirements are stipulated by each department.

WS 501: Proseminar in Women’s Studies (1 credit)

This course introduces students to graduate study in the Joint Women’s Studies PhD program. It is intended to give new students a place to form community, to meet Women’s Studies faculty, to think about Women’s Studies as a discipline and the nature of interdisciplinary study, and to begin to discuss professional issues.

Core Courses

  1. WS 530: Feminist Theory (3 credits)
    This course provides an interdisciplinary exploration of various schools of feminist thought. It examines ways in which feminist scholars across the disciplines have theorized power and difference with regard to gender, race, sexuality, class and nation. It also explores the relationship of particular theories to both the production of knowledge and political practice.
  2. One of the following courses (3 credits):
    WS 601: Approaches to Feminist Scholarship in the Humanities or
    WS 602: Approaches to Feminist Scholarship in the Social Sciences

    These courses are designed to examine various methodological issues in feminist scholarship in relation to paradigms developed by the disciplines. Students in English and History will take WS 601; students in Psychology will take WS 602.
  3. WS 891: Advanced Research
    [Psychology & History—3 credits; English—3 or 6 credits (three if completed over one term, six if completed over two terms at three credits each)]
  4. Additional coursework: 9 credit hours
    Joint students take nine hours (typically three courses) of graduate coursework in addition to their three core courses. These are chosen from among Women’s Studies offerings and courses cross-listed with Women’s Studies and other departments. Courses cross-listed with your own department may be used to fulfill this requirement. At least one of the additional courses must be an interdisciplinary course and must include substantial coverage of theoretical issues. Students are also encouraged to include among these courses that focus on sexuality studies and global feminisms.

Cognate Requirements

The Rackham cognate requirement is automatically fulfilled by students enrolled in Women’s Studies joint PhD programs.

Additional Requirements

Annual Progress Reports

In the first year, students complete the Annual Progress Report for Women's Studies. In subsequent years, students update the form with any new information. In all years, students will meet with their primary advisor to review the form and their progress and receive written feedback from the advisor. The purpose of the academic progress report is to document and reflect on progress as a teacher and scholar; create an annual opportunity for students to meet with their advisors about their efforts; and obtain written feedback from advisors. Please see the forms for each joint program in the individual program section.

Women’s Studies 891 and Preliminary Examinations

Preliminary exams are conducted according to the requirements of each department. WS 891 is an advanced research project conducted under the guidance of an individual faculty member in the context of an interdisciplinary committee. The 891 project and its discussion at an oral exam serve as the preliminary examination in Women’s Studies.

Dissertation Prospectus/Proposal

The prospectus is a student’s proposal or plan for dissertation research and writing. Please see the individual program descriptions for specific information. Please remember to file a copy of your prospectus with the Women’s Studies Graduate Office.

The Dissertation

Students normally spend their fourth and fifth years researching and writing the dissertation. The dissertation topic is expected to draw fully from theories and methods in both Women's Studies and the student's other discipline. You should expect to meet with the Chair or Co-Chairs of your committee regularly for advice, guidance and discussion as you begin to write the dissertation. In general, your Chair or Co-Chairs will read and comment on any written work before you submit it to the rest of the committee. You should discuss with your chair when it is most appropriate to ask for feedback from other committee members. This kind of consultation is particularly important with an interdisciplinary dissertation. Students are expected to meet with their full dissertation committee at least once a year.

It is recommended that all students review Rackham's Doctoral Students website for procedures on obtaining the doctoral degree. Rackham offers a web-based system, Grad Tools, which provides a Dissertation Checklist. This presents a step-by-step process for completing the doctoral degree in one personalized view.

The Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee is comprised of four members and must be interdisciplinary. At least one member is to be affiliated with Women's Studies and at least one is to be drawn from the student's other department. However, to insure depth of involvement from one unit, we recommend that two members be affiliated with either Women's Studies or the student's other department.

Enrollment in 990/995

We require PhD candidates actively at work on their dissertations to enroll in their departmental 995. As a candidate, enrollment in 995 is not only required due to the Rackham Continuous Enrollment policy, but it also provides you with library and computer privileges and permits students to take one additional course. Those who have not yet achieved candidacy but are working on their dissertations should register for their departmental 990. GSI appointments also require enrollment in 995.

You must be enrolled every fall and winter term while you are a PhD student unless you are on an official Extramural Study or Leave of Absence status. You must be enrolled during the term you defend your dissertation and in the term during which all requirements for the degree are met, that is the term in which dissertation corrections/changes are completed, if this is different from the defense term.

Rackham Pre-Defense and Post-Defense Meetings

As you approach your dissertation defense, you should consult the Rackham Dissertations Office and schedule a Pre-Defense Meeting. You will need to work closely with this office to insure timely and accurate completion of all requirements for the dissertation, including the formatting guidelines for your dissertation. Please notify the graduate office in both Women's Studies and your department of the date of your defense.

Policies and Procedures


Requests for exceptions to any Women’s Studies program regulations must be made to the Women’s Studies Director of Graduate Studies. In some cases, the Director of Graduate Studies may wish to consult the DPC. A Petition for Modification or Waiver of Regulation form may also need to be filed with Rackham.

Satisfactory Progress

Satisfactory progress is defined as maintaining an appropriate academic record, reaching the various stages of progress in the program at or near the expected time, and, for students supported by GSIships, giving evidence of satisfactory teaching. Cases of students not maintaining satisfactory progress will be reviewed by the Graduate Director and referred, if necessary, to the DPC.

To maintain satisfactory academic standing, graduate students must make satisfactory progress toward their degrees and have a minimum Rackham cumulative grade point average (GPA) of “B” (5.0 on a 9 point scale) as well as a minimum GPA of “B” for all graduate courses taken for credit and applied towards the degree programs. Students who fall below this average are placed on academic probation.

Students are expected to finish Incompletes in a timely manner.

The Women’s Studies Program takes satisfactory progress into account in awarding teaching support and internal fellowships.

Stages of satisfactory progress will differ in each program; please consult the individual program descriptions for English, History, and Psychology for more information.

Please keep both Women’s Studies and your department informed of any exceptions made to requirements and your progress on requirements. If your progress involves filling out forms, please file them with both units.

Master's Degrees

The University of Michigan does not offer joint Master's degrees. You may, however, receive an MA in English, History, or Psychology on your way to completing the requirements for the joint Women's Studies PhD.

Accommodations for Graduate Students with Disabilities

It is the policy of the University of Michigan to maintain an academic and work environment free of discrimination and harassment for all students, faculty and staff.  The University’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness extends to students with disabilities.

The Rackham Graduate School, in collaboration with Services for Students with Disabilities, Office on Institutional Equity and Academic Human Resources, launched a centralized administrative process for providing accommodations for all graduate students with disabilities, regardless of employment status.

Students seeking academic accommodations should register with Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office.  For more information, please visit the Rackham website.

Continuous Enrollment Policy

The Dean and the Executive Board of the Rackham Graduate School have adopted a continuous enrollment for PhD students at the University of Michigan, effective Fall Term 2010.

Once admitted to a PhD program, students register every fall and winter term until their degree is awarded, unless they are taking an official leave of absence. Detached study no longer exists. Requirements for registration in the summer do not change. Students will register in spring or summer terms only when they elect courses, take preliminary examinations, or defend their dissertations.

Joint PhD Student Handbook

To view and print a copy of the Joint PhD Student Handbook, click here (PDF).

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