The University Record, January 31, 1994

Women’s studies to offer interdepartmental Ph.D.

By Deborah Gilbert
News and Information Services

The Women’s Studies Program will launch an interdepartmental Ph.D. program in fall 1994, “which, as far as we know, is the first of its kind in the country,” says Abigail J. Stewart, director of the Women’s Studies Program and professor of psychology.

Initially, the degree will be offered to current Ph.D. students in psychology or English who also are obtaining certificates in women’s studies, but the program may be extended gradually to other disciplines over time.

The decision to offer the degree was made in the context of national trends. “Job postings increasingly call for scholars with specialization in women’s studies, gender studies or feminist theory,” Stewart says.

For example, Princeton University and Pennsylvania State University recently announced endowed chairs in women’s studies to be held as joint appointments with another department. In addition, the 1992–93 Modern Language Association job listings in English had more than 45 postings for tenure-track scholars with women’s studies training. Hiring trends in psychology and anthropology are similar.

The program’s faculty considered offering a master’s degree but felt that it would have limited utility. “We also considered a stand-alone degree, but since most of our faculty have appointments in other disciplines, the interdepartmental degree was the logical approach,” Stewart says.

Two students will be admitted in 1994 and another two in 1995. “In each of the following three years, we will admit three or four students so that by 1999, we will have 13 to 16 Ph.D. students. We expect to maintain the program at this size,” she says.

In a letter of support for the new Ph.D. program, Robert A. Weisbuch, professor and chair of the Department of English, noted that a strong women’s studies program is a draw for new faculty in English.

“I can recall three occasions in the last four years when we were recruiting a faculty member who had received offers from other excellent universities. In each case, the interchange [between English and the Women’s Studies Program] was a major factor in that colleague’s decision to choose Michigan,” he says. “The faculty in English finds this a most exciting venture.”

Patricia Y. Gurin, chair of the Department of Psychology, echoed Weisbuch’s support, noting that “graduate training in psychology has much to gain from a serious consideration of the relationship between major psychological and feminist theories.”