Feminist Studies


2018-19 General Catalog

416 Humanities 1
(831) 459-2461 or 459-2757

Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

Feminist studies is an interdisciplinary field of analysis in the humanities that investigates how relations of gender are embedded in social, political, and cultural formations. The undergraduate program in feminist studies provides students with a unique interdisciplinary and transnational perspective. The department emphasizes theories and practices derived from multiracial and multicultural contexts. Some topics you will find in our curriculum include: colonialism/postcolonialism; postsocialism; queer and trans theory; visual culture, legal studies; critical race theory; science and technology studies; and social movements.

Feminist studies prepares undergraduates for a variety of careers. The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Feminist Studies provides excellent grounding for undergraduates who have career aspirations in, for example, law, health, non-governmental organizations, museum curation, politics, media and film, research institutes, journalism, community organizations, and social services. Students wishing to pursue doctoral work will also find that interdisciplinary training in feminist studies equips them with theoretical and methodological strengths in most disciplines and applied research fields including American studies, ethnic studies, science studies, anthropology, communications, and legal studies. Specialists in feminist studies are employed as consultants in industry, higher education, and human resources. State and federal government agencies employ people who have special training in understanding gender and race relations. Educational institutions need specialists to develop and administer feminist studies programs, women’s centers, and other institutional structures designed specifically to study and assist marginalized peoples, including women.

Program Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the feminist studies major should emerge with the following skills, competencies, and knowledge:

Outcome 1: Writing, Reading, and Critical Thought

  1. Develop writing skills and proficiency
  2. Perform close reading of texts
  3. Develop an ability to formulate and defend arguments in writing and oral presentation
  4. Develop media literacy with a lens of cross-cultural analysis
  5. Develop a critical understanding of inequities, ethics, racial and gender formations, and social justice issues

Outcome 2: Feminist Methods

The lower-division classes focus on “understanding” and the upper-division courses, especially the senior seminars, focus on “application.”

  1. Develop an understanding of feminist interdisciplinary methodologies
  2. Apply interdisciplinary methodology to Research and Writing

Requirements of the Major

Feminist studies majors must complete 11 courses including a senior comprehensive exit requirement in the feminist studies program.

Required courses include Feminist Studies 1, Feminist Studies: An Introduction; one Feminist Studies 10-, 20-, 30-, or 40-level course; Feminist Studies 100, Feminist Theories (these three core courses must be taken at UC Santa Cruz absent a petition); seven upper-division, 5-credit electives; and an upper-division exit (comprehensive) requirement course. One independent study (FMST 199) may count toward the elective requirements. FMST 193 or 198 (internship) may be used to count toward the elective requirements.

Feminist studies is an interdisciplinary major that includes courses taught by affiliated faculty in other departments (see the Courses page of the Feminist Studies website for the most up-to-date list of accepted courses). However, feminist studies majors must take a minimum of five courses at UC Santa Cruz taught directly in the Feminist Studies Department, i.e., courses designated FMST, not including FMST 193, 198, or 199. At most three courses may be transferred to count toward the major, including three Education Abroad Program (EAP) courses or courses from another university.

Exit requirement options include a senior seminar (FMST 194) taught by core faculty, or a senior thesis/project (FMST 195). Completion of the Entry Level Writing and Composition Requirements are prerequisites to FMST 194 and 195.

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major’s upper-division Disciplinary Communication (DC) requirement. The DC requirement in feminist studies is satisfied by completing one course: 194A, 194D, 194E, 194F, 194G, 194H, 194I, 194J, 194K, 194M, 194N, 194O, 194P, 194Q, 194T, 194W, or 195.  These courses also satisfy the senior exit requirement.


Feminist studies awards honors and highest honors in the major. At the end of each quarter, a faculty committee meets to review graduating students’ files. Students are considered for honors and highest honors based on their cumulative GPA, calculated from grades earned in coursework and the senior exit requirement undertaken for completion of the major. For honors, students must earn a minimum GPA of 3.70 in the relevant courses, while for highest honors, the GPA must be 3.90 or higher. Writing a thesis is not a requirement for receiving honors or highest honors.

Letter Grade Requirement

Letter grades are required for 10 of the 11 courses applied toward the feminist studies major. FMST 100 and the senior comprehensive course(s) (FMST 194 or 195) must be taken for a letter grade.

Transfer Students

Transfer students are encouraged to declare the major as soon as possible to be assured entrance into the required core courses. The Feminist Studies Department will consider, upon petition, which UC-transferable courses from other institutions are acceptable. FMST 1, one FMST 10-49 lower-division course, and FMST 100 must be completed before the senior year so that the exit requirement may be completed in the senior year.

Graduate Studies

Feminist Studies Ph.D.

The Department of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz welcomed its inaugural class of students who began studies toward a Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in Feminist Studies in Fall 2013. The Ph.D. in Feminist studies at UC Santa Cruz is an interdisciplinary program that investigates how relations of gender are embedded in social, political, racial, and cultural formations. The program emphasizes feminist modes of inquiry and provides students with advanced training in feminist methods. It fosters a rethinking of the relationships between knowledge, power, and expertise. Conceived as a collaborative, cross-divisional enterprise, this graduate program draws upon the strengths of a range of feminist scholars and their departments and programs across the University.

Six years is the normative time toward completion of the Ph.D. degree. Ph.D. students will complete most of their coursework during their first two years, including the three required courses on Feminist Theories, Feminist Methodologies, and Disciplining Knowledge (FMST 200, 201, 202). Students focus on preparing their problem-based areas of research and their dissertation prospectus during their third year. Students are expected to take the Ph.D. qualifying examination in their third year and no later than their fourth year, when they also must demonstrate proficiency in a second language. Students write a dissertation that is approved by the dissertation committee to finish the program.

Requirements for Ph.D. Students

Ph.D. students must complete a total of 12 courses including at least 9 elective courses. In addition, students must enroll in three 2-credit courses. They will satisfy their language requirement by the end of the third year, and take their qualifying examination no later than their fourth year.

  1. Feminist studies requires FMST 200 and 201 to be taken consecutively the fall and winter quarters of the first year, while 202 will be offered in the spring of the second year.
  2. FMST 290, Teaching Assistant Training, to be taken prior to or in conjunction with the first teaching assistant appointment;
  3. Twelve courses (of 5 credits each) and three 2-credit FMST 297F courses.
  4. Graduate Summer Language program or equivalent to pass the language examination.
  5. Qualifying Examination passed and dissertation prospectus approved.
  6. After completion of the Qualifying Examination, students take courses in the FMST 290 sequence until the dissertation is submitted.
  7. Students must teach three courses in feminist studies, or equivalent, as instructor or research assistant. This requirement may be waived.
  8. A prospectus outlining and defining the dissertation project.
  9. A dissertation project.

Language Requirement

Students normally satisfy the language requirement by the end of the second year; the requirement must be satisfied in order to pass the qualifying exam. Fulfillment of the language requirement in feminist studies can be documented in several ways. The documentation should demonstrate current ability to use the language in an appropriate way in scholarship. The language appropriate to research could be oral, gestural, or written, or a combination of these. Depending on the specific language and on the research needs of the student, functional language competence could include the ability to read the scholarly literature or other written material needed in research, the ability to conduct fieldwork in the language, or the ability to produce written work in the language. According to Graduate Division policy, proficiency should be demonstrated before the qualifying examination committee can be appointed and at least one month prior to taking the qualifying examination.

Qualifying Examination Requirements

Advancement to candidacy depends on the general quality of a student’s work; demonstration of proficiency in a foreign language relevant to the student’s area of work, either by passing a written examination administered by the department or successfully completing a language course approved by the department; success in the qualifying examination, and proposal of an acceptable dissertation topic.

Students should consult their adviser when composing their qualifying examination committee. Per Academic Senate policy, committees must consist of at least four members, one of whom is not a member of the student’s department. The chair of the committee must be tenured, and will not be the student’s dissertation adviser. The outside member must be a tenured faculty member, or may be from a non-academic field. The department requires that at least two members of the committee must be members of the Feminist Studies Department. The graduate dean has authority to approve committee nominations and grant authorities. 

The qualifying examination focuses on the student’s research project and on the fields of scholarship it presupposes. The qualifying examination consists of:

  1. Written Portion (75-95 pages total)
    1. Introduction to the Qualifying Exam (15-20p): This document explains the intellectual trajectory of the student, the development of the student’s research questions, and the relationship between the different written components submitted for the exam.
    2. Qualifying Essay(s) (50-60p): In consultation with the advisor, the student will submit one or two research essays totaling 50-60 pages. Depending on the nature of the student’s project and method, as well as the advisor’s preferences concerning the exam format, the Qualifying Essay(s) may consist of article- or chapter-length research paper(s), literature review(s), and/or field statement(s) related to the student’s primary areas of research.
    3. Dissertation Prospectus (10-15p): A draft dissertation prospectus is due at the time of exam. A revised prospectus will be due to the committee no later than the end of the quarter following the oral exam.  The prospectus outlines the primary research questions, fields of intervention, timeline, and potential claims of the dissertation project.
  2. Oral Examination
    1. The oral examination typically lasts 2.5-3 hours. The student is invited to give a 10-minute introduction to the qualifying essay and research project. Each examiner on the QE Committee will have approximately 20-30 minutes to put questions to the student regarding the written portion of their examination. A general discussion typically follows the round-robin questioning. Upon completion of the questions and discussion, the student is excused and the committee members evaluate the student’s performance with the goal of achieving some unanimity. The committee invites the student back to the room to share the group’s evaluation, offer advice, and articulate any requirements. The committee will also suggest revisions to the dissertation prospectus, to be completed by the end of the quarter following the oral exam.
    2. The chair of the committee composes a final report based on the committee’s evaluation of the student’s performance.  After approval by the other committee members, the report is submitted to the Graduate Division to recommend advancement to candidacy.

Dissertation Requirements

Immediately after the qualifying examination, students will consult their primary adviser to convene a Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee must be composed of at least three members, the majority of whom must be members of the UC Santa Cruz Academic Senate, and at least one of whom is a member in Feminist Studies. Advancement to candidacy will only take place after a committee is approved by the graduate dean. 

After advancement to candidacy, expected by the end of the third year, students take courses in the 290 sequence until the dissertation is submitted. Successful revision of the dissertation prospectus will be due to the Dissertation Committee no later than the end of the quarter after completion of the oral examination to remain in good academic standing. Students submit the revised prospectus to their committee for approval and transmit the document to the graduate coordinator.

Upon approval of the revised dissertation prospectus, students concentrate on dissertation writing. The current normative time to degree limit is six years, although students should plan dissertation research and writing timelines keeping in mind the funding commitments made by the department at the time of matriculation. Students also have the option of doing advanced work in a traditional discipline and receiving a Designated Emphasis of this specialization. In such cases, students must satisfy the appropriate department’s criteria (see the departmental web site for information). Students are expected to complete at least one year of supervised teaching as part of the degree requirements.

At the end of the dissertation writing process, the student must petition for the degree, format the dissertation according to Graduate Division guidelines, complete an oral dissertation defense with the Dissertation Committee, and obtain signatures of the committee members on the official cover sheet. Once these items are complete, the student may file the dissertation to complete the Ph.D.

Elective Courses

Students may take elective courses in feminist studies as well as in other departments. Some elective courses in the department include: Feminist Pedagogy; Black Feminisms; Feminist Science Studies; De-colonial Feminisms; Comparative Empires; Transgender and Queer Studies; and Sexuality, Race, and Migration in the Americas.

See the Feminist Studies website to learn more about the graduate program.

Master of Arts Degree in Feminist Studies

The department admits students only for the Ph.D. program. However, in exceptional circumstances, for example, if a student has to leave the program before completing the Ph.D., the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Feminist Studies may be conferred. In consultation with the adviser and graduate director, the M.A. requirements are as follows:

  1. Completion of nine graduate seminars, including FMST 200, FMST 201, and FMST 202 to the satisfaction of the department. The remaining six seminars are to be selected from the department offerings to reflect the student's particular academic plan, agreed upon by the student and graduate adviser.
  2. Successful completion of the qualifying examination, including all written and oral components.
  3. Completion of the master’s degree cannot be accomplished in less than two full academic years.

Students who wish to petition for the M.A. degree in Feminist Studies must meet all guidelines for the degree established by the Graduate Division and petition for the degree prior to the due date set by the division. Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination, students must submit the completed qualifying examination written materials to the department as the final portfolio of work for the degree.

Feminist Studies Designated Emphasis

Graduate students may work toward a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree that notes a designated emphasis in feminist studies on the graduation documents. Students wishing to pursue this option should consult with the chair of their respective Ph.D. program and are encouraged to apply in the first or second year of graduate study. The application and an annually updated list of regularly offered, approved graduate courses are available at the Feminist Studies website

The following are required for the designated emphasis:

Committee composition. The student must have a designated graduate adviser from the feminist studies core faculty who serves on the qualifying examination committee or in some other appropriate capacity.

Writing. The student must prepare a significant piece of writing in the area of feminist studies. This writing must be a master’s essay or a chapter of the doctoral dissertation.

Course requirements. The student must take four graduate courses in feminist studies, two of which must be taught directly in the department. Two courses can be selected from among the graduate offerings of any UC Santa Cruz department, as long as they are taught by core or affiliated feminist studies faculty.

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Revised: 07/15/18