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Women's Studies

Women's Studies | Courses | Faculty

208 Bartlett Hall

Degree: Bachelor of Arts

Contact: Karen Lederer
Office: 208 Bartlett
Phone: (413) 545-1922
Fax: (413) 545-1500

Program Director: Professor Arlene Avakian. Associate Professors Deschamps, Subramaniam; Assistant Professors Gore, Kang, Richardson, Shah.

The Field

Women’s Studies is a relatively new and rapidly growing field, with more than a thousand undergraduate and graduate programs nationwide. Beginning in the late 1960s, women’s studies developed as an interdisciplinary field that made gender central to its analysis. Initially compensating for the omission or distortion of women’s contributions to society, the field soon brought a feminist critique to the conceptual frameworks of the entire academy. Developing both within departments and as a separate entity, women’s studies has had an enormous impact. In most disciplines gender analyses are no longer the exception, and a number of women’s studies programs now offer graduate work.

Building on this new scholarship, faculty, students, and staff at colleges and universities across the country initiated women’s studies programs, some of which offered a major. Admitting its first students in 1974, women’s studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of the oldest programs in the country. It offers both an undergraduate major and minor in Women’s Studies, reflecting the latest work in the field, focusing on the intersection of race/ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality. This integrative analysis is at the center of the curriculum. Faculty expertise includes: feminist theory, Asian-American feminisms, feminist research methods, politics of women’s bodies, sexuality, food studies, social construction of identities, whiteness studies, Caribbean and global women’s activism, gender and development, feminist pedagogy, critical race feminisms, postcolonial studies, feminist science studies, Black feminist politics, women and U.S. radicalism, and third world feminisms. In addition, the Women’s Studies scholars in other departments focus their research in areas as diverse as history, literature, education, management, and nursing.  For students interested in graduate work, the Women’s Studies Program offers a Graduate Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies.

Women’s Studies Five College Course Description Guide

Each semester the Program publishes, for its majors and other interested students, a Women’s Studies Five College Course Description Guide which contains over a hundred courses from the University and Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges. Women’s Studies majors or minors are able to take these courses, and, subject to the Women’s Studies requirements and restrictions, the courses may count toward the major or minor. Copies of the Women’s Studies Five College Course Description Guide are available for the next semester during the preregistration counseling period and may be obtained from the Women’s Studies Office, 208 Bartlett, tel. 545-1922, or viewed from the Program’s Website:

Women’s Studies Resources

The Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, located at Mount Holyoke College, facilitates the discussion and critical analysis of women’s studies research. The University of Massachusetts Du Bois Library has a Women’s Studies reference librarian available.

The Major

Women’s Studies students may individually tailor their program by focusing their courses in a specific area of interest or choosing a general approach. Women’s Studies has a strong advising system. All students work one-on-one with a faculty sponsor, and professional academic advisers are available for general advising on the major or minor, internships, practica, and independent studies. Students design their programs selecting from the wide range of courses listed in the Women’s Studies Five College Course Description Guide (see above).

There are no prerequisites for entry to the major, but students must complete an application form, obtain a faculty sponsor, and attend an orientation session, in order to be formally admitted. Students considering a major in Women’s Studies are encouraged to contact an academic adviser in the Program, who can offer assistance with completing the application process, obtaining a faculty sponsor, and identifying courses best suited to a student’s interests.


A minimum of 36 credits in Women’s Studies courses numbered 200 or above is required for the major. Courses which meet the requirements listed below are listed each semester in the Women’s Studies Five College Course Description Guide.

1) Required WOMENSST courses: 201 Critical Perspectives in Women’s Studies; 301 Theorizing Women’s Issues or 394H Theorizing Black Feminisms. 394H can fulfill the theory requirement or a Women of Color requirement, but not both; and 391W Writing for Women’s Studies Majors, which fulfills the Junior Year Writing requirement.
2) At least two courses on women of color: one course on Women of Color in the U.S. and one course on Women of Color outside the U.S., including courses that take a diasporan or global approach.
3) Electives include: Women’s Studies approved courses offered in other departments at the University and the Five Colleges; or component courses, if the paper or project done by the student focuses on Women’s Studies. Elective credit may also be earned, when approved, in independent studies or practica related to the major (to a maximum of 15 credits). The Women’s Studies fieldwork coordinator is available for advising.

Optional Concentrations
Majors have the option of designing an individualized course of study focused on a particular theme. Examples of concentrations completed by Women’s Studies majors include topics in women’s health and sexuality; African American women; the impact of race, sex, and class in American history; the construction of white privilege; Latin American women; women, peace and militarism; ecofeminism; women in poverty; women and labor organizing; feminist therapy and counseling; feminist writing and criticism; arts management and women; women and organizational development; women and sexual violence; women in fashion and media; and women’s studies and Romance languages. Students design their concentration in consultation with their faculty adviser.

Majors choosing to focus their academic work on a theme may also petition to have “skills courses” counted toward their major requirements. These are courses that are necessary to the components of their individualized programs within Women’s Studies, even if the courses are not directly part of the program itself. For example, students focusing on areas of women and health care might use biology courses to fulfill part of the elective credit requirement. No more than 12 elective credits may be earned in this manner. Faculty sponsors must approve these requests.

Honors Opportunities
Honors opportunities in Women’s Studies range from honors courses to research and project options. Students should contact the honors coordinator in Women’s Studies for details. Opportunities are also available for upper-level honors research in the department through a departmental honors research track. Information on Commonwealth College is provided elsewhere in this catalog.

Double Majors
Many Women’s Studies majors also major in another field, as the interdisciplinary and integrative nature of Women’s Studies allows flexibility to develop coherent and complementary programs of study in other disciplines. These might include second majors in the departments of Afro-American Studies, Anthropology, Art, Communication, Comparative Literature, Education, English, History, Journalism, Judaic Studies, Legal Studies, Nursing, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Social Thought and Political Economy, Sociology, Theater, and others.

Career Opportunities

Women’s Studies students obtain a broad liberal arts education which is an excellent background for a wide variety of fields. Women’s Studies students develop strong skills in critical inquiry, written and oral communication, and an awareness of social issues. Women’s Studies graduates are working in the educational and legal fields, as administrators and managers in the public and private sectors, in human services and the healing professions, the arts and technological sciences, and in many other fields. The major can also be designed to provide appropriate preparation for a range of graduate programs and professional schools. The University of Massachusetts Graduate Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies is designed to complement a major degree-granting discipline and further advance feminist research and methodology.

The Minor

Students majoring in other departments are offered the opportunity of an academic concentration in Women’s Studies through the interdisciplinary minor. Students work with a faculty sponsor to design individualized courses of study reflecting their particular areas of interest. Graduates have found a minor in Women’s Studies to be an excellent asset in competing for placement in professional fields and graduate programs. Students considering a minor in Women’s Studies should contact an academic adviser in the Program, who can offer assistance with completing the application process, obtaining a faculty sponsor, and identifying courses best suited to a student’s interests.


A minimum of 18 credits in Women’s Studies is required for the minor; applicable courses are listed each semester in the Women’s Studies Five College Course Description Guide. The 18 credits must include WOST 201 Critical Perspectives on Women’s Studies, and at least one course on women of color identified in the Course Description Guide. The remaining credits may be earned in WOMENSST courses; in approved courses offered in other departments at the University or in Five College courses; or in component courses, if the paper or project done by the student focuses on an overlapping area within Women’s Studies. Restrictions on course selection and on “component courses” are found each semester in the Guide. Elective credit may also be earned, when approved, in independent studies or practica related to the minor (to a maximum of six credits).

Women's Studies | Courses | Faculty