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Ph.D. Program in Gender and Women’s Studies

Our Program

A collection of GWS pinsWelcome to the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison! Our inter- and multi-disciplinary department is home to 22 award-winning faculty whose expertise spans the arts and humanities, social sciences, and health sciences, and a robust curriculum and community of undergraduate and graduate students.

The PhD degree in Gender and Women’s Studies provides advanced feminist training for students with a variety of academic backgrounds and career plans. The degree engages the multidisciplinary perspectives associated with gender studies, including queer studies, transgender studies, sexuality studies, race and ethnicity studies, postcolonial and settler-colonial studies, disability studies, area and global studies, cultural studies, and art, visual culture, and performance studies.

Faculty and students in our program, often working within other departments as well, develop scholarly expertise in areas such as: Gender and Health; LGBTQ2SIA+ Studies; Visual Culture, Art, and Performance Studies; Disability Studies; Gender and Sexuality in History; Gender and Politics; Psychology, Gender, and Sexuality; Transnational, Postcolonial, and Settler Colonial Studies; Care Work, Community Action, and Social Movements.

A unique feature of the Wisconsin PhD program in GWS is that all students complete a 15-credit concentration (mostly) outside GWS. The concentration may be in a traditional discipline (e.g., History or Political Science) or an interdisciplinary area (e.g., Gender and Health, or LGBTQ+ Studies). With the concentration, students will have expanded options on the academic and non-academic job markets, and they will learn research methods and content that will be useful for their dissertation and research beyond that. For more information, see the Concentration tab.

The Department benefits from numerous campus resources including a dedicated Office and Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian, the McBurney Disability Resource Center, the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center, and other vital resources that may be found under the Campus Resources tab.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Can students take courses outside of the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies?

Absolutely! An integral part of the PhD program is the Concentration, which can be in a discipline (e.g., Political Science) or an interdisciplinary area (e.g., Health, or LGBTQ+ Studies). An Individualized Concentration is also possible. The concentrations are structured around courses outside the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies.

Is funding available for students?

Each student accepted into the PhD program in Gender & Women’s Studies will be given 5 years of guaranteed funding (salary at the 50% level, plus tuition remission), conditional on the student remaining in good standing. This guarantee refers to the 9 months of the academic year. The Department, in addition, will do its best to provide support in the summer.

This funding may come in any combination of internal fellowships (e.g., University Fellowship, Graduate Research Scholars Fellowship), Teaching Assistantships, Project Assistantships, Research Assistantships, and external fellowships for which you apply (e.g., National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, AAUW Dissertation Fellowship).

How do I apply for funding?

We consider all applicants for funding, and you do not need to submit any additional materials to be considered for funding.

What GRE tests should I take, and when?

The Department of Gender & Women’s Studies does NOT require GRE scores.


Is an undergraduate major in Gender & Women’s Studies required?

No.  Although many of our graduate students will have majored in gender & women’s studies as undergraduates, we are interdisciplinary, and others will have completed majors in an array of disciplines—e.g., anthropology, history, English, political science, psychology, sociology – or interdisciplinary fields.  Regardless of your undergraduate major, it is important that you have taken at least some gender & women’s studies courses and have some familiarity with the field.

Is it acceptable for me to contact a professor directly?

Yes! In fact, we encourage you to contact faculty with whom you would be interested in working prior to preparing your application. On the application website, you will be asked to list up to three faculty members with whom you would like to work.

How do I apply for an application fee waiver?

The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies has closed its fee waiver application for international applicants for the fall 2024 admissions cycle. If you have already submitted a fee waiver application, Graduate Program staff will be in contact in early November with the Graduate Committee’s decision. Domestic applicants can apply for an application fee waiver through the Graduate School.

Please note: international students will be required to pay a $6 processing fee even if granted an application fee waiver.

Am I required to take the TOEFL exam?

Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score. 

What should I include in the Statement of Purpose?

The Graduate School has developed these useful guidelines for the Statement of Purpose along with a number of resources for applicants.

When will I be notified if I am accepted?

Admitted students will be contacted by email, no later than February 15.

When do you need to know whether or not I will attend?

We must have your response by April 15, which is the deadline that all U.S. graduate schools have agreed to.  If you have chosen another program or school before that date, we would be grateful if you let us know as soon as you decide.

As you are making a decision, here is more information about UW-Madison and tips for negotiating competing offers from different programs.