Keisha Lindsay, associate professor in the departments of Gender and Women's Studies and Political Science, teaches a Contemporary Feminist Theories class in Ingraham Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Feb. 9, 2016. Lindsay is one of twelve 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award recipients. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

PhD 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! Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) is a vibrant and influential field of scholarship nationally and internationally, in which GWS scholars document the past and present experiences of women as well as gender minorities and sexual minorities; contribute to human rights policies concerning women, gender, and sexuality in the U.S. and around the globe; and bring scholarly analysis to major social movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.  Intersectionality – the intersection of gender with other social categories such as race/ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, and disability status – is a defining concept in the field.

The PhD degree in Gender and Women’s Studies provides advanced feminist training in gender analysis 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, disability studies, area and global studies, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, and art, visual culture, and performance studies.

The Department is home to 22 award-winning faculty from a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary backgrounds. Their expertise spans the arts and humanities, social sciences, and health sciences.

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.

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.

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. 

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 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.