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A Guide to Finding the Women and Gender Studies Graduate Program for You
I was recently asked how I went about choosing the Graduate Program I’m in. I figured this was a question several other people might be interested in, so I made a helpful little guide!
When choosing a graduate school, it is important to keep in mind several things:
- cost of tuition
- cost of moving
- cost of living (Let’s face it: there are a lot of costs. All totally worth it if you love what you’re doing.)
- focus of the program (Is it teaching-focused?/research-focused?/etc.)
- key aspects of the program (Do you want a program that focuses more on gender studies? Feminism? Womanism? Spirituality? Academia? etc.)
- research interests of the professors (as you will be doing a thesis/dissertation at some point, and it is much more exciting/helpful to have professors interested in your area of work/research.)
- Teaching/Research Assisting Opportunities
Essentially, just make sure you read everything you can about the programs you’re interested in. I made a list of options I was interested in, and kept adding information to it. The one left standing with the most interesting and excited notes was the program I ended up in.
There’s not many Women’s Studies/Gender Studies/Feminist Studies programs in the United States, so there aren’t an infinite number of options. It’s also very important to keep the name of the program in mind, as that will be how it is focused. For example, “Feminist Studies” will be more oriented towards feminism rather than all of “Women’s Studies.” “Women’s Studies” is likely to more fully explore Womanism and the various contributions of all types of women throughout history. (Feminism being included, of course.) So definitely keep the name of the program in mind.
Also, for my fellow Southerners growing up in states without Women’s Studies graduate programs, be sure to check out: The Academic Common Market: Southern Regional Education Board. Through this, I got in-state tuition in Texas since Arkansas didn’t have a Women’s Studies program.
1. A list of Master’s and PhD Programs in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies - http://graduate-school.phds.org/find/programs/gender-studies (Though this needs to be updated because some of the names of the programs are wrong. If you find something you’re interested in, be sure to get your information from that program’s site.)
2. Ms. Magazine has a map of the Women’s Studies PhD programs in the US - http://www.msmagazine.com/womensstudies/phd.asp - (This also needs to be updated because Texas Woman’s University does have a Women’s Studies PhD program.)
3. A list of ALL Women’s Studies programs in the US (Graduate and Undergraduate) - http://www.artemisguide.com
And if anyone has further questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.
The Impossible Decision
Joshua Rothman on “the impossible decision” of whether or not to go to graduate school, and tough decisions in general: “There are too many unknowns…It’s too unclear what happiness is…These bigger mysteries make the grad-school decision harder.” http://nyr.kr/10x9uqf
- Beginning of the semester: I will get my assignments done with at least a full day to spare.
- End of the semester: DONE AN HOUR BEFORE DEADLINE!
- Beginning: I will participate LIKE A BOSS in class.
- End: Fuck this, my classmates can prove they read the material for a change.
- Beginning: There is no reason I can't take the time to cook healthy and tasty dinners at least twice a week.
- End: Pickles are a vegetable, right?
- Beginning: I have time to exercise. It's important and I *will* make time for it.
- End: Pretend to not notice getting winded after walking across campus to return large stack of library books.
- Beginning: I will look decent for class.
- End: Hey, if yoga pants weren't pants, they'd call them yoga-not-pants
My Magnum Opus
My baby has been pushed out of the nest to face the cruel, harsh world.
I submitted the paper that will be my Master’s thesis to my seminar professor for grading. I’ll start writing the thesis when I get his comments.
I got teary-eyed when I pressed “Send.”
Because I love this paper so much. I have never poured as much of my heart into a project as this project. I spent three solid months poring over the material, hunting down rare books, and finding the best possible images. When I had to work on other projects, all I wanted to do was work on this.
I spent 3 hours tonight making a PowerPoint and then converting it to PDF so that my professor could see the images the way I wanted them shown. We’re supposed to append them to the end of the document, but Word would have limited the visual experience and the aesthetic I wanted to display.
I love, love, love this paper.
Today I turned down UCLA.
That was an incredibly difficult thing for me to do. UCLA has a great program, and they were offering me a full ride, almost $30k/year stipend, and an Arabic teaching position to pursue an MA/PhD in Arabic Studies.
But despite all of that, a huge part of me was really resistant to accepting their admissions offer. And it certainly isn’t because I don’t like the graduate program out there, which is one of the top programs in the world for what I want to do. And it’s certainly not because I don’t love my Arabic studies—anybody who follows this blog knows that’s not the case. But it’s other things—the location and cost of living chief among them, but also things like lifestyle compatibility, the potential for my dog to be happy in an urban sprawl, and so on.
But I also chose that particular school for somebody else, not necessarily for me. It wasn’t really my choice. Had my graduate applications been totally under my own discretion, I would have applied to much different schools and programs.
So part of me really wants, or needs, to recapture the autonomy of laying out my own future, and that includes applying to schools and programs that I’m choosing for myself. And maybe I’ll discover, when the time comes for me to start looking at graduate schools again, that UCLA has become a part of that list. But it’s simply not the case right now.
So I passed up something that has always been a dream of mine for a great, nebulous unknown. A year (at least, probably more) of complete mystery, not having any idea what I’m doing, how I’m going to do any of it, where I’m going. I’m worried about things like making a living, paying bills. I’m worried about taking time off from my academic field to do something completely different and unrelated, and how that will certainly affect any potential future decisions to return to grad school.
I honestly can’t say if it’s the right decision. Is there even a right or wrong decision? I don’t know. I have no idea what I’m doing. But I do know that it’s scary as hell to pass up on a sure shot path to pursue something you’re passionate about in order to, I don’t know, do something else.
I don’t know what I’m doing, and it is scary as hell.
But also a little bit exciting.