essays in this series:
Slice of Life: One biologist's view of modern biology
George H. Jones, Professor of Biology
01/January 02 Academic Exchange
State of the Discipline in Nursing
Helen O'Shea, Professor of Nursing
October/November 01 Academic Exchange
Differences That Divide Us: Is talk of reconciliation in the academy
Amy S. Lang, Associate Professor, Graduate Institute of
the Liberal Arts
September 01 Academic Exchange
Emory Universitys Institute for Womens Studies began
accepting stu-dents for its Ph.D. program in 1992, only two other
institutions in North America offered a Ph.D. in womens studies
(Clark University and York University). Today, there are nine such
institutions and several more in the making. At the same time, more
and more colleges and universities are advertising for faculty positions
in womens studies and requesting that applicants have a Ph.D.
in womens studies. There is now a market for womens
For those of us who helped build the womens studies Ph.D.
program here at Emory, these recent developments are exciting and
gratifying. In fact, our own faculty and staff have played direct,
advisory roles in launching some of these new
programs. Yet many aspects and implications of these heady events
remain uncertain. What is the state and future of the doctoral degree
in womens studies? How were all these Ph.D. programs established,
and why? How are they structured, and why? What sorts of curriculum
choices does each program make, and why? What are the implications
of the womens studies Ph.D. for the undergraduate curriculum?
For the numerous womens studies masters programs? For
higher education overall? For research on women, gender, and feminism?
These are just some of the questions addressed at the recent Working
Conference on The Ph.D. in Womens Studies: Implications and
Articulations, held at the Emory Conference Center last October.
Approximately eighty-five womens studies faculty and graduate
students from forty-seven different institutions (plus representatives
from conference sponsors, the National Womens Studies Association,
the National Council for Research on Women and the Ford Foundation)
gathered for an intense series of plenary and breakout
sessions. To maximize participation and foster as much discussion
as possible, there were very few formal papers or presentations.
We came to learn from one another: to share experiences good and
bad, to express our hopes and our fears, and to plan for the future.
Conference presentations and discussions emphasized the importance
of diversity and inclusiveness to the very mission of womens
studies as an academic field. The conference panel on Diversity
and Womens Studies was arguably one of the most stimulating
and challenging of the event. Conference participants and their
respective programs and institutions were asked to consider how
our studies of women as a group can and should be infused with the
awareness that women constitute many other social groups that cohere
around identities of race and ethnicity, religion, class, nationality,
sexual orientation, and ability/disability. Women, gender, and feminism
must be understood, in our curricula and in our research, in relation
to these other social groups, analytic categories, and movements.
The challenge of such intersectional approaches, foundational
to womens studies as a field, was integral to the conference
and, thus, most every discussion within it.
The idea for this conference emerged from informal, ad-hoc discussions
of the future of womens studies graduate education at both
the National Womens Studies Association and the National Council
for Research on Women national meetings. From the beginning, the
idea was to open up the discussion and bring together not only those
faculty and students associated with the established Ph.D. programs,
but also all those individuals, institutions, and organizations
that make those programs viablethose that send students, hire
graduates, and otherwise
contribute to and influence the very nature of womens studies
The primary goal of the conference was to foster greater coherence
in these developing graduate curricula (and in the field itself)
through inter-institutional collaboration. Graduate training in
womens studies must not occur in a vacuum; rather, it must
be developed, executed, and evaluated in light of the needs and
objectives of the field and of the undergraduate institutions in
which most of these graduate students will one day teach.
Diversity and inclusiveness are key to the success of this type
of inter-institutional collaboration and, thus, to the success of
the conference. Both the ten-member planning committee and the eighty-five
some-odd participants represented
a wide variety of institutional types, from public and private research
universities to small liberal arts colleges. Included were womens
studies Ph.D.-granting institutions such as Emory, universities
that soon will offer the Ph.D. or expand their doctoral work in
womens studies (such as Pennsylvania State University and
Rutgers University), and master of arts-granting universities (such
as San Diego State University and Drew University). Other stakeholders
represented were historically black institutions (such as Spelman
College and Clark-Atlanta University) and community colleges (such
as Kingsborough Community College) that offer undergraduate work
in womens studies. Of course, one of the most important constituencies
represented were current and former womens studies doctoral
students; indeed, we welcomed home many of Emorys
own graduate alumnae. Several current Emory Ph.D. students also
helped tremendously with the planning and execution of the conference.
Emorys leadership in womens studies graduate education
was quite evident throughout the conference. While the Emory Conference
Center provided the locale, it was the hospitality, participation,
and hard work of Emorys womens studies faculty, staff,
students, and alumnae that really made a difference. All of our
womens studies core faculty were on hand to greet conference
participants, and many of us were participants ourselves. Frances
Smith Foster, Director of Emorys Institute for Womens
Studies, was crucial to the planning and success of the conference.
A leading member of the planning committee, she made two very important
presentationsone on the formation and development of our graduate
program and another on diversity in womens studies.
Many of our current and former graduate students also participated
constructively in conference activities. The contributions of two
deserve special notice. Paula Jayne, a current Emory Ph.D. student,
was a member of the planning committee and a very effective moderator
of a conference panel of womens studies Ph.D. students and
graduates. Vivian May, a graduate of Emorys Ph.D. program
in womens studies and now a faculty member at William Patterson
University, served on the planning committee as well, and presented
insightful commentary on the conference itself in the final, closing
The conference on the womens studies Ph.D. may have ended
on October 14, but the discussions it fostered are far from complete.
The conference was intended to begin an ongoing process of collaboration;
the impact of the conference was meant to be long lasting. To this
end, the conference website (www.depts.drew.edu/wmst/
ws_phd/MainPage.htm) provides a good deal of information for
those interested in learning about and participating in the discussion
of the womens studies Ph.D., including links to womens
studies Ph.D. programs and transcripts of conference panels and
breakout sessions. In the making are a follow-up conference, more
focused and less exploratory than the first, and a summer workshop
on race and womens studies. Conference organizers have also
established a new, inter-institutional graduate student listserv.
All this is a testament to the success of the October conference,
to the vitality of womens studies and to the growing significance
of the womens studies Ph.D.