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PHD Program



We welcome your interest in the Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) PhD program and graduate certificate program at the University of Kentucky!

The GWS PhD program is designed to train cutting-edge scholars in feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. The program was established in 2013, and our first PhD student graduated in 2018.  The GWS certificate program was established in 1994, and close to 200 students from a variety of academic fields have earned graduate certificates.  Students in both programs have a wide range of professional goals and research interests.

The GWS department is deeply committed to academic innovation and student-centered teaching in both women’s studies, in which lived experiences of women worldwide are honored and used to expand traditional disciplinary knowledges, and gender studies, which examines how we ascribe gendered meanings to everyday objects, experiences, and relationships across space and time. Our curriculum is shaped by an intellectually and culturally diverse faculty whose areas of expertise complement each other in ways that ensure that students gain a variety of knowledge and skills, including transnational perspectives, critical theory, affect theory, social justice frameworks, and interdisciplinary methodologies. Our faculty actively publish and teach in a broad range of topical areas, including gendered violence, social movements and activism, the law, reproductive justice, education, (dis)ability, masculinities, migration, body studies, popular culture, sexualities, queer theory, science, health, and prejudice and inequality.

Core graduate classes in GWS include feminist theory, the history of feminist thought, and feminist research methodologies.  In addition, we offer a broad range of GWS topical seminars and cross-listed courses including Queer Theory; Black Feminist Theory; Transnational Feminisms; Girlhood Studies; Health, Bodies, and Debility; Gender and Science; Gender, the Courts, and Law; Queer of Color in the Global Context; Post-Colonialism; Ferguson and Race in a Historical Perspective; Queer Literature; and Prejudice and Inequality in the Social Sciences. We also offer graduate seminars through the Social Theory Program, cross-listed courses with affiliated GWS faculty in other departments, and programming in conjunction with the African American and Africana Studies and the Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino/a Studies Programs. (Click on the link to Graduate Courses for further information about course offerings).

In the doctoral program, students work closely with GWS faculty to plan their coursework, engage in scholarship, and work toward their career goals. GWS graduate students are integral members of the department, and we are strongly committed to offering opportunities for interaction, intellectual exchange, networking, mentoring, and collaboration with a wide variety of scholars, venues, and professional associations. Many of our graduate students also participate in interdisciplinary programs and centers at the University of Kentucky, including the Office of LGBTQ Resources, Center for Equality and Social Justice, Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women, Appalachian Center, Violence Intervention and Prevention Center, Women Writers Conference, Black Women’s Conference, Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, and Social Theory Program. The department’s faculty and students are also highly visible at national conferences and professional associations including the National Women’s Studies Conference, American Studies Association, Appalachian Studies Association, Popular Culture Association, American Anthropology Association, Association for Asian Studies, American Men Studies, Latin American Studies, International Conference on Narrative, and the Berkshire Women’s History Conference.  

GWS graduate students are regularly recognized for their many achievements. GWS students teach classes such as Gender and Popular Culture, Sex Roles, and Social Movements. The College of Arts and Sciences has recognized several of our doctoral students, including Miles Feroli, Ashley Ruderman-Looff, and Shawna Felkin, with highly competitive Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards. Our graduate students also have been awarded competitive fellowships from the College of Arts and Sciences, Center for Equality and Social Justice, and Office for Policy Studies of Violence Against Women. Mel Lesch was awarded the inaugural Sarah Bennett Holmes Award for their work on behalf of LGBTQ people.  GWS graduate students have published papers in prestigious journals, such as Signs, Feminist Frontiers, and Journal of Lesbian Studies. Graduates of our program are now faculty members at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Berea College, Wayne State University, and St. Norbert College. We are incredibly proud of our graduate students’ accomplishments!

Information on the GWS PhD program, the GWS certificate program, requirements for application and admission, funding and assistantships, and degree requirements are available on this website. If you have questions after reading these materials, please contact us at

We look forward to hearing from you!


Jenn Hunt, Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Gender and Women's Studies

For more information click on the links below: