Frequently Asked Questions

What is Women's Studies?

Women's Studies focuses on the experiences of diverse groups of women and the changing cultural, economic, political, and psychological relations between women and men. Because we ask questions about women and about gender that no single academic department is able to answer, we encourage an interdisciplinary approach to research and learning. Our program includes over eighty faculty from the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. The faculty are appointed in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Eastman School of Music, the Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development, the Simon School of Business, the School of Nursing, and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Who enrolls in Women's Studies courses?

Every semester over 100 undergraduate students—both women and men—from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Eastman School of Music enroll in Women's Studies courses. They bring to our courses their primary expertise in music, in engineering, and in a range of disciplines across the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

Students who enroll in Women's Studies courses select from among a variety of topics in nursing and in a range of disciplines across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Each semester, our courses range from "Race and Gender in Popular Film" to "Implications in Women's Health Care," from "Women and Gender in the History of Science" to "Women's Movements in an International Perspective," and from "Toni Morrison" and "Jane Austen" to "Black Males and Culture."

The women and men in our courses benefit from a number of regular Women's Studies events. When we invite visiting scholars to campus, we ask that they discuss their research both formally, in large public lectures, and informally, with students in our classrooms. Undergraduates in our courses are invited to join those majoring or minoring in Women's Studies at discussion groups with faculty and graduate students, and in an annual symposium at which undergraduates have an opportunity to discuss their Women's Studies internships and independent research projects.

Why should I major or minor in Women's Studies?

We asked our students that very question. "If you had asked me five years ago if I intended to be a Women's Studies major, I probably would not have even known that Women's Studies existed, much less seriously considered declaring it as my field of study," Sonia Robertson, '95, told us. "Now however, I am so glad that I chose it. Women's Studies is so different from the stereotypical image it receives." A number of students pointed out the advantages of interdisciplinary work: the opportunity to "take courses from a wide range of departments and professors" (Melissa L. Sands, '95); the ability to "view the challenges facing women from a multitude of diverse perspectives" (Melanie Hochberg, '96); and the necessity of becoming an "independent thinker and one who can combine many disciplines" in order to analyze the historical and contemporary roles of men and women (Shannon Parker, '96).

Our major and minor requirements are extremely flexible. We ask that students select from among a series of courses that offer a foundation in different methods of approaching Women's Studies, including Women in History, Women and Psychology, Women in Politics, Women and Ethnicity, Feminism in Science and Technology, and Feminism in Literature, Art, and Media. We then ask that students supplement those foundation courses with courses cross-listed with the Nursing School and with departments across the College. Our major requires twelve courses (eight in Women's Studies); our minor requires five Women's Studies courses. Our faculty work closely with students to ensure that their Women's Studies program of study is in keeping with their larger intellectual interests and career goals. Our advanced students are encouraged to participate in our internship program or conduct a research project, and to apply to us for funds to support the presentation of papers at conferences, visiting archives, or arranging for the library to purchase needed print, microfilm or video material.

The flexibility of our major and minor has also been ideal for those students who have combined their interest in Women's Studies with additional majors and minors in Biology, Chemistry, English, Health and Society, History, Political Science, Psychology, Religion and Classics, and Spanish. Sonia Robertson (Women's Studies and Psychology, '95) found Women's Studies a "wonderful complement to my psychology major, allowing me to pursue women's issues in more depth within a single discipline." Melissa L. Sands (Women's Studies and Political Science, '95) "chose to major in Women's Studies in order to acquaint myself with women's issues as they relate to history, politics, and social change." Genine Barnett (Women's Studies and English, '95) explains that "exploring the field of Women's Studies as a separate discipline has enhanced my interpretation of both historical and contemporary women writers. My double-major has also caused me to question what makes a literary interpretation 'feminist.'"

You can view our major and minor requirements here.

How does a background in Women's Studies prepare me for a career?

Our interdisciplinary program trains students to think critically by demanding that they bring together the insights of a number of academic departments. Our internships offer students an opportunity to supplement their classroom training with practical work experience in the arts, education, health, law, media, politics, and social services. And the flexibility of our major and minor has been ideal for those students whose intellectual interests and career goals are best served by combining a focus in Women's Studies with a focus in another program or department.

This program of study has proven quite successful. Students who have graduated with a Women's Studies major or minor are now working in a number of careers, including law, legal advocacy, therapy, and university administration. Elizabeth Prince, '82, was awarded the first degree in Women's Studies at the University of Rochester. She later obtained a master's degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling from the JFK University family counseling program and is now licensed to practice therapy. Her work has focused on half-way houses and community mental health programs. Nancy Mertzel, '85, obtained a law degree from Washington College of Law at American University in 1988, and is practicing intellectual property law with Brown, Raysman, Millstein, Felder, and Steiner in New York. Kathleen Simpson, '93, is director of admissions at the State University College at Brockport. Beth Olearczyk, '94, worked as a public policy advocate for child welfare and is now a medical student at Columbia. Beth was honored at the University of Rochester Sesquicentennial Convocation on October 14, 2000 as a distinguished alumna from the 1990's.

Why should I participate in a Women's Studies internship?

Our Internship Program prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, law, media, politics, and social services. Students who participate in our Internship Program receive valuable experience, and course credit, by working with local organizations that focus on the arts, education, health, law, media, politics, and social services, including Afterimage, the City Council of Rochester, Division of Human Rights, New York State, Monroe County District Attorney's Office, Planned Parenthood of Rochester and Genesee Valley, the Susan B. Anthony House, the Urban League of Rochester, TV Dinner/Metro Justice, the YWCA Rochester Area Children's Collaborative, and the Visual Studies Workshop.

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