Feminist Studies Ph.D.


Note: The Department of Feminist Studies is not accepting applications in the 2024-25 Academic Year.

The Department of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, welcomed its inaugural class of students who began studies toward a Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in Feminist Studies in fall 2013. Feminism(s) today mandate new histories of the global. The Ph.D. program in feminist studies at UC Santa Cruz, is an interdisciplinary, transregional program committed to thinking about inequity across regions both within and outside the U.S. Our four key foci are: the global south, justice, abolition, and comparative colonialism(s). Combining intellectual diversity across disciplines and areas, we train graduate students to engage with pressing histories of the present. Our faculty work across field-formations of race and social justice, queer/sexuality/trans studies, law and society, popular media, music and the arts, politics and social movements, race and migration, development and political economy, and more.

UC Santa Cruz is committed to creating an academic environment that supports its diverse student body. If you are a student with a disability who requires accommodations to achieve equal access in this program, please notify the graduate coordinator of your program as soon as practical. All students are encouraged to consider how they may benefit from learning more about Disability Resource Center (DRC) services and to contact the DRC by phone at 831-459-2089 or by email at drc@ucsc.edu.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students are expected to take the Ph.D. qualifying examination in their third year and no later than their fourth year, by which point they also must fulfill the course requirements and demonstrate proficiency in a second language.

Course Requirements

Ph.D. students will complete most of their coursework during their first two years. Students are required to complete a total of 12 courses: three required courses–Feminist Theories (FMST 200), Feminist Methodologies (FMST 201), and Disciplining Knowledge (FMST 202)--and nine electives. Feminist studies requires FMST 200 and FMST 201 to be taken consecutively the fall and winter quarters of the first year, while FMST 202 will be offered in the spring of the second year.
In addition, students must enroll in three 2-credit advising courses (FMST 297F) with their first-year mentor or primary advisor. FMST 290, a 2-credit pedagogy training course, is to be taken prior to and/or in conjunction with the first teaching assistant appointment.

FMST 200Feminist Theories


FMST 201Topics in Feminist Methodologies


FMST 202Disciplining Knowledge/Graduate Research


Elective Courses

Students may take elective courses in feminist studies as well as in other departments. Graduate seminars, independent studies, and directed readings in the Feminist Studies Department count toward the elective course requirement. Graduate seminars from other departments may also be used to fulfill the elective requirement.

FMST 203Feminist Pedagogies


FMST 207Topics in Queer/Race Studies


FMST 211Sexuality, Race, and Migration in the Americas


FMST 212
/HISC 212
Feminist Theory and the Law


FMST 214Topics in Feminist Science Studies


FMST 215Postcolonial and Postsocialist Transactional Analytics


FMST 216Archives/Genders/Histories: An Introduction


FMST 218
/CRES 218
Militarism and Tourism


FMST 222Religion, Feminism, and Sexual Politics


FMST 232Topics in Postcolonial Studies


FMST 243
/CRES 243
Feminism, Race, and the Politics of Knowledge


FMST 260Black Feminist Reconstruction


FMST 270Anthropology at Its Interfaces with Feminist, Postcolonial, and Decolonial STS


Foreign Language Requirements

Students normally satisfy the language requirement by the end of the second year; the requirement must be satisfied in order to pass the qualifying exam. Fulfillment of the language requirement in feminist studies can be documented in several ways. The documentation should demonstrate current ability to use the language in an appropriate way in scholarship. The language appropriate to research could be oral, gestural, or written, or a combination of these. Depending on the specific language and on the research needs of the student, functional language competence could include the ability to read the scholarly literature or other written material needed in research, the ability to conduct fieldwork in the language, or the ability to produce written work in the language. Students should discuss their language requirement with their faculty advisor who, along with the graduate director, has responsibility for determining whether a student has satisfied the requirement. If neither the advisor nor the graduate director have proficiency in the proposed language, then an outside person will be consulted to verify competency in the proposed language. According to Graduate Division policy, proficiency should be demonstrated before the qualifying examination committee can be appointed and at least one month prior to taking the qualifying examination.

Qualifying Examination

Advancement to candidacy depends on the general quality of a student’s work; demonstration of proficiency in a foreign language relevant to the student’s area of work, either by passing a written examination administered by the department or successfully completing a language course approved by the department; success in the qualifying examination, and proposal of an acceptable dissertation topic.

Students should consult their advisor when composing their qualifying examination committee. Per Academic Senate policy, committees must consist of at least four members, one of whom is not a member of the student’s department. The chair of the committee must be tenured, and will not be the student’s dissertation advisor. The outside member must be a tenured faculty member, or may be from a non-academic field. The department requires that at least two members of the committee must be members of the Department of Feminist Studies. The graduate dean has authority to approve committee nominations and grant authorities.

The qualifying examination focuses on the student’s research project and on the fields of scholarship it presupposes. The qualifying examination consists of:

  1. Written Portion (75-95 pages total)
    1. Introduction to the Qualifying Exam (15-20p): This document explains the intellectual trajectory of the student, the development of the student’s research questions, and the relationship between the different written components submitted for the exam.
    2. Qualifying Essay(s) (50-60p): In consultation with the advisor, the student will submit one or two research essays totaling 50-60 pages. Depending on the nature of the student’s project and method, as well as the advisor’s preferences concerning the exam format, the Qualifying Essay(s) may consist of article- or chapter-length research paper(s), literature review(s), and/or field statement(s) related to the student’s primary areas of research.
    3. Dissertation Prospectus (10-15p): A draft dissertation prospectus is due at the time of exam. A revised prospectus will be due to the committee no later than the end of the quarter following the oral exam. The prospectus outlines the primary research questions, fields of intervention, timeline, and potential claims of the dissertation project.
  2. Oral Examination
    1. The oral examination typically lasts 2.5-3 hours. The student is invited to give a 10-minute introduction to the qualifying essay and research project. Each examiner on the QE Committee will have approximately 20-30 minutes to put questions to the student regarding the written portion of their examination. A general discussion typically follows the round-robin questioning. Upon completion of the questions and discussion, the student is excused and the committee members evaluate the student’s performance with the goal of achieving some unanimity. The committee invites the student back to the room to share the group’s evaluation, offer advice, and articulate any requirements. The committee will also suggest revisions to the dissertation prospectus, to be completed by the end of the quarter following the oral exam.
    2. The chair of the committee composes a final report based on the committee’s evaluation of the student’s performance. After approval by the other committee members, the report is submitted to the Graduate Division to recommend advancement to candidacy.

Post-Qualifying Requirements

Immediately after the qualifying examination, students will consult their primary advisor to convene a Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee must be composed of at least three members, the majority of whom must be members of the UC Santa Cruz Academic Senate, and at least one of whom is a member in Feminist Studies. Advancement to candidacy will only take place after a committee is approved by the graduate dean.

Award of Master's Degree

The department admits students only for the Ph.D. program. However, in exceptional circumstances, for example, if a student has to leave the program before completing the Ph.D., the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Feminist Studies may be conferred in accordance with the campus Capstone Curriculum. In consultation with the advisor and graduate director, the M.A. requirements are as follows:

  1. Completion of nine graduate seminars (45 quarter units), including FMST 200, FMST 201, and FMST 202 to the satisfaction of the department. The remaining six seminars are to be selected from the department offerings to reflect the student's particular academic plan, agreed upon by the student and graduate advisor. No more than 15 units may be upper division undergraduate courses. Supervised research classes may not count for more than 10 units of the total 45.
  2. Sucessful completion of Capstone requirement, which will be the Feminist Studies qualifying examination, including all written and oral components.
  3. Completion of the master’s degree cannot be accomplished in less than two full academic years.

Students who wish to petition for the M.A. degree in Feminist Studies must meet all guidelines for the degree established by the Graduate Division and petition for the degree prior to the due date set by the division. Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination, students must submit the completed qualifying examination written materials to the department as the final portfolio of work for the degree.



After advancement to candidacy, expected by the end of the third year, students take courses in the 290 sequence (FMST 299A) until the dissertation is submitted. Successful revision of the dissertation prospectus will be due to the Dissertation Committee no later than the end of the quarter after completion of the oral examination to remain in good academic standing. Students submit the revised prospectus to their committee for approval and transmit the document to the graduate coordinator.

Upon approval of the revised dissertation prospectus, students concentrate on dissertation writing. The current normative time to degree limit is six years, although students should plan dissertation research and writing timelines keeping in mind the funding commitments made by the department at the time of matriculation. Students also have the option of doing advanced work in a traditional discipline and receiving a Designated Emphasis of this specialization. In such cases, students must satisfy the appropriate department’s criteria (see the departmental web site for information). Students are expected to complete at least one year of supervised teaching as part of the degree requirements.

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense serves as the final opportunity for the student to receive focused feedback on research and writing, ideally with the goal of developing the dissertation into a book or other major project following completion of the Ph.D. The defense typically lasts two hours and is an occasion for thoughtful, constructive criticism and guidance; it is not an examination. For this reason, the defense will normally be conducted as a closed meeting between the committee and the student, along with a small audience of guests invited by the student and/or advisor. The student may elect to conduct a public defense with permission of the advisor. In such instances, the chair must convene a closed committee discussion at the end of the defense to complete conferral of the Ph.D.

Academic Progress

Normative time to completion of the Ph.D. is six years. Upon advancement to candidacy, students are expected to complete the dissertation within three years to make satisfactory academic progress.

Applying for Graduation

At the end of the dissertation writing process, the student must petition for the degree, format the dissertation according to Graduate Division guidelines, complete an oral dissertation defense with the Dissertation Committee, and obtain signatures of the committee members on the official title page. Once these items are complete, the student may file the dissertation to complete the Ph.D.