Graduate Handbook

Graduate Handbook

Graduate Program Policies and Procedures

The Pennsylvania State University Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Last Revision: June 2023

In This Section

Department Head: Dr. Alicia C. Decker

Director of Graduate Studies: Dr. Maha Marouan

Graduate Staff Assistant: Ashley Scott

Welcome to the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) at Penn State University!

Please read this handbook as a starting point for navigating our graduate program, and do not hesitate to contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Maha Marouan (mzm24@psu.edu), if you have questions.


The History of Women’s and Gender Studies at Penn State

In 1871, the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania—now Penn State University–became the first college in Pennsylvania to admit women to degree programs on a regular basis and was among the first land-grant schools in the nation to do so. Over one hundred years later, WGSS is a thriving, interdisciplinary department that is ranked among the best in the country. We are one of a mere handful of U.S. universities offer a dual-title degree program in WGSS.

WGSS Today

Today, WGSS is located in the College of the Liberal Arts and our central departmental offices are on the third floor of Willard Building on central campus. Our highly diverse, interdisciplinary faculty engage in first-class research, pedagogy, and service with a deep commitment to social justice. Our faculty include feminist scholars from the fields of African Studies, African American Studies, Art Education, Communication Arts and Sciences, Comparative Literature, English, French and Francophone Studies, Geography, History, Italian, Mass Communications, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Rural Sociology, Spanish, and more. Thus, WGSS students come from five different colleges (Arts & Architecture, Liberal Arts, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Education, Communications) across the University.

We currently offer three dual-title degree options:

  • Dual-Title MA/MS Degree
  • Dual-Title PhD
  • The Graduate Minor

As a vibrant community of scholars and students, the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies is committed to the interdisciplinary, intersectional, and transnational analysis of gender’s relationship to power and social inequality. We deploy interdisciplinary feminist approaches to knowledge production, pedagogy, and community engagement. Our faculty and graduate students work on diverse research topics across the arts and sciences, linking Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) to multiple units across the university.

The master’s and doctoral degree programs in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, as well as the graduate minor, have allowed us to build a nationally and internationally recognized graduate program. The innovative dual-title degree program provides many scholarly and professional opportunities for our graduate students. Without our strong institutional relationships with partner PhD-granting programs and their faculty, as well as numerous affiliate or “courtesy” faculty throughout Penn State, WGSS has achieved unparalleled depth and breadth of faculty expertise. Thanks to this large network of cross-disciplinary faculty, you can expect to receive excellent training in two major fields of study, contextualizing and challenging sexism, homo- and transphobia, ableism, classism, and racial oppression. Our students learn through the development of critical and analytical skills, creative approaches to problem solving, and the ability to articulate productive socio-political alternatives.

In addition, WGSS at Penn State has been highly successful at placing graduates in both academic positions and in a variety of professional and research positions.

We currently partner with thirteen departments from across the university: Art Education; Communication Arts and Sciences; Comparative Literature; Curriculum and Instruction; English; French and Francophone Studies; Geography; History; Mass Communications; Philosophy; Political Science; Psychology; and Rural Sociology.

Learning Outcomes

Each department at Penn State is required to develop program learning outcomes and assessment procedures. In WGSS, these include the following:

  1. Demonstrate deep conceptual and historical understanding of intersectional feminist theory and methods.
  2. Apply current feminist literature from their partner discipline to their own research agenda.
  3. Comprehend the conceptual and practical dimensions of feminist pedagogy.
  4. Formulate and execute an independent research project that significantly furthers knowledge and theory within interdisciplinary feminist scholarship.
  5. Communicate effectively conceptual and methodological arguments in both written and oral formats to interdisciplinary audiences.
  6. Exhibit a commitment to professional standards and ethics in teaching, research, and service.

You should strive to meet all these objectives as you complete your coursework for the degree, sit for your qualifying and comprehensive exams, develop your dissertation proposal, and write and defend your dissertation.


The entire third floor is open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. If you have questions about access to this floor, contact the main office.

Who’s Who? Program and Office Staff and Their Roles

The Department Head: Dr. Alicia Decker (acd207@psu.edu) has authority over all areas of departmental administration, programming and policy-making. Office Location: 342 Willard.

The Director of Graduate Studies: Dr. Maha Marouan (mzm24@psu.edu) oversees, along with the department head, the direction and administration of the graduate program. In addition, the director handles general advising for students, providing guidance on degree requirements, monitoring student progress each year, assisting in the composition of examination committees and mentoring committees, approving elective courses toward the degree or the minor, and, finally, certifying that requirements are met for graduation. Office Location: 339 Willard.

The Graduate Matters Committee oversees the admissions process into the programs, evaluates graduate teaching applications, and generally seeks to develop or clarify policies that relate to the successful running of the graduate program. They also develop graduate curriculum and policy agendas for the Department, with consultation and final approval by the entire faculty.

The Graduate Matters Committee selects recipients or makes nominations for graduate student awards.

The Graduate Staff Assistant: Ashley Scott (ams87@psu.edu), maintains graduate student records and handles paperwork required at various stages of the graduate program. This staff person is responsible for administering the class schedule, credit approvals, and other matters related to the Graduate School and Registrar’s Office. Office Location: 345C Willard

The Grad Lab

The Grad Lab is located in Willard 336. There are computers and a printer for grad student use. Graduate students may also use the large printer in Willard 345 for WGSS business-related printing and copying only. The Grad Lab is open M-F, from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm.


A complete list of the Graduate Faculty in WGSS can be found here: http://www.gradschool.psu.edu/gs/faculty/facultylist.cfm?program=177&srch=true.



Students must complete 18 credits of WGSS coursework. For incoming students who are new to Penn State, consult the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) as your adviser during your first fall semester. The DGS can help facilitate your connections to our faculty and guide you in the field until you identify a field-specific adviser.

Required Core Courses:

  • WMNST 502: Global Perspectives on Feminism (3 credits)
  • WMNST 507: Feminist Theory (3 credits)
  • WMNST 508: Feminist Methodologies (3 credits) or WMNST 509: Feminist Pedagogies (3 credits)

Students must also complete 9 additional credits of WGSS coursework (at least 6 of which should be at the 500 level) chosen in consultation with the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies DGS. At least three of those credits must be offered by a department other than your disciplinary-major program.

Please note that any seminar not formally cross-listed with a WMNST course abbreviation must be approved by the WGSS Director of Graduate Studies to count toward your dual-title or minor. See the advising form (Appendix B), which summarizes course requirements.

Benchmarks for the PhD:

  • Completion of Core Courses (9 Cr)
  • Completion of Elective Courses (9 Cr)
  • Qualifying Exams
  • Comprehensive Exams
  • Dissertation Proposal and Defense
    • The student’s dissertation topic must be related to the interdisciplinary field of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


(See GCAC-602 PhD Committee Formation, Composition, and Review – Research Doctorate).

Dual-Title PhD Qualifying Exam Committee

A dual-title student must have at least one WGSS faculty member participating in the qualifying exam process (see GCAC-604). Some considerations:

  • Some partner departments require standardized exams for all students, so WGSS participation is not always possible. If that is the case, WGSS committee members can require an additional WGSS-focused qualifying Students should clarify expectations with WGSS committee member(s) and the WGSS DGS as soon as possible.
  • Because students may require an additional semester to fulfill all requirements, the qualifying exam may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period However, the Graduate School has determined that qualifying exams must be completed by the end student’s fourth semester. Any exceptions to that MUST be approved in advance by the Graduate School!

Dual-Title Ph D. Comprehensive Exam Committee

WGSS faculty members must participate fully in the comprehensive exam process, and the exam must include questions on feminist theory and methods. Your chair/co-chair should be in touch with the partner department to ensure that all faculty understand the format and are involved in the development of the exam.

The Graduate School requirement for an “outside field” member on the doctoral committee can be filled by the WGSS faculty on the committee. All doctoral committees at Penn State must also have an “outside unit” member (someone with a different tenure home than the chair or co-chair). It is possible for one person on the committee to fulfill both roles—as both an outside field and outside unit member.

Please work with the DGS—of both your departments—to help you navigate Graduate School and departmental requirements in the composition of your committee.

Dual-Title Doctoral Thesis Committee

At least two Graduate Faculty of WGSS must be included on your doctoral committee. One of these two WGSS members must serve as either chair or co-chair of the doctoral committee.

  • The Graduate School requires that each doctoral committee include an “outside field” member (from within a department) and an “outside unit” member (someone with a different tenure home than the chair or co-chair). It is possible for one person on the committee to fulfill both roles—as outside field and outside unit That said, we encourage you to ensure that one of the WGSS members of the committee be from outside your partner discipline. This supports interdisciplinary inquiry and training. Please work with us to help you navigate these rules!

For the most up-to-date and detailed description of the required composition of your dissertation committee, please visit the Grad School’s website:



Because WGSS is in partnership with a disciplinary major department, the “delivery mode” of the comprehensive examination will be determined by the major department that admitted the student first (see that department’s graduate handbook). Departments are offered the option of holding comps fully in-person, fully remote, or hybrid, with some individuals participating in-person while others participate remotely. As a dual-title candidate, you must follow the option(s) your “home” department offers you. WGSS must accommodate that choice.  

Student preference for delivery mode should be strongly considered, but the student and adviser must agree on the mode. If the student and adviser cannot agree on the mode, the Graduate Program Head will make the final decision. Either the student or adviser can appeal the decision of the Graduate Program Head to the Associate Dean for Graduate Education in the College of the Liberal Arts. 


The policy is the same as for comprehensive exams (see section above).  


Students must complete twelve (12) credits of WGSS coursework.

Required Courses:

  • WMNST 502: Global Perspectives on Feminism (3 credits)
  • WMNST 507: Feminist Theory (3 credits)
  • WMNST 508: Feminist Methodologies (3 credits) or WMNST 509: Feminist Pedagogies (3 credits)

Students must also complete 3 (three) additional credits of WGSS coursework chosen in consultation with the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Graduate Program Director. Please note that any seminar not formally cross-listed with a WMNST course abbreviation must be approved by the WGSS Director of Graduate Studies to count toward your dual-title or minor.


The dual-title MA thesis is a scholarly paper that integrates, theoretically and/or methodologically, both your disciplinary major field, and WGSS. At least one member of the student’s advising committee must have Graduate Faculty standing in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.


An interdisciplinary graduate minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is available to any student currently active in a graduate degree program at Penn State.

Official requests to add a minor to a doctoral candidate’s academic record must be submitted to Graduate Enrollment Services prior to establishing the PhD committee and prior to scheduling the comprehensive examination. A simple request form is available from the Graduate School. A student seeking a minor must have the approval of the student’s major program of study, the minor program, and the Graduate School.

Request to Add Graduate Minor Form (https://gradschool.psu.edu/forms-and-documents/ges-owned-forms-and-documents/addgrminorpdf/)

Doctoral Degree Minor Requirements

Dual-title PhD students wishing to add a minor in WGSS must submit an official request to Graduate Enrollment Services prior to establishing their doctoral committee or scheduling their comprehensive examination.

To earn a PhD minor, students are required to complete 15 credits of coursework in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. This includes three required courses: WMNST 502: Global Perspectives on Feminism (3 credits), WMNST 507: Feminist Theory (3 credits), and either WMNST 508: Feminist Methodologies (3 credits) or WMNST 509: Feminist Pedagogies (3 credits). Students must also complete six additional credits of WGSS coursework. At least one Graduate Faculty member of WGSS must be included on the doctoral minor committee.

Master’s Degree Minor Requirements

To earn an MA minor, students are required to complete 9 credits of coursework in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. This includes two required courses: WMNST 502: Global Perspectives on Feminism (3 credits) and WMNST 507: Feminist Theory (3 credits). The additional three credits must be chosen in consultation with and pre-approval from the Director of Graduate Studies in WGSS.

Graduate Minors for Current WGSS Graduate Students

WGSS graduate students may themselves apply for a graduate minor in any department that offers one.




Applications to the Dual-Title Degree Program in WGSS must be completed online. You can apply for the dual-title program in two ways:

  1. You can apply to your disciplinary major and to the WGSS inter-disciplinary major at the same time. That said, if you do not have a strong background in WGSS or Gender Studies already (at least an undergraduate minor or the equivalent) the Graduate Matters Committee is very likely to recommend that you reapply after having taken at least one, and preferably two, WGSS core classes (i.e., WGSS 502, 507, 508 or 509). Reapplication after a semester or two is not uncommon; in fact it is welcomed, once you have successfully completed graduate coursework in gender/feminist studies. Feel free to discuss applying to WGSS with our director of graduate studies.  
  2. You can apply to WGSS after you have matriculated into one of the 13 disciplinary majors that WGSS has a partner agreement CRITICAL TIMING NOTE: As a current student at Penn State you must submit a dual-title application and be accepted before taking qualifying examinations in your disciplinary major department. The Graduate School will not accept applications after qualifying exams have been passed. They have become quite inflexible about this.

Students applying to WGSS concurrently with admission to Penn State:

You will be applying online to the Graduate School at Penn State. As you apply to a disciplinary major (which must be of our thirteen partner programs) you will see a list of dual-title degrees that particular department participates in. When you reach that list, mark your intention to apply also to WGSS. The initial admissions decision will come from the disciplinary-major department.

If and when you are admitted into a disciplinary major program (who is also a partner with WGSS), our admissions committee will review your file when it is received from the admitting department. You can use the same materials you submitted in that application. HOWEVER, you must also submit to wgssgradprogram@psu.edu a statement of purpose (up to 500 words). In that statement, please summarize your academic experience in women’s and gender studies (course work, theses, research positions) as well as any gender-centered outreach you may have done. In addition, explain why you wish to enter the dual-title at the outset of your program at Penn State: why are feminist theory and methods essential to your projected thesis project(s)? We are looking for how/why you will be integrating feminist analysis to your work.  

Our admissions committee follows the timetable of our partner departments. You will likely receive an acceptance from that major program before receiving our decision. WGSS does try to move as quickly as possible after we receive the partner department’s final list of acceptances. We will communicate our department’s decision to the disciplinary major department’s Director of Graduate Studies, and you will hear from one or both of us at that point. 

As noted in the previous section, if the admissions committee does not feel your application is strong enough for entry into the WGSS graduate program at that time, you will be encouraged to take one or two of our core courses and reapply. An optimal time to reapply is in the second semester of your first year, or even early in your second year.  

For Internal Candidates Applying After Matriculation at Penn State:

The admissions committee meets once per semester to review internal applications. The application deadlines for current Penn State students are October 15 and February 15. Master’s degree students can apply at any point in their program, provided they are able to fulfill all requirements before graduation.

Timing is critical! PhD students must apply and be admitted before taking their qualifying exams. We strongly recommend that prospective applicants take one of our required courses before applying (or during the semester they plan to apply). If this is not possible, please explain the circumstances in your personal statement.

Students already enrolled in one of our thirteen partner programs may apply by submitting the following via email to wgssgradprogram@psu.edu:

  • A curriculum vitae.
  • A list of in-progress and completed WGSS coursework at Penn State.
  • A confidential email (sent to wgssgradprogram@psu.edu) from a Penn State WGSS instructor providing a brief overview (a paragraph is fine) of your performance and abilities in that course. 
  • A writing sample (ideally from a WGSS-related graduate course). 
  • A personal statement that describes how your research and professional goals reflect an interest in interdisciplinary feminist research. 
  • One (1) letter of recommendation from a member of the Graduate Faculty of the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality. This faculty member can be the same person who assesses your performance in class, but you may prefer to a different faculty member who is able to speak more specifically or differently about your qualifications. 

*All applications should clearly explain how your research plans will integrate both your disciplinary major and the interdisciplinary WGSS major; and also, why/how the dual-title program will enrich your graduate education and career goals.

*Any letters of recommendation from faculty should be submitted directly to wgssgradprogram@psu.edu, or to the DGS.


One of the most important things to realize as you undertake the WGSS dual-title degree program is that you must follow closely the degree requirements from both the dual-title interdisciplinary WGSS program and your disciplinary major program. WGSS does not have control over—nor comprehensive knowledge of—a partner department’s curriculum requirements. We seek to make our dual-title program as flexible as possible to allow students to complete all requirements in a timely manner. But for this reason, advising and mentoring are an important aspect of your graduate experience!


The Spring 2024 Course Registration schedule is as follows:

  • Sept. 5: Schedule of classes for Spring 24 published 
  • Sept. 20: Shopping carts open 
  • Oct. 4: Priority registration begins  
  • Oct. 11: Regular registration begins

Please note: Because of the popularity of our core courses across the university, the department allows only those officially enrolled in the WGSS graduate program to register for those courses during the first two weeks of registration. After that time, open seats are open to other graduate students.   


For incoming students who are new to Penn State, the DGS will act as your advisor until a WGSS faculty advisor in your area of study is determined. The DGS and/or faculty member can help facilitate your connections to the rest of our faculty, and guide you in the field. Of course, the DGS is always available to advise you any point as you progress through the program.


We require that each dual-title PhD and MA student submit an annual progress report. Most of our partner programs require some form of annual report and/or yearly meeting with one’s advising committee. Your WGSS adviser(s) should be part of that process. They should be invited to this meeting and/or receive a copy of such a report. 

By the end of the first week of May, each dual-title student should submit in writing an annual progress report form (see Appendix D), signed by you, the student, and your WGSS faculty adviser. Please submit this form via email to wgssgradprogram@psu.edu as a  PDF titled “LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME Annual Report 202X-202X.” The DGS in WGSS will draft a report for each student, focusing on performance and progress within the dual-title program. 


Graduate Assistantships: We are pleased to offer a limited number of one-year graduate assistantships, which include tuition, stipend and health insurance, to dual-title and graduate minor PhD students. 

These assistantships provide an additional year of funding and critical professional experience for students. Most graduate assistants will teach one of our introductory courses, such as WMNST 100: Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies, WMNST 105: Living in a Diverse World, WMNST 106: Representing Women and Gender in Literature, Art and Popular Cultures, or WMNST 245: Introduction to LGBTQ+ Studies. 

How to apply: The deadline for the following academic year’s TA assignments is typically around February 15 each year. The Director of Graduate Studies will send an email to all WGSS graduate students at least one month prior to the deadline. Priority will be given to those students with all or most of their WGSS coursework completed, as well as previous teaching experience and a thoughtful feminist pedagogical approach. 

Residential and online teaching appointments

The Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies also offers teaching appointments, both online and residential, that are not in the form of teaching assistantships (thus they do not carry a tuition waiver nor insurance).

The goal with teaching appointments is to distribute these opportunities fairly while meeting the programmatic needs of the department. Again, we prioritize those students with all or most of their WGSS coursework completed (having passed their comprehensive exams) and with previous teaching experience.

Residential and online teaching appointments that are not teaching assistantships are made on a rolling basis as needed in response to programmatic needs. The DGS will solicit calls for applications when such opportunities become available. Requests for applications will be made via the WGSS department office and vetted by the Department Head.

Summer teaching

There are three summer sessions: the “Maymester” and two summer sessions. Summer teaching is made available as needed. (Numbers vary each summer). Positions are determined by the department head. There is no special application. WGSS Graduate majors and minors are eligible, and teaching experience and SRTE scores (if available) are obviously the priority for selection.

Teaching mentorship

There are several ways of learning about feminist pedagogy and forms of teaching. The department offers WMNST 509: Feminist Pegagogies as a formal introduction to feminist pedagogy, and it is offered at least once a year. Separate feminist pedagogy workshops for graduate students and faculty are offered throughout the academic year. These are announced via the grad student listserv.

Because many graduate students will teach on-line courses, the director of online education in WGSS offers workshops in advance of each semester for those who would like advice and tips on teaching remotely. Your primary faculty advisers can also serve as mentors for your teaching, of course! In addition, the University and Schreyer Honors College offer a variety of training and certificate programs that you can complete. Keep an eye out for announcements of their offerings and deadlines on the WGSS grad listserv.


We offer several awards annually to dual-title students. Calls for nomination are made at the beginning of the Spring semester. The deadline for submitting application materials is typically mid-February. We present these awards to their recipients at our annual spring awards ceremony.

Sara Woods Outstanding Graduate Student Award recognizes excellence in WGSS scholarship.

Sara Woods Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award recognizes excellence in WGSS teaching.

Laura Richardson Whitaker Memorial Graduate Fund recognizes excellence in research and supports dissertation-related research expenses of dual-title students.

Judith Hardes WGSS Reproductive Justice Awards recognize students, staff, and faculty who are doing important work to advance reproductive justice (RJ), both on campus and more broadly. There are multiple Hardes awards; please see the graduate program website for details on these and all other awards open to you. 

Conference Travel Funding

While we cannot guarantee support for graduate students in all circumstances, we typically provide funds for dual-title and graduate minor students to present their research at an academic conference oriented toward women’s, gender, and/or sexuality studies. We prioritize presentations at the National Women’s Studies Association meetings and try to set aside funds particularly in support of graduate student participation in this annual conference. Please send your requests to the Director of Graduate Studies, including the following information: the name of the conference; the title of the paper or poster you will present; the relevance of the conference to your professional development in the field of WGSS; and a brief budget detailing the amount of your request (include any funds for the trip already committed from other units or entities). Please send this request well in advance of your departure.


In addition to speaking with your advisors, WGSS offers a one-credit course (for credit or audit*), Approaching the Job Market (WMNST597). The course prepares students for the job search (constructing a CV, job-letter writing, mock interviews). It focuses particularly on how to explain and promote your interdisciplinary work to individuals who may be unfamiliar with gender studies and feminist thought and methodologies. The course is designed for more advanced graduate students, typically those who are nearing completion or have completed their course work. *Note: If you are still taking course work, you may take the course for credit; once you have completed coursework, however, you should register as an auditor. (Otherwise, the university will charge you tuition!).  



During the semester before you plan to graduate, you will file an “intent to graduate” form. To graduate, you must satisfy all the University, college, and major requirements that were in effect at the time of your most recent admission, or re-enrollment, as a degree candidate to the University.


  1. It is your responsibility to notify the University of your intent to graduate (policy 86-00).
  2. Confirm the activation period on the Academic Calendar for the dates when you can activate your intent to graduate.
  3. Using the “Apply for Graduation” link within the My Academics page in the LionPATH Student Center, you can set your intent to



One key strength of our dual-title and graduate minor programs is the extensive network of faculty and graduate students who are engaged in cutting-edge, interdisciplinary feminist scholarship and teaching at Penn State. The size and reach of Penn State’s degree programs in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies are unparalleled in terms of opportunities for students to take a wide range of graduate courses in the field, to work with an array of world-class advisers, and to interact with a comparatively large cohort of feminist graduate students.

The challenge for students, however, is that they often feel the pull of both programs, and it is not always easy to balance obligations. While recognizing these constraints, we work to maximize student engagement in the life of the department. Such engagement is critical for the intellectual and professional enrichment that WGSS offers and for the feminist-inspired refuge we can provide from other aspects of academic life.

We encourage you to engage the WGSS community from the moment you arrive at Penn State—even if you have not yet decided whether (or not) to formally apply for a dual-title or graduate minor in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. These are some of the ways you can tap into the activities of the department:


Graduates in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. https://sites.google.com/site/pennstatewsgo/home
Email: psugwgss@gmail.com

The mission of the GWGSS is to represent and support the interests of graduate students in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, as well as those who are interested in or affiliated with the program. GWGSS enriches the experience of graduate students by creating intellectual networks and providing leadership, social, and professional opportunities, as well as ensuring adequate and fair representation of graduate student interests within WGSS. GWGSS accomplishes these goals through various events intended to promote intellectual community both within the graduate student community and between graduate students and faculty. Perhaps the most important of these is the graduate student conference, which is held once every year.

This year’s officers (2023-2024):  

President: President: Suleyman Bolukbas (CMLIT/WGSS) 

Vice President: Jiacheng Liu (COMM/WGSS) 

Treasurer: Frankie Urrutia-Smith (HIST/WGSS) 

Members-at-Large: Ege Altan (CMLIT/WGSS), JoAnn Michel (FFS/WGSS), Samrat Sharma (C&I/WGSS), and Kristina Bowers (ENGL/WGSS).  

Graduate Alliance for Diversity and Inclusion (GADI)

GADI is devoted to supporting graduate students who identify with or are allies to people from underrepresented communities. It brings students together from across the college’s departments to discuss issues of diversity, provide support to students and education for the community, and build community among graduate students from diverse backgrounds.

Graduate student listserv (l-wgss-grad@lists.psu.edu)

Please email wgssgradprogram@psu.edu to be added to the graduate student listserv at any time after you receive your PSU email account. You can be on the list whether you have formally declared a minor or been accepted into the dual-title program, or even if you will not be doing either but want to hear about our events.

WGSS Department Meetings

Our department meetings are open to graduate students and are held monthly. These meetings provide opportunities to interact with faculty and graduate students and to gain a deeper understanding of broader department issues and programming.

WGSS Coffee Hour and Special Events

The department organizes speakers throughout the year, usually on Wednesday afternoons. These talks are advertised on the graduate listserv (l-wgss- grad@lists.psu.edu), and we strongly encourage you to attend these as often as you can.

Other Professional Development Opportunities

The College of the Liberal Arts and the Graduate School offer workshop series on topics related to professional development. You will be alerted about these opportunities through the department listserv.



The Red Folder initiative is a guide to help faculty, staff, and others who interact with students to recognize, respond effectively to, and refer distressed students at Penn State. But much of this information is also helpful to your own self-care, if you find you need it!

  • RECOGNIZE the distress
  • RESPOND appropriately
  • REFER the student (or yourself!)
  • RESOURCES for emergencies, urgent care on campus

Emergency Funding (University)

Recognizing that unforeseen financial emergencies will occur for students, Penn State established the Student Emergency Fund to help meet the immediate needs of students experiencing crisis situations. Funds are intended to provide short-term financial assistance to students who are managing demanding academic requirements while struggling with debilitating financial circumstances of an unforeseen nature.

Provided in the form of one-time awards, emergency funding is not intended to provide ongoing relief for recurring expenses. These awards are not loans that students are expected to repay and every request for financial relief will be reviewed on its individual merits. The value of the awards ranges based on a student’s specific needs but typically does not exceed $1,000.

If you find yourself in need of emergency assistance, please do not hesitate to contact the DGS or the Department Head, as well as personnel at Student Affairs. For more information, see: https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/support-safety-conduct/support- resources/financial-concerns.

Food and Housing Security

Resources are available for any student who finds themselves experiencing food insecurity. Among them is the on-campus Lion’s Pantry, which can provide fresh, refrigerated and frozen foods to those in need.

For assistance with food and housing needs, students in need of support or who have questions are encouraged to reach out to resources at their campus, including the Student Care and Advocacy Office, Student Insurance Advocate, and Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park, or the counseling office at their campus, staff in these offices can offer judgment-free guidance and support and help connect students with available resources.

Diversity and Inclusion: Resources

Created in July 1990, the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity is charged with fostering diversity and inclusion at Penn State and creating a climate of diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the University’s faculty, staff, leadership, and student body.

Within the University, the office supports and evaluates the many diversity and inclusion initiatives and serves as an advocate for a range of populations. These include historically underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities; persons with disabilities; persons from low-income families who would be the first generation to attend college; veterans; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons; and women. The office also provides administrative support and advises three President’s commissions for equity. Beyond the University, in targeted high schools and counties, the office helps low- income youth and adults to overcome the social, cultural, and educational barriers to success in higher education. Please visit the Office for Educational Equity: http://equity.psu.edu/about.

The Gender Equity Center

This important center supports students who have been impacted by sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking, harassment, and other campus climate issues. GenEq staff provide education, advocacy, referrals, and crisis intervention/support counseling. All services are free and confidential, and appointments may be made for in-person counseling, or through Zoom.

GenEq also sponsors many events and programs. Connect with their calendar! If you are interested in becoming a “peer educator” with the Gender Equity Center, please get in touch (below). There are two such groups: Men Against Violence (MAV) and Peers Helping Reaffirm Education and Empower (PHREE).

Please review their website for valuable information about resources and options. For more information, to schedule an appointment, or to connect with staff, email us at genderequity@psu.edu, call us at 814-863-2027, or stop in the office at 204 Boucke. Phones are generally staffed from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. In- person office hours during academic periods are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

For more information, email the Gender Equity Center.

Conflict Resolution Processes: The Graduate Student Ombudsperson Program

The Graduate Student Ombudspersons provide a safe environment for graduate students to discuss issues and concerns. They assist the students in identifying or creating options for resolution, understanding relevant policies, connecting with resources for support and assistance and making referrals to formal channels with investigatory powers. Ombudspersons donot formally advocate for the student or any individual point of view, but instead workto promote a fair process for all. The Graduate Student Ombudspersons do not keep formal records, perform formal investigations, or advocate for either one party or another, but they advocate for fairness. 

Confidentiality:Ombudspersons hold all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence, and donot disclose confidential communications unless given permission to do so. The only exception to this privilege of confidentiality is where there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm, suspected abuse, or if required by law.  

Independence:The Ombudsperson is independent in structure, function, and appearance to the highest degree possible within the University. The ombudsperson is independent of other University entities and holds noother position that might compromise independence. The ombudsperson exercises sole discretion over whether or how to act in a situation.  

Informality: Ombudspersons, as an informal resource, donot participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative procedure related to concerns brought to their attention. Any communication with the office is “off the record” and the office does not provide formal notice of a problem to the University. The use of the Graduate Student Ombudsperson programis not a substitute for formal procedures, and is strictly voluntary.  

Neutrality & Impartiality:Ombudspersons are advocates for fairness with no personal stake in the outcome of any situation. They do not take sides and consider the rights and interests of all involved parties. They do not judge, discipline, or reward anyone.  





Resolution of Problems 

Penn State makes it a priority to establish fair and effective policies and processes to resolve graduate students’ grievances. When a problem arises between a graduate student and a faculty member, fellow student, or adviser, we encourage the parties to first seek to resolve the problem with their adviser or within their graduate program. 


If the concern involves issues that are not academic in nature and/or involve an act of bias, intolerance, sexual assault, harassment, student misconduct, or a behavioral threat, students are also encouraged to report the incident via the online reporting options available with theOffice of Student Affairsor by calling the relevant office. Please seeOther Resourcesbelow for more information. 
If a graduate student is not able to resolve the problem within their program, he/she may file a written grievance with the college administrator for graduate education (generally an associate or assistant dean or director for academic affairs) of their college. In response to this grievance, the college administrator will meet with the student, as well as other parties involved, in an effort to resolve the problem.  


If the student feels that the problem remains unresolved after meeting with the college administrator, they may bring the grievance to the attention of the Associate Dean for Graduate Student Affairs of the Graduate School. The Associate Dean will work with all parties involved to resolve the grievance and ensure that the student’s complaint is addressed with dignity, respect, and in an impartial and equitable manner.  

Conflict Resolution Pathway 

Your Adviser–>Head of your Graduate Program and/or Department–>Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research (Dr. Scott Bennett) –>Associate Dean for Graduate Student Affairs of the Graduate School   

Other Resources

Other potentially relevant policies can be found on the Graduate School website includingGuiding Principles for Good Practice in Graduate EducationandGraduate Student Policiesand those in theUniversity Policy Manual, especiallyRP02 (handling Inquiries/Investigations into Questions of Ethics in Research and Other Scholarly Activities)andIP02 (Co-author of Scholarly Reports, Papers, and Publications). In addition, graduate students are assured the full protections of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on the sex or gender of employees and students. Behaviors including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, as well as retaliation for reporting any of these acts are not tolerated. The University is also committed to providing support to those who may have been impacted by incidents of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct and may provide various resources and support services to individuals who have experienced one of these incidents. We encourage students to come forward with any concerns they have. In addition, the Associate Dean for Graduate Student Affairs of the Graduate School serves as an Ombudsperson to whom graduate students across the University can turn for assistance and advice without needing to file a formal grievance.  


GCAC-800 Student Conduct and Performance Policies 

Resources for reporting misconduct beyond the graduate program and Graduate School 

Immediate Threat or Emergency  

Sexual Abuse or Sexual Harassment  

General Discrimination or Harassment  

Student Misconduct  

Research Misconduct  

Behavioral Threat  

Other Misconduct  

Other Questions, Concern, and Issues That May Arise  

We want all graduate students to feel at home at Penn State. The Graduate School is dedicated to making sure that our students’ educational goals are being met. For any questions, comments, or concerns, we encourage our graduate students to contact the Graduate School atgraddeansoffice@psu.eduso that we can continue to find innovative ways to improve student life and cultivate intellectual growth.  


Appendix A: WGSS Advising Worksheet

Dual-title PhD Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Advising Worksheet

Name:                                               __________________

Every student starting their dual-title doctoral program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State should meet with the Director of Graduate Studies to chart out their plan to fulfill requirements. Complete details regarding degree requirements are available in the Grad School Bulletin (including committee structure requirements). Our goal is to support students in meeting our degree requirements and achieving their scholarly and professional goals. The Director of Graduate Studies must approve ahead of time the courses you would like to count towards your dual-title elective requirements, and also must approve any substitutions of core theory requirements. Nothing in this worksheet is set in stone, courses can be substituted and changed with prior approval.

Core Theory requirements (9 credits):

Semester / yr.

WMNST 507: Feminist Theory


WMNST 502: Global Perspectives on Feminism


WMNST 509 OR 508: Feminist Pedagogies or Feminist Methodologies

Elective coursework (9 credits, at least 6 credits @ 500+-level):Sem/yr.DGS approve


Potential Advisor:

Student signature and date:                                                                                                  

DGS signature and date:                                                                                                        

Email completed form to wgssgradprogram@psu.edu.   

Appendix B: Annual Graduate Studies Dual-title Progress Report

Annual Graduate Studies Dual-title Progress Report


Partner Program:                                         

Current Semester / year:                                      

Year and semester you began graduate school at Penn State:                                  

Please attach to this form any annual report that you created for your partner department. If it does not include all WGSS-relevant information, please add a few bullets outlining your accomplishments related to your requirements and professional development in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies this year.

If your partner program does not require any kind of annual report narrative, please write one of approximately 150-300 words and a bulleted list if necessary. This should include a summary of your progress toward degree in the previous year (required courses, candidacy, or comprehensive exams etc.), as well as your timeline and goals for the coming year. Please share with us your proudest professional accomplishments, always including publications, conference presentations, etc.

The signatures below from your WGSS-affiliated advisers indicate they have received a copy of your report and will discuss with you your short- and long-term goals and plans. If you are in the doctoral program, one of these lines will be filled in by your WGSS-affiliated chair or co-chair. Master’s students may have only one WGSS-affiliated adviser.

Please list your committee members: 

Adviser printed name _______________________________

WGSS-affiliated adviser _______________________________

Date __________

Adviser printed name _______________________________

WGSS-affiliated adviser _______________________________

Date __________

Email completed form to wgssgradprogram@psu.edu.   


Given the interdisciplinary nature of our work, it is useful to be award of the great number of non-departmental research units. There are the ones located within the College of the Liberal Arts (https://la.psu.edu/centers-and-institutes/)

  • African Feminist Initiative
  • Africana Research Center
  • Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research
  • Center for American Literary Studies
  • Center for Global Studies (Title VI National Resource Center)
  • Center for Global Rights
  • Center for Human Evolution and Diversity
  • Center for Humanities and Information
  • Center for International Human Resource Studies
  • Center for Language Acquisition
  • Center for Language Science
  • Center for Social Data Analytics
  • Child Study Center
  • Criminal Justice Research Center
  • English for Professional Purposes Intercultural Center
  • George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center
  • Humanities Institute
  • Institute for Korean Studies
  • McCourtney Institute for Democracy
  • Rock Ethics Institute
  • World in Conversation Lab

Other Department Centers and Organizations:

  • Center for Global Workers Rights (Labor and Employment Relations)
  • Center for International Human Resource Studies (Labor and Employment Relations)
  • Center for Research on English Language Learning and Teaching (Applied Linguistics)
  • Center for Research on International Financial and Energy Security (Economics)
  • Center for the Study of Auctions, Procurement, and Competition Policy (Economics)
  • Committee for Early Modern Studies (History, English, Art History)
  • Max Kade German-American Research Institute (German and Slavic Languages and Literatures, and History)
  • Matson Museum of Anthropology (Anthropology)
  • Psychological Clinic (Psychology)

University Interdisciplinary Institutes of Possible Interest:

  • Penn State Cancer Institute
  • Clinical and Translational Science Institute
  • Institute for Computational and Data Sciences
  • Institutes of Energy and the Environment
  • Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences
  • Materials Research Institute
  • Social Science Research Institute
  • Applied Research Laboratory
  • The Sustainability Institute


The Red Folder initiative is a guide to help faculty, staff, and others who interact with students to recognize, respond effectively to, and refer distressed students at Penn State.