Designated Emphasis

Program / Advisory Committee / Requirements / Application Process / Teaching Opportunities / Outstanding GSI Award


Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality (DEWGS)

The Designated Emphasis program was developed to accommodate some of the many students who conduct graduate-level research in gender and/or sexuality related topics on the Berkeley campus. Administered by the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies and its affiliated faculty, the DEWGS provides its students with certification as well as with a context for the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and development of research.

Applicants will be selected according to their academic qualifications, the appropriateness of their interests to the program’s teaching resources, and the enrollment capacity of its graduate seminars. To be admitted to the program, applicants must already be accepted into an existing Ph.D. program at UC Berkeley (master’s students and students at other institutions are not eligible). Graduate students should apply in their third semester for admission to the program in their fourth semester. Students must apply before completing their qualifying examinations. The Designated Emphasis aims to admit 15 students per year.

Students admitted to the Designated Emphasis program should enroll in the required introductory seminar (GWS 200) offered the following spring if possible, and must complete that seminar before taking their qualifying exams. Students must fulfill the following requirements before completion of the degree: The introductory seminar (GWS 200), a 200 level elective seminar taught in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies (or an approved substitute taught by a member of the affiliated faculty), and a dissertation research seminar (GWS 220). A member of the GWS department or its affiliated faculty must be on the qualifying examination committee; a topic on women, gender, and sexuality must be on the qualifying examination, and a member of the GWS department or its affiliated faculty must be on the dissertation committee.

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Advisory Committee

Patrice D. Douglass

Patrice D. Douglass is an Assistant Professor in Gender and Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley. Her first book project, tentatively titled, “Engendering Blackness: The Ontology of Sexual Violence”, examines the relationship between sexual violence and modern racial slavery and finds it not only inseverable but also fundamental to the structural predicaments facing Blackness in the present. By interrogating the sexual status of the slave, “Engendering Blackness” contends that the sexual violability of slaves is often misappropriated by frameworks on sexual violence—such as those espoused by feminist philosophy and feminist legal theory—that privilege its occurrences as a question of ethics, power, and feminine orders of gendering. Rather, this book foregrounds Blackness as engendered by sexual violence, which forcefully (re)produces Blackness, corporeally and conceptually, as a condition that lacks the capacity to ontologically distinguish its suffering from what it means to “be” Human.

Laura C. Nelson

Laura C. Nelson is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on the ways societal changes are drawn through gender.  Her two current research projects are situated in South Korea.  One is an examination of breast cancer in South Koreaas a medical, cultural, personal, environmental, political and transnational phenomenon. The other probes demographic gender imbalance of the decades after the Korean War, asking both what personal experiences were of the imbalance, and also what effects the erasure of unmarried adults of the time from culture and memory have had on South Korean ideas of gender normativities. In earlier work she looked at consumer nationalism in South Korea, and at credit card policies and personal bankruptcy in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis, and she has held positions outside academia in public policy evaluation and in microenterprise development.Professor Nelson serves as an Associate Dean of Social Sciences, and is affiliated with the Center for Korean Studies, the Group in Asian Studies, and the Department of Anthropology. She received her PhD in Anthropology at Stanford, and holds a Master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley with a focus on housing and community economic development.

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DEWGS Requirements

  • GWS 200 – Theory and Critical Research (must be taken before taking Qualifying Exams)
  • GWS 220 – Dissertation Research Seminar
  • Elective seminar – A 200 level seminar in the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies.
  • A member of the GWS department or its affiliated faculty must be on the qualifying examination committee; a topic on women, gender, and sexuality must be on the qualifying examination, and a member of the GWS department or its affiliated faculty must be on the dissertation committee.

Note: Students may petition the DEWGS Director to use a gender- or sexuality-focused graduate course taught outside GWS to fulfill the elective requirement. That request must include a copy of the course syllabus and a cover letter indicating how that course was directly related to your studies in DEWGS (assigned readings, research focus, or paper completed). GWS 200 and 220 can not be substituted by other classes.

If a student is admitted who demonstrates a well-articulated research agenda in Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies but does not already have adequate training for graduate level work in the field, they will be required to enroll in one of the Department’s advanced undergraduate courses before they take 200. Course selection should be undertaken in consultation with the DEWGS director.

  • Graduation Information
    1. Contact the GWS Graduate Student Affairs Office (GSAO) early in the semester you are scheduled to graduate to review the completion of the DE program requirements.
    2. Complete the DE Final Report
    3. Please inform the GSAO if you will be attending the Gender and Women’s Studies Commencement Ceremonies in May.
    4. Submit name of your home department, title of your dissertation, and a permanent address to the GSAO.
  • Upon completion of these requirements and the dissertation, the student will receive a designation on their transcript and their diploma to state that they have completed a “Ph.D. in (…) with an Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality.” The GWS department also provides each DE graduate with a DEWGS medal at the GWS commencement ceremonies.

Required Forms 

DEWGS Graduate Student Affairs Officer

Graduate Student Affairs Officer
Eric Cheatham
Student Advisor
608C Social Sciences Building

DEWGS Faculty Advisor
Laura Nelson

Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Pedagogy
618 Social Sciences Building

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Application Process

Materials should include the following:

  • a one page (single spaced) statement of purpose which lays out the applicant’s research interests (including a brief description of the projected dissertation research if available) and explains how and why DEWGS training fits into that project. Please be as specific as possible.
  • A brief account of your prior experience with the field of gender and sexuality studies to help the DEWGS director decide if classwork in preparation to GWS 200 will be necessary if admitted.
  • one letter of recommendation from your home department faculty,  including an assessment of the quality of your work so far, as well as of your readiness to complete the DE requirements (letter can be mailed under separate cover or emailed to
  • a gender/sexuality relevant writing sample (25 pages or less)  If you do not have a paper that directly engages with the field, submit an alternative sample with a short introduction describing how you imagine a gender/sexuality focused analysis would strengthen the work.
  • a Curriculum Vitae
  • an (unofficial) Berkeley transcript

Deadline for Fall admission: October 31
(If October 31 falls on a weekend, please submit materials the following Monday.)

Send all application materials via email to our Student Services Advisors.

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Teaching Opportunities

GWS provides GSI opportunities for DEWGS students to assist the instructor of record for:

GWS 10      Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies (4 units)
GWS 20      Introduction to Feminist Theory (4 units)
GWS 102    Transnational Feminism (4 units)
GWS 195    Gender and Women’s Studies Senior Seminar (4 units)
LGBT 20AC  Alternative Sexual Identities and Communities in Contemporary American Society (4 units)

Calls for applications go out every semester via the DE listserv and all DE students are encouraged to apply.

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Outstanding GSI Awards

2022 Awardee: Mary Jirmanus
2021 Awardee: Derrika Hunt
2020 Awardee: Elizabeth Lowe Hunter
2019 Awardee: Melina Packer and Tara Gonsalves

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