Graduate Schools Unite on Women's Studies

RADCLIFFE College and six other colleges and universities in the Boston area are uniting to advance the field of women's studies.

In January, the seven institutions started a graduate consortium in women's studies. Based at Radcliffe in Cambridge, Mass., the consortium offers team-taught courses to doctoral students from Boston College, Brandeis University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, and Tufts University.

Interdisciplinary courses in the consortium will "provide training for future faculty members who otherwise would not have the benefit of the cross-disciplinary treatment, nor would they have the network of other faculty and other students," says Radcliffe President Linda Wilson.

Consortiums in women's studies at the undergraduate level are fairly common, particularly among small private colleges that share courses or speakers, says Caryn McTighe Musil, a senior research associate for the Association of American Colleges in Washington. But Ms. Musil sees a demand for growth in graduate-level programs. Six master's degrees in women's studies are available now, up from three just three years ago.

"This is an area where you're going to see new growth. You now have undergraduates who are trained in [women's studies], and they want it when they go [for their master's degrees] and are not satisfied when handed an old syllabus that isn't rethought," Musil says.

Ms. Wilson echoes that sentiment. "Women's studies at the graduate level is developing in disciplinary pockets rather than in an interdisciplinary way, and what that can do is lead to reinventing the wheel or developing the same concepts but with different language." Through the doctoral consortium, she says, "we're trying to develop an ongoing mechanism for creative connections among women's-studies scholars without undermining their disciplinary roots...."

The consortium has a powerful potential to advance women's-studies scholarship, Radcliffe's president adds. The plan is to involve 50 professors and offer 16 to 24 courses to about 200 doctoral-degree students over the next four years.

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