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Women’s Studies

College of Social Sciences
722 Saunders Hall
2424 Maile Way
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-7464
Fax: (808) 956-9616
Web: www.womenstudies.hawaii.edu


*Graduate Faculty

*K. Ferguson, PhD (Director)—feminist theory and methods, political theory
*S. Charusheela, PhD—feminist political economy, gender and development
*M. Chesney-Lind, PhD—criminology, sociology of gender
M. Das Gupta, PhD—feminist theory and methods, immigration, race relations in the U.S.
*R. Dawson, PhD—women and literature
S. Hippensteele, PhD—psychology, law, civil rights
*M. Koikari, PhD—sociology, Asia-Pacific studies

Affiliate Faculty

B. Andaya—Asian Studies
B. Aquino—political science
A. Auman—journalism
C. Bacchilega—English
C. Browne—social work
V. Dalmiya—philosophy
L. Despain—English
C. Franklin—English
M. Ghosh—librarian
M. Hara—English
R. Hsu—English
T. Hunt—anthropology
C. Jarman—law
K. Kane—Center for Teaching Excellence
V. Kanuha—social work
B. Keever—journalism
N. Lewis—East-West Center
L. Lyons—English
K. Phillips—English
S. Rai—Study Abroad Program
K. Reynolds—Japanese
L. Ruch—sociology
C. Sinavaiana—English
A. Sloat—nursing
M. Stark—antropology
K. Takara—interdisciplinary studies
K. Teaiwa—Pacific island studies
H. Trask—Hawaiian studies
K. Umemoto—urban and regional planning
V. Wayne—English
C. Yano—anthropology
A. Yap—Study Abroad Program
H. Young Leslie—anthropology
M. Yue—Chinese literature
K. Zhou—political science

Degree and Certificates Offered: Undergraduate Certificate in Women’s Studies, BA in Women’s Studies (through Interdisciplinary Studies), Graduate Certificate in Advanced Women’s Studies

The Academic Program

The Women’s Studies program offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of women and gender issues. The purpose of the program is to provide a rigorous and integrated academic experience for students interested in feminist research and teaching, giving them a coherent program of study in contemporary scholarship in feminist and gender studies. With a faculty trained in a variety of fields of study, the program investigates the role of gender as it intersects with race, class, and other vectors of power in shaping the study of history, psychology, anthropology, economics, sociology, political science, philosophy, literature, language, art, drama, education, law, medicine, and biology.

Women and men from all colleges at UH Manoa take women’s studies courses because of their intellectual vigor, their political insight, and their interdisciplinary ties to other fields of study. Many courses are cross-listed with other departments. Women’s studies is a uniquely powerful avenue of self-understanding as well as a means of connecting research on women and gender to other academic interests. Those who understand the workings of gender in personal lives and social orders can better pursue a variety of careers and life goals. Women’s studies offers a unique opportunity to study similarities and differences—racial, economic, ethnic, sexual, regional, and global—among women here and around the world, past, present, and future.

Undergraduate Study

Bachelor’s Degree

Women’s studies offers a flexible, self-designed major through the Interdisciplinary Studies program. Students work in close consultation with faculty to design and develop the academic experience that best fits their interests, goals, and needs. The aim of the self-designed major is to promote a coherent program of study in contemporary interdisciplinary scholarship in feminist and gender studies, while allowing students to pursue either a specialized course or a general course of study. A key purpose of the major is to provide an integrated academic experience for students interested in feminist scholarship and gender issues, while offering flexibility and freedom in planning the degree.


To obtain a major in women’s studies, students must:

  • Write a detailed and acceptable proposal explaining their plans, with adequate faculty counseling. Depending on their interests, students can propose a self-designed major that either has a special concentration within the field of women’s studies, or has a more general focus on the broad field of women’s studies.
  • Ensure that the proposal satisfies the interdisciplinary studies guidelines for self-designed majors.
  • Include Feminist Theory (WS 439/POLS 339), and one course on gender, race, and ethnicity in transnational perspective (list of courses available from program).

Students who opt for a broad women’s studies major can take a maximum of three (3) general elective courses outside women’s studies as part of their major, as long as they are chosen to strengthen the overall purpose for course design along interdisciplinary studies guidelines. Students who opt for a special sub-focus within a women’s studies major can take a maximum of five (5) general elective courses outside women’s studies, as long as they are chosen to strengthen the overall purpose for course design along interdisciplinary studies guidelines. For administrative purposes, any cross-listed course will be counted as a women’s studies course regardless of the departmental designation under which students register for the course.


Students who plan to pursue the major through the Interdisciplinary Studies program should meet with the Interdisciplinary Studies program adviser. Interested students should refer to the “Interdisciplinary Studies” section within the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, or consult with the Interdisciplinary Studies program, Krauss 116, (808) 956-7297. In addition, students should meet with the women’s studies undergraduate program adviser (currently Dr. Ruth Dawson) for help in choosing classes, defining their area of interest, creating and developing proposals, and finding the faculty adviser most suited to their areas of interest.

The Undergraduate Certificate

The certificate in women’s studies is designed to encourage all undergraduates to acquire a more thorough background in contemporary interdisciplinary scholarship in feminist and gender studies, and to incorporate feminist perspectives and issues into their major fields of specialization. Through this interdisciplinary option, students from various majors can study the specific achievements of women, examine the many factors that determine the status of women across cultures and through time, and analyze theories and assumptions about women that particularly relate to their majors.
The certificate’s practical value includes the enhancement of knowledge that develops students’ abilities to think critically and constructively about their world and their lives. Further, it offers a credential that is applicable to a wide range of careers including medicine, law, business, education, counseling, and social work. The certificate can also provide the groundwork for advanced study of feminism and the graduate level application of feminist theories.

All registered students in good academic standing who are working towards a baccalaureate degree other than women’s studies at UH Manoa may apply for a women’s studies certificate.


  • Students must complete 15 credits in women’s studies with a grade of C (not C-) or better. The 15 credits must include the following two requirements: a course in Feminist Theory (WS 439/POLS 339), and at least one course in gender, race, and ethnicity in transnational perspectives (list of courses available from the program). At least 9 credits must be at the 300 level or higher.

Students can count courses taken toward their major or toward core requirements for their certificate in women’s studies. For administrative purposes, any cross-listed course will be counted as a women’s studies course regardless of the departmental designation under which students register for the course.

Graduate Study

Women’s studies offers a Graduate Certificate in Advanced Women’s Studies (AdWS Certificate). This certificate program provides a rigorous, integrated and relevant educational experience for students whose education and career objectives will be enhanced through creative and scholarly feminist analysis of women’s lives and visions. The program guides students to: examine the factors that affect the status of women across cultures and through time; analyze theories and assumptions about women in various disciplines; contribute to the reformulation of social knowledge; explore institutionalizing social change that highlights and supports the achievements of women locally and internationally; and understand the usefulness of gender as an analytical tool in many fields.

Graduate studies leading to the AdWS Certificate are focused in four broad areas under the general rubric of gender studies.

  • Feminist methods of inquiry and theoretical analysis. Students will explore sex/gender as an analytical category, asking what this category means, what purposes are served by the prevailing binary notions of gender, and how gender is constituted in past, current, and future social, biological, cultural, and economic contexts.
  • Feminist knowledge. Students will learn about the pervasive impact of gender relations on thoughts, actions, and prevailing constructions of reality. They also will become acquainted with an array of feminist theories and arguments about such issues as political action, reproduction, and sexual orientation.
  • Sex/gender and social-political categories of power and privilege. Students will examine the interaction of sex/gender with race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, and other primary vectors of power and privilege as relevant to nearly all domains of human experience. They will have opportunities to explore the dynamics of these interactions with emphasis on the evolving multicultural milieu of Hawai‘i and the Asia/Pacific region.
  • Sources of sex/gender differences. Students will examine both the empirical and philosophical debates concerning sameness and difference as these relate to the topic of gender. Sources of gender/sex differences as well as the significance of these also will be considered.

Recipients of the AdWS Certificate must be classified graduate students, and normally will be pursuing graduate degrees in other academic departments. The AdWS Certificate will help students learn to apply feminist methodologies, analysis and problem-solving to their other academic fields, and to integrate the rigors of the scholarship on gender into their chosen professions as a means of enhancing their professional lives and opportunities for advancement.
A brochure listing research interests and publications of the members of the women’s studies graduate faculty, as well as describing admissions and program requirements, is available on request from the program; this information also is available online at www2.soc.hawaii.edu. The following sections summarize the admissions and program requirements, but the program brochure should be consulted for complete details.


Students are admitted to the AdWS Certificate program only in the fall semester. Applicants to the AdWS Certificate Program must be classified graduate students at the UH. Candidates are required to submit their current and complete transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and the names of and full contact information for three additional references. Applicants also must submit a 4-5 page essay outlining their personal and professional goals as they relate to the AdWS Certificate program, and identifying potential research and/or community involvement projects they may wish to pursue as part of their AdWS Certificate work.


The AdWS Certificate program consists of a minimum of 18 credits, at least 12 of which must be at the 600 level or higher. Nine of these credits must come from the following four women’s studies courses: WS 610 (1 cr), Faculty Seminar Series; WS 613 (3 cr), Feminist Research and Methods of Inquiry; WS 615 (3 cr), Interdisciplinary Feminist Theory; WS 650 (2 cr), Research in Feminist Studies: Capstone Experience.

Remaining credits will be drawn from a list of courses approved by the women’s studies graduate adviser. All students will work with a specific adviser to develop an AdWS Certificate curriculum based on their academic majors that best supports their academic and professional goals and objectives. Up to 6 credits towards the certificate may be taken in the student’s home department provided that department’s curriculum includes courses approved by women’s studies.

Each student enrolled in the AdWS Certificate program will design, develop, and complete a research and/or community involvement project to culminate in a publishable-quality work or comparable product, and a professional quality seminar presentation given in the student’s final semester of the program.

WS Courses