The Women’s Studies Graduate Certificate Experience by Michelle Corbin, PhD

In May 2010, I finally earned my Ph.D. in sociology and my graduate certificate in women’s studies.  Beginning with my time as an undergraduate student, women’s studies has always been one of my intellectual, political and social homes at the university.  I found that this remained true during graduate school and I valued being able to remain connected to women’s studies.Pursuing the certificate in women’s studies provided me with several important things during my graduate training in sociology.  First, it deepened my immersion in feminist scholarship and practice.  While there is feminist theoretical and methodological training available in sociology, I found that the core women’s studies classes in feminist theory and methodology substantively enhanced this training.

Second, it deepened my immersion in feminist scholar activisms. Courses with women’s studies faculty who embody scholar activist commitments and collaboration with women’s studies graduate students strengthened my own efforts toward feminist praxis in both my writing and teaching.  I would argue this is especially beneficial for those of us whose home disciplines are not as amenable to the connections between activism and scholarship.

Finally, and not least of all, being a graduate certificate student in women’s studies also provided me with a community and a sense of belonging as a feminist scholar both within and beyond the classroom.  In my women’s studies seminars it was wonderful to not have to begin all classes explaining why gender or race or class were important or how these systems of power were about more than just ‘culture’ and ‘difference’.  It was also a blessing to connect with other feminist, anti-racist and anti-heterosexist scholars both intellectually and socially.   Being a graduate student in general can be intensely isolating and demoralizing, a situation often exacerbated for those of us engaging historically and politically marginalized scholarships.

Women’s studies here at Maryland, like women’s studies generally speaking, provides us with a room of our own, so essential in the stormy political climate in which we find ourselves.  I am grateful for the work that the women’s studies faculty does to continue to carve out this important space and I am grateful that I was able to find my own way into that second home.

I know that many graduate students considering the women’s studies certificate worry about the added courses and the added time commitments involved.  However, I found that the benefits of feminist training and community far out weighed these concerns.  The extra year will likely be forgotten on the other side of the Ph.D., the feminist training and communities will not.  I would recommend the certificate program to any graduate student who would like to strengthen their feminist scholarship and urge them to take advantage of the blessings of feminist community that it offers.

Michelle graduated with her PhD in Sociololgy from the University of Maryland in 2010.  She will be a professor at Worcester State University beginning Fall 2011.

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