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in Women's,  
Gender & Sexuality


The graduate program in Women's and Gender Studies at Stony Brook creates a space within the academy for critical thinking across disciplines about the explanatory categories of gender, race, class, sexuality, nation, and disability. Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies explores how these categories come into being and operate across different cultures and historical periods, and how they shape social, political, economic and institutional organizations as well as personal experience and perception.

The MA program was introduced in 2014 along with a PhD program. In its first three years of existence, all MA candidates successfully completed the requirements and graduated within two years. After finishing the program, Laura Abbasi-Lemmon (MA, 2016) began a PhD program in Women's Studies at the University of Maryland, while Emily Whearty (MA, 2017) continued her work in the non-profit sector as a precinct advocate at L.I. Against Domestic Violence.  Our most recent graduate, Joie Meier (MA, 2018) was accepted into the PhD program in Gender Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. 

The program is particularly strong in four key areas: transnational social movements and globalization; the politics of representation and media analysis; gender and health; and the critical analysis of sexuality.  Along with the core faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the graduate programs draw from an extensive network of Graduate Faculty from across Stony Brook University, including in the social and behavioral sciences, humanities, and health sciences.

Please review the WGSS Graduate Program Handbook 2021-2022 for more information. 

Requirements for the M.A. Degree  


  • Graduate Coursework: 30 total credits (10 total classes)
Core Courses: 9 credits (3 classes)
WGSS Electives: 6 credits (2 classes)
Additional Electives: 15 credits (5 classes)
  • Foreign Language Requirement (Optional)
  • Thesis Proposal
  • Final Thesis Project

Graduate Coursework

In addition to the minimum requirements of the Graduate School, WGSS MA students are required to complete 30 credits of graduate coursework. At Stony Brook, this is the equivalent of 10 classes. You must take three core classes (9 credits) and seven elective classes (21 credits).

Core Courses

WST 600: Feminist Interdisciplinary Histories and Methods (offered every Spring)
WST 601: Feminist Theories (offered every Fall)
WST 698: Practicing WGSS/Teaching Practicum (offered every Spring)

All students seeking the MA must take the required courses listed above when they are offered.

During your first year, you are encouraged to take WST 601 in the Fall and WST 600 and WST 698 in the Spring. These courses cannot be replaced by Independent Study or Directed Reading credits, except in the most unusual circumstances and by petition to the Graduate Program Director. This petition would need to be signed by the instructor overseeing the Independent Study or Directed Reading and approved by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Elective Coursework

You are also required to take seven elective graduate courses. Two of those courses must be WGSS Elective Courses. You have a great deal of flexibility in terms of the remaining nine elective courses. 

WGSS Electives

WST 610. During most semesters, the WGSS department offers at least one section of WST 610: Advanced Topics in WGSS. Different instructors teach the course each year, so every iteration covers a new topic. You can take this course more than once.

WST 600 or 601. Alternatively, you may wish to fulfill one of your 600-level WGSS Elective requirements by taking WST 600 or 601 again. Each year, a different instructor teaches the Feminist Interdisciplinary Histories and Methods and Feminist Theories seminars, which means the content varies greatly by year. As such, WST 600 and 601 can serve as valuable electives for students.

WGSS-Approved 500-level & 600-level Electives. MA students can also count 500-level or 600-level gender- or sexuality-themed classes offered by another department toward their WGSS elective requirement. Students should contact the Graduate Program Director before enrolling in the course to seek approval. The Graduate Studies Committee will review any requests to substitute non-WST classes for the WGSS elective requirement.

Additional Electives

To fulfill the remaining Additional Electives requirement, you must take five other 500- or 600- level graduate courses. You are welcome to take these classes in any department at Stony Brook.

MA students can count one WGSS Independent Study (WST 599) toward the Additional Electives requirement. You may find it helpful to use the independent study as an opportunity to start delving into your thesis topic and developing your thesis proposal

Foreign Language Requirement (Optional)

MA students are only required to fulfill the foreign language requirement if they are planning to undertake research that requires proficiency in a language other than English or their native language. Be sure to discuss the Foreign Language Requirement with your thesis adviser as soon as possible.

Students should complete this requirement before starting their thesis research. You can fulfill it in one of three ways. Since the process is the same for MA and PhD students, please see page 9 for details.

Thesis Proposal

Thesis Committee

MA students must complete a thesis requiring original research on a topic appropriate to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. During your first year, you will choose a Thesis 24 Advisor. By the end of that year, you will need to have assembled a Thesis Committee. Your Thesis Committee consists of your Thesis Advisor and two other professors (at least one of whom must be WGSS Core or Associated Faculty). This committee will oversee the completion of your Thesis.

Thesis Proposal

Once you’ve established your Thesis Committee, you will consult with your Thesis Advisor as you prepare your Thesis Proposal. In some cases, the other members of your Thesis Committee will play a role in advising the development of your proposal. You should communicate regularly with each of your committee members to make sure they approve of the direction your project is taking.

There are no set guidelines for how you must format your proposal. That said, proposals usually include the following components: 1) title; 2) project overview; 3) research methods; 4) scholarly contributions; and 5) brief bibliography. Your Thesis Advisor will offer you guidance as you figure out the best approach for your project. Once your Thesis Advisor has approved your proposal, you can share your proposal with your Thesis Committee for final approval.

Once your committee has approved your proposal (this can be done via email), you should update your Degree Progress Form and inform the Graduate Program Director. If you are planning a Proposal Review, you should make arrangements with your committee in advance to ensure that you are sending your proposal far enough in advance that everyone has time to read it.

Recommended: Proposal Review

As you’re working on your proposal, you should talk to your Thesis Advisor about the possibility of holding a Proposal Review. You are not formally required to hold a review, but students often find the process of meeting with their entire committee before beginning their research quite helpful.

Students are responsible for scheduling their Proposal Reviews. Talk to your Thesis Advisor about the best time to send your Thesis Committee a “Doodle Poll” (or a similar survey) to determine their availability. At the very least, you should schedule your review at least one month in advance. The Graduate Program Coordinator can help you secure a room with any necessary A/V equipment, in case a committee member is participating remotely or if you are planning to use visual aids during the review.

The Proposal Review will last about one hour. The purpose of the review is to give you the opportunity to discuss your proposed project with your Thesis Committee and to demonstrate that you are ready to proceed with your research. This is a really exciting event. Your entire committee will be together and totally focused on your work. Take advantage of the opportunity. Ask questions. Seek advice. 

If your Thesis Committee determines that your proposal is satisfactory and that you are prepared to begin the research and writing process, you can get started on your project. In some cases, your committee might request revisions before granting their approval. It is up to you and your committee to determine how long you will have to make revisions and who will need to review your updated proposal before you move forward with research and writing. Once the Proposal Review is complete and your proposal has been approved, you should update your Degree Progress Form and inform the Graduate Program Director.

Final Thesis Project

Thesis Research Credits

After completing your coursework requirements, you will still need to register for 9 credits to maintain full-time status at the university. Generally speaking, students meet this requirement by enrolling in a combination of WST 597 (Directed Reading for Master’s Students), WST 598 (Thesis Research), or WST 599 (Independent Study). You should consult your Thesis Advisor and/or the Graduate Program Coordinator to determine which designator makes sense for you.

The Thesis

The thesis represents the culmination of your master’s degree and must be a substantive study of a WGSS topic based on original research. Since every project is different (especially in an interdisciplinary program like WGSS), we know that theses may vary in length and take different forms. You will work with your Thesis Advisor and the rest of your committee to establish clear expectations and guidelines for your project. Generally speaking, MA theses can be between 10,000 and 20,000 words (but no more than 50,000 words).

Once your proposal is approved, you should talk to your Thesis Advisor and your other committee members about their expectations for their involvement in the research and writing process. You should be in regular contact with your Thesis Advisor, but your other committee members might play different and perhaps less active roles. That said, it is wise to keep your entire committee up-to-date on your progress and on any significant changes to your project to ensure that you benefit from their specializations and that they are satisfied with your progress.

Final Steps

As you are nearing completion of your thesis, it is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the Graduate School’s policies and deadlines related to submitting your thesis and applying for graduation. These policies are, in most cases, non-negotiable, and these deadlines are often inflexible.

You should let the Graduate Program Director know that you are preparing to finish your MA, and you should be in touch with the Graduate Program Coordinator with any questions or concerns as you proceed. You should also start strategizing with your Thesis Advisor to figure out your timeline for defending (if desired), revising, and submitting your thesis. If you are not opting for a defense, 26 then you will just need to talk with your committee members to discuss how much time they will need to read and provide feedback on the full draft of your thesis. You will want to make sure you receive their comments/suggestions with enough time for you to make the necessary revisions, send your thesis back to them for their final approval, and have them sign your Thesis Cover Sheet. In other words, you need to finish your thesis well before the end of the semester.

The Graduate School has detailed information on Dissertation and Thesis Submissions on their website, including a handout on Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations. The format is very detailed and complex, and the requirements are quite stringent. You should consult these guidelines before circulating your dissertation to your committee members, but you absolutely must make sure your final thesis meets these standards before submitting it to the Graduate School.

Important Note! While the thesis is submitted to the Graduate School electronically, a hard copy of the completed signature page must be delivered to the Graduate School. The signature page must have original ink signatures for all committee members and should be submitted to the Graduate School as soon as possible after the Thesis Committee approves your dissertation. The Graduate School must receive the signature page by the thesis deadline PRIOR to the submission of the thesis.

Optional: Thesis Defense

MA students have the option of scheduling a Thesis Defense after they have completed a full draft of their thesis. A defense provides you with the opportunity to share your research in a public setting with the broader WGSS community.

Students are responsible for scheduling their own Thesis Defenses. At least a month before your defense, send your Thesis Committee a “Doodle Poll” (or similar survey) to determine their availability. Confirm with your committee members how far in advance they need to receive your full thesis before your defense. The Graduate Program Coordinator can help you secure a room on campus with any necessary A/V equipment.

You and your Thesis Adviser can discuss the details of your defense, but they typically involve three parts: 1) Student Presentation (approximately 15 minutes); 2) Questions from Thesis Committee (15 minutes per committee member); 3) Public Discussion (questions from other faculty, students, and community members in attendance).

After the questions and answer period ends, you (and any audience members) will be asked to leave the room while the committee confers. If your committee determines that you successfully defended your thesis, they will sign your Thesis Cover Sheet. In many cases, a Thesis Committee signs the cover sheet with the understanding that the student will make minor revisions before submitting the final version of their thesis to the Graduate School. It is up to you and your Thesis Adviser to determine whether a final review of the revisions will take place.


Recent Graduates  

 2016, Laura Abbasi-Lemmon, "Experiencing and Knowing Pregnant  Bodies: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Pregnancy Texts"  

 2017, Emily Whearty, "Animating Food: Analyzing Choice, Control, and Disability"

 2018, Joie Meier, "White Supremacy in the Northeast: Keystone United in Pennsylvania"

 2018, Margaret Hill, " Reproductive Constraint: The Face of Modern Motherhood in an Era of Global Climate Change/Pollution and Neoliberalism"

2019, Benjamin Aaron, "Symbolic Codes and Discourses of Whiteness, White Femininity, and Neoliberal Femininity in Pop Music"