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Feminist Doctor of Philosophy Degree
updated: Jun 10, 2014, 4:25 PM
Five years after the first cohort of Ph.D. students began their graduate work,
the Department of Feminist Studies at UC Santa Barbara will award its first
doctor of philosophy degree Sunday, June 15.
The recipient is Carly Thomsen, who will move on from UCSB to a two-year
postdoctoral appointment at the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and
Sexuality at Rice University in Texas.
Thomsen has also been honored with UCSB's Winifred and Louis Lancaster
Dissertation Award for Social Sciences. Her dissertation, "Unbecoming Visibility
Politics and Queer Morality," explores the tension and estrangement among and
between LGBTQ women in the Midwest and mainstream gay rights groups.
"It bodes well that our first Ph.D. is recognized by the larger academic
community through the postdoctoral appointment and through the Lancaster Award,"
said Eileen Boris, Hull Professor and chair of feminist studies.
"I feel extraordinarily grateful to all the people who made it possible for me
to be the first person to complete a Ph.D. in feminist studies here," Thomsen
said. "Mostly, I thank my advisor, Leila Rupp. She's a huge name in the area of
sexuality studies and she recruited me in a way that made me think we would have
a stellar relationship. And I was not wrong about that."
Rupp is a professor of feminist studies and associate dean in the social
sciences division of the College of Letters and Science.
Established in 2009, the feminist studies graduate program has three areas of
emphasis: race and nation, genders and sexualities, and productive and
reproductive labors. All are approached from intersectional and transnational
perspectives, with a focus on social justice and public policy.
With more than 50 core and affiliate faculty members, UCSB's feminist studies
department is one of only three within the UC system and one of only 15 or so at
public universities across the country.
A truly interdisciplinary effort, the feminist studies program has faculty
associations across the social sciences and humanities, including sociology,
counseling psychology, anthropology, Chicana and Chicano studies, black studies,
political science, linguistics, history, English, film and media studies,
history of art and architecture, music, Asian-American studies, religious
studies, East Asian languages and cultures, French and Italian, Spanish and
Portuguese, and Germanic, Slavic and Semitic studies.
"The significance of our program is twofold," said Boris. "First and most
important, it allows for the production of new ways of knowing and
interpretations and knowledge. The program trains students in mixed methods and
creates knowledge that is not imagined prior to the making."
The presence of the graduate students also helps create a richer undergraduate
program, according to Boris. "They're superb teachers dedicated to teaching,"
she said. "As they advance from becoming teaching assistants to offering their
own upper division courses as associates, they share their new perspectives.
It's one of the ways in which research and teaching reinforce and advance each
Thomsen, who completed her undergraduate degree at St. Cloud State University
in Minnesota and her master's degree at the University of Arizona, has a few
words of wisdom for the graduate students who follow after her. "For most of us
who have gotten a Ph.D., we didn't do it alone. So ask for help when you need
it," she advised. "And make yourself vulnerable in the ways that are required to
produce new knowledge.
"The feminist studies department at UCSB has provided me with immense support,
encouragement and inspiration," Thomsen said. "It's been an amazing place to
grow into a scholar."
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