GSWS Graduate Certificate - Requirements and Procedures for Penn Law Students

The Graduate Certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is designed to enrich students’ traditional disciplinary training and broaden their perspectives. The Certificate provides Law students with opportunities to think in an integrated fashion about gender and sexuality, and to learn from a variety of theoretical approaches such as feminist, critical race, and legal theory, cultural and sexuality studies, as well as traditional disciplinary methodologies. 


Overall Requirements 

  • A core curriculum of 4 courses that focus on issues related to women, gender, and/or sexuality. Most likely these will be listed as GSWS courses, but any course that relates to women, gender, and/or sexuality, can count towards the Certificate.
    • 1 feminist theory or sexuality/queer theory seminar
    • 3 courses offered by the Law School or another school at Penn that focus on issues related to women, gender, and/or sexuality 
  •  A paper: The paper for the Graduate Certificate should be based on research on a current topic in the study of women, gender, and/or sexuality and the law and should demonstrate an understanding of relevant theoretical concerns. A student may have a paper written for a course that fulfills this requirement, or may need to expand an existing paper. 
ProceduresFor acceptance in the Program, a student must:
  • Obtain a Graduate Certificate Application Form for Penn Law Students.
  • Select a Faculty Advisor. (See our list of Core Faculty as well as our list of Affiliated Faculty.)
  • Consult with the advisor as well as Prof. Demie Kurz about a plan of study.
  • Write a ONE PAGE statement about why she/he wishes to obtain a Certificate. The statement should include a discussion of how the certificate program relates to the student’s current scholarly interests. (This may include what work the student has already done in the area of gender/sexuality studies, and what undergraduate and extracurricular/practice work the student has done in this area—if applicable).
  • Submit the statement and the “Application for a Graduate Certificate” form to the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Graduate Certificate Committee for approval (c/o the GSWS Program office). The Graduate Certificate Committee, which is composed of faculty members from a variety of disciplines, meets to review proposals three times a year, in October, February, and May.

Course of Study and Completion of Requirements:

Upon the Graduate Certificate Committee's approval of the student's application, the student will select the 4 courses for the certificate requirement in consultation with his or her faculty advisor and Professor Kurz: 1 theory course, and 3 courses offered by the Law School that focus on issues related to women, gender, and/or sexuality.

  • The theory course must be taken in the School of Arts and Sciences and must be a graduate level course.
  • The 3 electives must be courses offered by the Law School that focus on women, gender, and/or sexuality. The relevant syllabi must be approved by Professor Demie Kurz in order to count toward the Certificate.
  • One out of the 3 elective courses may be an independent study.** 


** "Grandmother" course credit is available at the discretion of the Graduate Certificate Committee - credit given for students who have finished their coursework and may not have taken 3 courses which were officially cross -listed with GSWS, but whose work in a given course focused on gender or sexuality and related issues. The student should submit to the Committee a statement detailing why they believe their course of study at Penn fulfills the requirements of the GSWS Graduate Certificate.

Students should meet with their faculty advisor at least once per year. The student’s advisor is responsible for seeing that the student completes her/his coursework and writes an acceptable paper. A student is eligible to receive the Certificate when her/his advisor has signed the final approval form indicating that the requirements for the Certificate have been met.


Final Approval


  • The student submits the signed “Graduate Certificate Approval for Penn Law Students" form to the GSWS Program Graduate Certificate Committee for final approval. If students have followed the procedures, approval is typically granted. The student is also asked to submit a copy of the paper written for the Certificate, which will be kept on file in the GSWS Program Office.
  • After final approval of the Certificate work, a notation that the student has successfully completed the Certificate will be placed on the student's transcript, and the student will receive the Graduate Certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

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The Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania

The Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality and Women

411 Cohen Hall, 249 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 | (215) 898-8740

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