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Experiential Learning and Individual Study

The department offers numerous opportunities for experiential learning and individual study.

Honors Program and Experiential Learning

The honors program provides an opportunity for students within the university to pursue an academic interest in some aspect of women’s, gender and/or sexuality studies in greater depth than that allowed by formal classes. Students are not required to be in the department's programs to apply for the honors program.

The experiential learning and professional development requirement for the major is an integral part of the degree. Every student in the B.A. program has a faculty mentor to guide them through the process, and scholarship is an integral part of each assistantship, The work of each assistantship is tailored to the interests of each student and the needs of their position.

Read more about each program below.

Honors Program

About The Program

The honors program provides an opportunity for students within the university to pursue an academic interest in some aspect of women’s, gender and/or sexuality studies in greater depth than that allowed by formal classes. While the honors program puts emphasis on the development of habits of self-reliance, individual initiative and critical analysis, students also have the experience of working one-on-one with a faculty mentor. The thesis project may result in a sustained piece of writing or a substantial creative or activist project.

Students are accepted into the honors program each semester. Ideally students should apply in the second semester of their sophomore year. Transfer students are welcome to apply.

Applications are accepted from students of any major who have completed three WGSS, and/or LGBT courses at the time of application and have a 3.25 overall GPA and a 3.25 GPA in the WGSS//LGBT courses taken.

The honors program consists of 12 credits, ideally taken across four semesters. Transfer students or students who are planning to study abroad should speak to the director of undergraduate studies about the possibility of completing the honors program in three semesters. The four courses are: 6 credits of upper-level courses taken with an honors option (selections require approval by Director of Undergraduate Studies) and 6 credits of WGSS honors thesis research.

Honors Thesis Information

  • In the semester before beginning the thesis students submit a project proposal of 1 - 2 pages to the department. This proposal is used to identify an advisor.
  • The instructor and advisee should generally consult on the appropriate methods, length, and research topics of the thesis. Students are able to complete a traditional academic thesis or a creative or activist project. 
  • There isn't an official rubric, but the student should closely follow the guidance of the advisor and will need to gain approval from two additional faculty readers to pass with honors at the end of the process. 
  • The minimum length of the thesis is generally 40 pages and in the event of a creative or activist project an equivalent amount of work is expected.
  • There must be an oral defense at the end of the process. 
  • The oral defense committee includes the advisor plus two other faculty. The student and the advisor can consult on who would make a good fit as members of the committee. The Director of Undergraduate Studies may be an appropriate fit for the committee but is not a required member.
  • The student must be enrolled in honors thesis or project credits with their advisor for the two semesters of work.

Note for Spring graduates: To be listed with Honors in the university-wide commencement program, the thesis needs to be defended by April 3. The application for the Winston award (does not require full thesis submission) is due in late March. The department deadline for the oral defense completion is May 1 and students will be listed in the WGSS commencement program.

How to Apply

To apply, submit:

  • the application form
  • a transcript (unofficial is acceptable)
  • a list of all LGBT, WGSS, and/or WMST courses completed
  • a list of any LGBT, WGSS, and /or WMST courses in which you are currently enrolled
  • the names and email addresses of two faculty who can evaluate your abilities and readiness to take on an independent project, at least one of whom has been your instructor in an LGBT, WGSS, and /or WMST course
  • a sample writing or creative project that you have completed for a course
  • a brief (maximum 250 words) statement of why you are interested in the honors program
  • indicate when you expect to graduate

Applications should be submitted to Gwen Warman, the department advisor. They may be submitted electronically as a single PDF to

If you have questions about the honors program, your application, the program’s structure, possible honors projects or any other topics, you are encouraged to speak with Gwen Warman and with other members of the WGSS faculty.

Students wishing to begin the honors program in the spring semester should apply by November 1 of the prior fall semester. Students wishing to begin the honors program in the fall semester should apply by April 1 of the prior spring semester.

Experiential Learning and Professional Development

About The Requirement

The experiential learning and professional development requirement for the major includes 3 to 6 credits of hands-on experience through WGSS 358 Teaching Assistantship (UTA), WGSS 368 Internship, or WGSS 378 Research or Creative Works Assistantship (URCA) and 1 credit of WGSS 497 Professional Development. When the department has Teaching or Research/ Creative Works position available we will advertise them to all students. When we know about internship opportunities those will also be shared, however, students are expected to apply directly to the organizations they wish to work with and will not be assigned to an internship site by the department. 

Certificate and minor students are also eligible to receive credit for being Teaching Assistants, Interns, and Research or Creative Works Assistants. However, they are not required to do so and priority for WGSS UTA and URCA positions will be given to majors. 

Every experiential learning course is designed so that the student is working one on one with a faculty mentor for the academic portion of the credits and scholarship is an integral part of each assistantship. The work of each assistantship is tailored to the interests of each student and the needs of their position. Students are encouraged to complete the Experiential Learning requirement in their Senior year (or last 2 semesters) and to begin discussing their options with the advisor as Juniors. 

Registration in WGSS 358, 368, and 378 is contingent on completion of the learning contract prior to the final day of Schedule Adjustment. Students are encouraged to begin the learning contract process with their faculty mentor as soon as they are assigned. Students should have their assistantship or internship confirmed prior to the first day of the semester.

LGBTQ Studies students completing the LGBT 386 LGBT Internship follow the same process and credit hour requirements as those in WGSS 368 the WGSS Internship. 

Internships - WGSS 368 and LGBT 386

Internships: Three to Six Credits

The Internship program is designed to provide students with the opportunity to combine theory and practice and get hands-on experience with specific women’s, gender, or sexuality issues in a workplace or organizational setting. The course (taken as WGSS 368 or LGBT 386) has two components: work at the internship site developing practical skill sets applicable to that environment, and work with a faculty mentor that provides a framework to think about the internship experience and an opportunity to reflect on the pragmatic and political issues associated with the work of the particular organization. The faculty mentor will help the student identify the connections that may exist between the experiential site and the field. It is an opportunity to identify and critique the existing literature in the field to facilitate a complex and dynamic understanding of the experiential site.  

Prior to registering for this course students must identify an internship site and secure a position, the academic advisor will then assign them a faculty mentor. Once assigned the student completes a learning contract with their site supervisor and faculty mentor to outline the plans for the semester. The number of credits a student receives is based on both the number of hours worked at the site and number of hours of academic work completed with their faculty mentor. Students should begin discussing their plans for internships with the academic advisor a semester before they hope to fulfill the requirement.

For more information please review this sample WGSS 368 syllabus

Teaching Assistantships - WGSS 358

Teaching Assistantships: Three credits 

As Undergraduate Teaching Assistants (UTAs) students assist a member of the WGSS faculty with an undergraduate LGBT​ ​or WGSS course, while becoming conversant in feminist, critical race, and queer pedagogical​ ​debates and approaches. This experience allows students to build expertise, develop pedagogical competencies, and strengthen their knowledge base in the areas of feminist, critical race, and queer pedagogical debates and approaches. To qualify for selection as a teaching assistant, a student must have taken and passed the course they wish to support and must secure the permission of the instructor and academic advisor in order to register. Once assigned the student and the faculty member complete a learning contract which outlines the plans and expectations for the semester.  Through the UTA experience students build peer review skills; learn to construct and apply a lesson plan; strengthen their organizational and time-management skills; and learn and practice consistent, thorough, and fair modes of assessment.

For more information please review this sample WGSS 358 syllabus

Research and Creative Works Assistantship - WGSS 378

​Research and Creative Works Assistantship: Three credits 

​The Undergraduate ​Research and Creative Works Assistantship​ (URCA) provides an opportunity to develop an enhanced understanding of specific research methods and or creative practices. The overall goal is to provide students with an understanding of how field contributions are made, either by crafting their own research contributions, or providing support for a faculty mentor’s ongoing projects.   Working alongside a faculty member in their area of expertise, the URCA will have an opportunity to build their research (and or creative) skills and strengthen their understanding of the field.  The accompanying academic work each URCA completes will be personalized to the student’s interests and abilities, as well as to the specific research (or creative) project and the faculty mentor’s expectations.  When a faculty member has a project they would like assistance with they will generally  publicise this among the department’s undergraduate students and hold interviews to find a good match. Once a student is selected and assigned they will complete a learning contract with their faculty mentor which outlines the plans and expectations for the semester.

For more information please review this sample WGSS 378 syllabus

Professional Development Course - WGSS 497

Professional Development Course: One credit 

This course assists students in thinking about the next step post-undergraduate degree and to think long term about the importance of their WMST degree in lifelong career, personal, and political Development. Students may take this course in preparation for their experiential learning course (working to select an appropriate internship or assistantship that can translate well to their career aspirations) or they may take it afterwards as they determine their post-graduation steps.

The Professional Development course means that all students, whether they are doing the internship, the teaching assistantship, or the research assistantship, have an opportunity to reflect upon where they are going beyond the B.A. and develop ways to communicate how their coursework and experiences at UMD have prepared them for the next step. The course will focus on the practicalities of resume writing, internship or job searches, etc. but also on the specific challenges/opportunities of translating interdisciplinary training to professional internship or beyond-the B.A. sites. 

Internship Resources

Independent Study

WGSS 499 and LGBT 499

WGSS 499 and LGBT 499 are a way of completing independent study in the department under the supervision of department faculty. Independent Study is composed of research and writing, and analysis on a topic generated by the student and approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The course of study is developed by the student and their supervising faculty member. Independent Study can be taken for 1-3 credits. Students must have prior coursework in the department and permission of the Director to register.

Contact Us

Gwen Warman

Academic Program Manager, The Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies