Libby Nutt Williams
Guidelines for Defining and Completing
a St. Mary's Project in Women, Gender,
and Sexuality Studies
The St. Mary's Project in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is the capstone experience for the study area. Students choose a topic in consultation with both their adviser in the major as well as a member of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies faculty. Students in the past have researched gender in cyberspace, women in the Naxi culture of southwestern China, and women's autobiography.
I. Goals for a St. Mary's Project
- The student learns how to initiate and carry out a significant scholarly enterprise.
- The project becomes a rewarding educational experience for the student.
- The project assists the student in developing her or his abilities to reflect thoughtfully on some local, regional, or global issue, some fundamental question in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, or some important thinker.
- The student relates her or his work to the social context and/or body of literature to which the project is a contribution.
- The project demonstrates methodological competence in the discipline(s) in which it is credited.
- The project draws upon and extends knowledge, skills of analysis, and creativity already achieved in previous academic work.
- The student shares her or his interest and concerns about the project work with other students and faculty during its development, and, at its conclusion, makes a public presentation.
II. Guidelines for Defining and Completing a St. Mary's Project in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Typically, (but not always), the student would undertake an individual project within her or his primary discipline. The cross-disciplinary study area in Women, Gender, and Sexuality encourages collaborative and/or multidisciplinary projects as well. Students might join the perspective of their major to a perspective expressed in another discipline. thus undertaking an interdisciplinary project. Students may register for all or part of their SMP as WGSX studies. All projects should involve the following:
- Research, including the demonstration of connections to the academic discipline(s) in which it is credited and the citation of relevant literature. This research may include personal observations and interviews. Experimental methodologies are welcome.
- Significant levels of reflection appropriate to the discipline and chosen project. The student should define her or his point of view and make some effort to justify it.
- A written component with the project mentor; it should be worthy of eight academic credits.
- A public presentation, the nature of which will be agreed upon by the student and her or his mentor.
- the project and the proposed title
- the methodology and goals
- an initial bibliography and other source-references (interviews intended, etc.)
- the projected work schedule
- intended products (essay, video, etc.)
- intended form of public presentation
- sequence of credit distribution over two semesters (0-8)
- credit distribution between major discipline and WGSX
- budget of expenses (if any reimbursement by department is expected)
- names of professor(s) willing to mentor the project
- the name of a librarian who will serve as a contact for the project
III. Procedures for Undertaking and Completing the Project
A. Students will initiate the proposal process by consulting with each other and with the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies faculty about projects that they might want to propose. Preliminary discussions with potential mentors should solicit advice on devising a suitable topic, defining one's methodology, undertaking research, interpreting the gathered data, reflecting on information and prior formulations of thought, articulating and justifying one's own principal claims , and drawing one's conclusions. With a project in mind, students will formulate a two- or three-page proposal of its objectives, to be submitted to and approved by the student's mentor by the end of the third week of the semester in which the project is begun.
B. Prior to submitting a project proposal, the student should meet with one or more professors teaching in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in order to determine which one would be willing to serve as mentor for the intended work. The coordinator of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies will assist in designating potential mentors for specific projects.
C. The mentor and student will negotiate a contract, including progress reports and intermediate deadlines, designed to facilitate the systematic implementation of the project. The student and mentor should meet not less than once monthly. The proposal should include:
IV. Criteria for Project Evaluation
- Depth/breadth of research (taking into account the diverse kinds of research that are possible)
- Evidence of development in knowledge, skills, and creative achievement
- demonstration of methodological competence
- degree of care and sophistication in relating the research and analysis to the discipline(s) in which the project is credited
- strength in writing or other forms of expression
- degree of attainment of project goals set by the student
- degree to which the work contributes to a community of concerned people, whether academic or non-academic
V. Some Suggested Types and Examples of Projects
The following suggestions for project types should help the student devise a suitable subject for research and creative reflection. These are suggestions only, and are not meant to restrict the kinds of projects students may undertake.
- investigation (through library research), analysis, and evaluation of a thinker's work or of an important topic in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies: e.g., Judith Butler's work on the social constructions of gender and sex, what Rosemary Ruether says about ecofeminism, whether privacy laws favor feminist causes
- a community service project involving related research and analysis: e.g., preparing and teaching a unit of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in a primary or secondary school and providing background research and reflection on the experience
- research and reflection on a local issue that has links to feminist issues: e.g., the resources for battered women in Southern Maryland, a country environmental problem that poses important ethical social dilemmas related to ecofeminst views
- writing a reflective paper based on interviews with people about their gendered ideas on drugs, death, the good life, etc., including the citing of related disciplinary research and the situation of one's conclusions vis-a-vis this research
- research and reflection on a subject investigated during educational travel: e.g., to Bali to learn about gendered impacts of Buddhist practices or to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to learn about culture and values related to women migrant laborers
- students interested in collaborative and/or cross-disciplinary projects might, for example, collaboratively write and/or perform a script on some topic within the scope of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies