Divinity School Expands Women's Studies Branch

Expanding its pioneer study of women and religion, the Harvard Divinity School will create a new doctoral program called "Religion, Gender and Culture," school officials said last week.

The new program will bring two or three advanced graduate students to Harvard annually to study gender and value systems in society, said Constance H. Buchanan, associate dean for progressive development and director of Women's Programs at the Divinity School.

"Gender is intimately associated with value and is a central problem in the study of religion," said Buchanan. "It affects the way people interpret and react to religion."

The Div School concentration comes after a surge of interest in gender studies at an undergraduate and graduate level, Buchanan said.

"It was a logical addition to the curriculum because the study of gender issues has developed so well in the last few years," the dean said.


Three years ago. Harvard established a women's studies concentration at the College. No graduate program is offered however in spite of growing interest, an administrator for the undergraduate department said.

"Ninety percent of inquiries to this office come from people who assume we offer graduate study," said Julie R. Pavlon, Women's Studies department administrator.

The Divinity School has led the nation in the graduate study of religion and gender since 1973, when it established the Women's Studies in Religion program. There, four or five senior scholars come to Harvard from around the world to teach and continue research," Buchanan said. research, said Buchanan.

The dean said the doctoral program, which has been planned for years, should elicit a similar response.

"Our women's studies program is widely known and has allowed students to study the history and issues involved in gender and feminist theory," said Bussey Professor of Theology Margaret R. Miles, chair of the committee administering the new concentration.

Only two or three students will be accepted to the new Divinity School program, said Miles.

"We are starting small, largely because only a few people are prepared for a program this specialized," said Buchanan. Applicants must have a masters degree in religion and an extensive background in gender studies or feminist theory, said Miles.

The Divinity School will accept applications next January and February, with final selections due late spring. Miles would not comment on the size of the applicant pool, but said many people have expressed interest.

Grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Lilly Endowment fund all branches of the Women's Studies in Religion Program.

Pavlon said Harvard may establish a graduate program in the near future because of demand. New York University and Emory University already offer masters degrees and Ph.D.'s in Women's Studies, she said.