Women's Studies - About the Program

"One of the great benefits of this certificate program is that I was able to look through a feminist lens in every course I took. This enriched my learning in powerful ways. I also tried to contribute to class discussions by foregrounding women's issues and concerns, which ultimately have a profound impact on all of us. Every time I look at my WSR Certificate I feel a sense of passion to continue the good work of those who came before me seeking 'justice for all.'”

— Jodi Tharan

The program for Women's Studies in Religion affirms the Graduate Theological Union's long-standing commitment to women's studies in theology and religion. It builds upon the network of academic and community centers, as well as initiatives established by GTU member schools and affiliates, for the study and support of women in religion. The program recognizes the innovative work contributed by women faculty in theological and religious disciplines.

The Women's Studies in Religion certificate serves graduate students at the GTU and its member schools who are interested in an academic emphasis on women's studies in religion and/or theology. Expanding its network, the program for Women's Studies in Religion is a member of the Gender Consortium at UC Berkeley and is recognized by its Department of Gender and Women's Studies' Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality program.


Steering Committee:

Faculty & Staff:

Mahjabeen Dhala (Center for Islamic Studies) Chair

Paula Arai (Institute of Buddhist Studies)

Diandra Erickson (Graduate Theological Union)

Diedre Green (Graduate Theological Union) 

Valerie Miles-Tribble (Berkeley School of Theology)

Paula Nesbitt (Visiting Scholar) 

Kirsi Stjerna (Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary)

Laura Jean Torgerson (Berkeley School of Theology)

Lydia Webster (Center for the Arts & Religion)


Diane Saunders (GTU) Program Coordinator wsr@ses.gtu.edu

Yun Jeong Jeong (GTU)

Keyona Saquile Lazenby (GTU) 

Yanan Lu (GTU)

Nomenjahary Mamisoa Rakotomalala (GTU)

Olivia Tabert (SFTS)

Meera Tanikella (GTU)

Applications for new student steering committee members are accepted annually in the spring, for the upcoming academic year. Interested students should submit a resume/CV and cover letter expressing their interest/experience by April 1 to wsr@ses.gtu.edu


Center for Women and Religion at the GTU was the earliest established center for women in theological education. (Archived collection listing in library catalog.) 

The Center for Women and Religion at the GTU (originally the Office of Women’s Affairs) was founded in 1970 to provide social, academic and spiritual support for all women at the GTU, including students, faculty, faculty spouses and staff. The early offerings of CWR/OWA included consciousness-raising groups, a library, crafts workshops and a variety of courses. The Center went on to host a number of significant publication projects, most notably The Journal of Women and Religion, and to put on several major conferences. In 2003, the Center closed its doors due to funding difficulties. A final conference celebrating its history and accomplishments was held on March 30th, 2005.            

In the fall of 2004, Dean Arthur Holder asked a number of GTU women faculty to discuss the future of Women’s Studies at the GTU after the closing of CWR. Among the questions posed to this group, and to the larger open faculty forum it convened in early 2005, was whether and how the GTU could continue to promote Women’s Studies in a helpful and organized fashion with a drastically reduced budget. At the faculty forum, it was decided that the GTU did indeed have the resources for a modest Certificate Program in Women’s Studies in Religion and Theology; a group of volunteers from the GTU faculty (later called the faculty advisory committee) was charged with writing the proposal for such a program. This faculty advisory board called an open meeting of interested students, faculty, board members and community members in April 2005.  Taking into account suggestions proposed at this meeting, the faculty advisory board drew up a proposal for a program in October 2005 which was submitted and approved by the GTU in 2006. 

The Center for Women and Religion Collection

Explore Now

The Mission of the Women's Studies in Religion Certificate Program

Women’s Studies in Religion (WSR) is a program of the Graduate Theological Union.  Its purpose is to sustain, promote, and advance the commitment to the study of women, gender and religion, emphasizing conversations across differences of race, sexual and gender orientation, ethnicity, class, culture, nationality, and religious orientation.

The goals of the WSR program include:

  • To enhance the academic offerings available to students throughout the GTU by providing a rigorous and interdisciplinary certificate program in the study of women and religion.
  • To organize and present programs, workshops, symposia, or conferences (as permitted by personnel and resources) to support research and exchanges in the study of women and religion.
  • To support and encourage new initiatives in women’s studies by interested faculty and students.
  • To maintain the GTU’s links with the Gender Consortium at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Women’s Studies in Religion program affirms the GTU’s long-standing commitment to women’s studies in theology and religion; builds upon the network of academic and community centers and initiatives that have been established at or in relation to the GTU for the study and support of women in religion; and recognizes the innovative work in women’s and gender studies contributed by consortial faculty in theological and religious disciplines.  With a strong academic thrust, the WSR Program serves Master’s (MA, MDiv, MTS) and Doctoral students (PhD and DMin) who desire to concentrate on women’s studies in their degree programs.