Graduation with Distinction

Graduation with Distinction is a term that accords recognition to students who have excelled in the program coursework and completed a thesis project. This process is separate from Latin Honors, which is awarded by Trinity College on the basis of Overall Grade Point Average. In addition to the prestige of this academic honor, students often pursue distinction for reasons related to their own academic pursuits. Writing a thesis can be:

  • an excellent preparation for graduate school
  • an opportunity to explore in greater depth a topic discovered through non-Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies coursework
  • a means for studying issues in women's studies that is not addressed through course offerings at Duke


Procedure for selection of students

Students pursuing distinction must have a GPA of at least 3.5 in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies course work. In the junior year, students discuss their plans informally with their advisor, program director, or the administrative coordinator. Students then select a primary thesis advisor who must be a member of the GSFS core or associated faculty and a second reader. A written proposal, bibliography and the application form, signed by the primary advisor, should be submitted to the Jeremy Boomhower in our office, no later than the end of fall registration in the spring semester of Junior year. 

Expected product

Students completing distinction in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies should produce a thesis based on independent archival, field, or library research. The work must incorporate an analysis of women and gender that transcends the approaches of any single discipline and that draws on feminist theory. In April, students are required to present their work in a public forum to the GSFS community and to the general University community. These presentations are not intended to be a defense; rather, they serve as a forum for students' work to be recognized, and for students to receive additional commentary and suggestions for the refinement of their work. The Guide to Doing Distinction Presentations offers some tips.

In order to facilitate the research of students pursuing Graduation with Distinction the Duke Libraries have a website which reviews resources and perks for students. Students are also welcome to use the GSF Studies in-house library.


The final thesis will be evaluated by a three-person committee consisting of the advisor, the second reader and Professor Kathy Rudy. A minimum grade of A- is required for the paper to qualify for distinction.

There are three levels of Distinction: Distinction (A-), High Distinction (A), and Highest Distinction (A+).

Consider applying for the Robert F. Durden Prize, offered by the Duke University libraries. The Robert F. Durden Prize recognizes undergraduates’ excellence in research, including their analysis, evaluation and synthesis of sources, and encourages students to make use of the general library collections and services at Duke University.

Special courses, other activities required, comments

Students should plan to enroll in two consecutive independent studies with their advisor during their senior year. Only ONE of these Independent Studies may count toward the ten courses required for the major (this change will affect students who matriculate Fall 2009). When possible, students should select additional courses that will contribute to and complement their thesis study. Students are also encouraged to participate in a peer writing group that meets regularly to provide support and feedback while the thesis is in progress.