Gender and Cultural Studies + Public Policy

The joint Master’s in Gender and Cultural Studies and Public Policy is designed for students who would like to combine the pragmatic approach of public policy with the broader, creative insights of gender and cultural theory.

Students sitting in class

Blend theory with practice with our Master's in Gender and Cultural Studies and Public Policy degree

Simmons University's Master’s in Gender and Cultural Studies and Public Policy is ideal preparation for those with a particular interest in issues of diversity, race, gender, class, ethnicity, ability, and sexual orientation in public policy.

This program affords students the core skills and most essential content knowledge of public policy, at the same time that it offers students broad exposure to field of gender and cultural theory. Students in the program will be taught to apply this integration to real world issues. As a result, this program prepares graduates equally well to work in a policy setting or a nonprofit organization, where policy knowledge and analysis skills can heighten marketability.

This degree is designed for students who have a background and interest in interdisciplinary work. Students will ideally have an undergraduate degree in one or more of the following:

  • Communications
  • Critical Race Studies
  • English
  • Economics
  • History
  • International Relations
  • Modern Languages
  • Political Science
  • Public Policy
  • Media Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Women’s and Gender Studies.

While there is no one path to a successful degree application, prospective students must demonstrate an interest in applying their knowledge to real-world policy issues.

Candidates for the joint degree must complete a total of 11 courses. All students will complete a combined capstone project that integrates the two fields of study.


All degree candidates must complete a joint capstone, GCS/PP 455

Students have two options for capstone projects:

  1. Students will work with a specific organization on a policy problem related to race, gender, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, etc. Students selecting this option might choose to partner with their organization, and even do a formal internship. In this case, a 20-30 page policy brief would be the desired outcome for the capstone experience.
  2. Students will write a 50-60 page thesis that focuses on a policy issue that relates to race, gender, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, etc.

Regardless of which option students choose, they will participate in a capstone seminar where they work with other GCS students to support each other during the writing process. All joint degree students present their capstone work at the GCS colloquium with other graduating students.

Required Courses

GCS403 Gender and Cultural Studies: Theory Into Practice 4
GCS420 Race, Gender, and Empire 4
MPP501 Policy Analysis & Theory 3
MPP502 Social Policy 3
SW404 Social Welfare Policy 3
MPP503 Economic Policy 3
MPP504 Quantitative Analysis 3
POLS517 Intersectionality and Public Policy 4
POLS556 Feminist International Relations 4
Three Gender-Focused Electives: see especially The Consortium for Women, Gender, Culture, and Sexuality Studies.
Suzanne Leonard and Zinnia Mukharjee

Program Directors

Suzanne Leonard serves as Director of the Graduate Program in Gender and Cultural Studies and Zinnia Mukherjee as Program Director for the Master of Public Policy.

Spotlight on Gender and Cultural Studies Students and Alums

Karla Alba ’23, Inaugural Jennifer Eckert Leadership Fellow

Karla Alba ’23, Inaugural Jennifer Eckert Leadership Fellow for DEI, Knows the Importance of Difficult Conversations

Jennifer Eckert '08MSW, a member of the Simmons University Board of Trustees, provided a generous donation to support the mission of Simmons University to become a beacon of leadership in the world of higher education. A portion of these funds...

Rayna Danis, student in the gender and cultural studies and public policy masters program

Rayna Danis ’22MA, ’22MPP Makes an Impact with the Joint Master's in Gender and Cultural Studies and Public Policy

Rayna Danis '22MA, '22MPP never expected to get her masters, but then she found her passion for affecting inclusive policy change. We spoke with Rayna about the joint master's program and how it's helping her on this journey.

Bria Gambrell with feminist activist Gloria Steinem at the 2019 National Women's Studies Association in San Francisco, California.

Be the Change: Bria Gambrell '19MA, '19MPP Promotes Intersectional Feminist Policy with Mass NOW

Co-Director of Mass NOW, Bria Gambrell, shares her motivation behind pursuing a dual degree in gender and cultural studies and public policy, and why she finds her position with Mass NOW so rewarding.