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The yin and yang of gender research

M.A. in anthropology student Jeffrey Schlitte researches masculinity while earning certificate in women’s studies

As an undergraduate at Baylor University, Jeffrey Schlitte spent summer vacations in his home state of Oklahoma, working alongside his uncles, cousins and stepfather on the oil rigs that have employed his family members for decades.

As a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in anthropology in the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, Schlitte takes a break from his studies to train for amateur boxing matches.

As a man at ease in hyper-masculine work and recreation environments, Schlitte is balancing his research interest in masculinity by earning a graduate certificate in women’s studies.

“So far, my courses in women’s studies have offered great information, especially for me - a guy that considers himself a 'man's man,' who knows how to work with his hands, is tough, plays sports, and fits the stereotypical role of what a man should be,” Schlitte says. “Taking courses in women’s studies has opened up my mind about certain topics like gender, race, and feminism that I have never thought too much about.”

The Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies is a nine- credit interdisciplinary concentration open to students in all UH graduate, professional degree and post-baccalaureate programs.

Affiliated faculty from across the university shaped the certificate program into a sequence that develops students’ knowledge about women’s studies scholarship and methodology and trains them to research, write and teach in this interdisciplinary field.

In his thesis, Schlitte is planning to explore masculinity and how it is produced and reproduced on off-shore oil rigs. He is examining the how the physical demands of working on an oil rig translate into self-image perceptions for the men working the jobs, as well has how those men view other people including their own families.

“Jeff will be able to draw upon his own experiences and connections for the sake of his thesis project,” said Dr. Keith McNeal, associate professor of anthropology and Schlitte’s thesis advisor.  
 “As I write my thesis I want to provide a thorough understanding to my readers that I am not biased,” Schlitte says. “I want to provide good information on the subjects of femininity, gender and sex roles. I’m using this certification to expand my mind in not only relation to academics, but personally as well.”

- By Monica Byars