Students in Human Sexuality Program at CIIS

Department of Human Sexuality

Grounded, contextual engagement with current issues in sexuality to drive positive change

Our Human Sexuality Ph.D. is an interdisciplinary program in critical sexuality studies, exploring the intersections of power and sexuality. Students explore the urgent challenges in the field and the best theoretical and methodological solutions to meet them.

What Our Faculty and Students Have to Say

Learn about our degree program that can be completed in a minimum of four years and 42.2 units.

Our program is important. It's urgent that we create more thought leaders around issues of sexuality and gender!”

Michelle Marzullo, Chair & Professor of Human Sexuality Department

I don't know how you could possibly go through this program and not transform in a variety of ways.”

Mallory Hanfling, Class of 2024, Human Sexuality Department

What I’m learning here in critical studies is helping me evolve as an advocate and activist.”

Courtney Johnson Benson, Class of 2027, Human Sexuality Department

The Human Sexuality department at CIIS draws professionals from many disciplines who are interested in furthering the scholarship of sexuality studies. We strive to provide an integral view of human sexuality that includes multiple perspectives and philosophies. Students are invited to explore desire, intimacy, identity, sexuality/gender, cultural influences, power and stigma, sexual response and practices, and reproduction.

The rigorous coursework invites students to create new knowledge via a scholar-practitioner model that allows for a deepening impact on scholarly insights and social change initiatives while remaining situated in the complexity of life. The department provides a rigorous academic environment and a way for you to engage in subject matter that will position professional work after graduation.

The program’s model moves you towards a grounded, contextual engagement with current issues in sexuality that have real material impact on people’s lives. Some examples of real-world inquiries pursued are:

  • Black women’s sexual freedom 
  • Sex trafficking amongst Indigenous girls and women in Canada 
  • Clinical approaches to polyamory amongst millennials 
  • Examining self-compassion techniques for women dealing with the aftermath of sexual violence and trauma

Our Programs

CIIS offers a Ph.D. as well as a certificate in Sex Therapy to advance your understanding of human sexuality. 

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    The Ph.D.

    Ph.D in Human Sexuality Studies - Our Ph.D. curriculum is designed for individuals who wish to gain further expertise after having obtained a master’s degree.

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    The Sex Therapy Certificate

    The Sex Therapy Certificate - CIIS offers a Sex Therapy Certificate through our Public Programs department. The certificate program is open to all.

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    FAQs

    • The Human Sexuality Ph.D. curriculum is taught both online and during in-person academic residencies. For full-time students, the first two years of coursework are held asynchronously online and in-person, weekend-long (starting Friday morning and ending Sunday evening) academic residencies. There are three academic residency weekends per semester during coursework.

      After coursework and during the comprehensive examinations and dissertation phases, students are not expected to travel to campus. Students are expected to be active participants online and at residencies, use our online learning management system for dialogue, submit their assignments, and follow the course curriculum with daily interaction.

      The benefit of a hybrid program means that students do not need to relocate to San Francisco to pursue this degree. Being an online hybrid makes our program available to more people, and enriches the student dialogue in sexuality studies by integrating student perspectives from different places around the U.S. and internationally.

      At the same time, by coming together for academic residencies, students build rapport with each other and faculty, which facilitates a more in-depth and meaningful discussion around sexuality, as well as a sense of community for supporting and networking with peers through coursework, dissertation, and as alumni. Dissertation defenses are conducted virtually via video conference given that our students and their colleagues, family and friends are located across the globe.

    • After coursework and during the comprehensive examinations and dissertation phases, students are not expected to travel to campus. Students are expected to be active participants online and at residencies, use our online learning management system for dialogue, submit their assignments, and follow the course curriculum with daily interaction.

      The benefit of a hybrid program means that students do not need to relocate to San Francisco to pursue this degree. Being an online hybrid makes our program available to more people, and enriches the student dialogue in sexuality studies by integrating student perspectives from different places around the U.S. and internationally.

      At the same time, by coming together for academic residencies, students build rapport with each other and faculty, which facilitates a more in-depth and meaningful discussion around sexuality, as well as a sense of community for supporting and networking with peers through coursework, dissertation, and as alumni. Dissertation defenses are conducted virtually via video conference given that our students and their colleagues, family and friends are located across the globe.

    • The three academic residency weekends are generally held within the first two weeks of the semester, around the middle of the semester, and two weeks before the end of the semester.

      Learn the most current, upcoming academic residency dates from our Admissions Counselors. Enrolled students will be informed of changes.

      Academic residency schedules for a given semester are communicated to all students at least one week before a semester begins and align with course times listed in the course registration portal under each course.

    • Courses in the Human Sexuality Ph.D. program guide students through the history of sexuality studies, including paying close attention to the ways that white, Western ideas of sexuality laid the groundwork for much of the early field.

      Beginning with a critical engagement with the historicity of sexuality studies allows our program to, from the very first semester, engage with the vibrant interventions and reclamation of the field from previously silenced voices.

      More specifically, our program centrally includes scholarship by and for those who are positively shaping and expanding the field in recent decades to on issues related to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) LGBTQ+, women of color (WOC), and intersections between sexuality and transgender experience.

      We join these content-based courses with courses that build research skills in multiple methodologies (or ways of thinking about theory as applied to the practice of research) as well as teaching about qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods (ways of doing research).

      Together, our curricula joined with the scholar-practitioner model shapes the engaged and timely critical sexuality studies coming out of our department.

    • Full-time students can expect to complete the degree within five to six years with some taking less time and some more time dependent on the dissertation project.

      For full-time study, there are two years of coursework (three courses per semester), one semester of comprehensive exams (if passed on the first try), and dissertation preparation/research. Once the coursework and comprehensive exams are complete, students dive into the dissertation process with support from their dissertation committee.

      The U.S. Department of Education sets a maximum of 10 years from the date of enrollment to complete the program. But once a student becomes a dissertation candidate, CIIS faculty have set the timeline of four years to complete the dissertation project and graduate.

    • We schedule academic residencies for three long weekends each semester, with the intention of not cutting too deeply into the standard workweek. However, full-time students can expect roughly 40 hours of schoolwork each week as they participate in online discussion forums, and complete reading and writing assignments.

      Many students do work full-time during coursework and balance this load by setting up flexible work arrangements, switching jobs to allow more time for school, or using time off to complete assignments when needed during the semester. We would be happy to put you in touch with current students to get a better idea of how they manage their schedules.

    • It is possible to attend the program part-time at two courses per semester, rather than three. Students who do this will straddle two cohorts.

    • Yes, you can. You will be provisionally accepted to our program until you submit the final transcript from your master’s program.

    • Our program is the second accredited Human Sexuality Ph.D. program in the United States. It supports student interests, careers, and personal development, to shape competent, sexually literate, and diverse human sexuality thought leaders.

      Some students may work in research, clinical settings, education, advocacy, or at for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, or start-up independent consulting practices. Students may enhance their current practice (consulting, therapy, coaching, family medicine, etc.), develop best practices for the field, improve their academic and professional writing and research, increase their professional acumen and networks, develop policy briefs, and create change. 

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    Our Upcoming Events

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    Our Department in Action

    Faculty Interview

    The CIIS Dean offers insight into her new book on infidelity and clinical approaches that are helpful for a broad range of contexts and people.

    Faculty Interview

    A wide-ranging discussion with the Human Sexuality Ph.D. program's new faculty member

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