- UC Santa Cruz
- Visual Studies PhD
Students take a minimum of twelve, 5-credit graduate courses during their first two years of study, comprised of four core courses and eight electives.
The four core courses must be taken within the first two years: HAVC 201, Introduction to Visual Studies (fall); HAVC 202, Critical Theory (winter); and HAVC 203, Theories and Histories of Seeing (spring, taken twice). Those entering with an M.A. are eligible to petition to exempt courses. In general, a student entering with a non-visual studies M.A. may petition to waive up to four electives, and a student entering with an M.A. in visual studies may also petition to waive the fourth core course (the second Theories and Histories of Seeing). The petition to exempt courses may be submitted any time after a student is accepted into the program, but first should be discussed with the assigned faculty adviser and the director of graduate studies. To receive exemption, the petition must be approved by the visual studies graduate committee.
Of the eight elective courses, at least four must have a visual-studies designation (i.e. taught by core or affiliated faculty), and at least three must be drawn from departments outside of visual studies. For students entering with an M.A. who have successfully petitioned to have four elective courses waived, the distribution between visual studies courses and courses outside the department will be decided in consultation with the academic adviser and the director of graduate studies as part of the petition for course waiver.
Field Clusters/Field Specialties
Appreciating that most of our graduates will be required to fit themselves back into traditional disciplinary structures once they enter the academic job market, the program is designed to provide students with both new means of interpreting visual evidence and suitable depth of understanding in older disciplinary traditions. While all graduates will acquire a shared foundation in theories of visuality (attained through our Core course requirements), individual student programs vary considerably depending on the area of specialization and/or department in which the student hopes to secure employment after graduation. In addition to completion of the Core courses required of all students, each student will develop a cluster of individualized Field courses in consultation with their advisor based on her/his particular professional goals.
In order to provide our students with the disciplinary background to facilitate employment within curatorial departments in museums and non-visual studies departments at colleges and universities, each student is required to take a minimum of four (5 unit) courses in a disciplinary cluster (beyond the Core course requirements). This requirement pertains both to students entering with a B.A. and M.A.
Acceptable Field Cluster courses might center around a medium (i.e., painting or architecture), a temporal/stylistic category (i.e., Early Modern or Postmodernism), a cultural, national, or social group (i.e., Pacific Islanders or China), or a disciplinary approach (i.e., cultural anthropology or gender studies). An individual student’s Field Cluster will be developed in consultation with her/his advisor based on a student’s intellectual and professional goals. To count toward the degree, Field Clusters must receive prior approval from the Visual Studies Graduate Committee. Beyond the Core and Field Courses, students admitted with a B.A. must complete an additional four (5 unit) elective courses.
Students must demonstrate reading knowledge of one foreign language prior to the start of their second year (either through attainment of a score of 550 or higher on the Educational Testing Service Graduate Student Foreign Language Test or through passage of a reading exam administered by the department). Students are encouraged to master a second foreign language. Based on a student’s area of interest, and the joint assessment of the student’s advisor and the director of graduate studies, proof of proficiency in an additional language or languages may be required prior to the student being admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. Should proficiency in additional languages be required, it must be demonstrated prior to the close of the student’s third year of study.
After completing all course work and passing one language exam, students are required to pass a qualifying examination prior to the close of the winter quarter of their third year, unless a petition for an extension, demonstrating reasonable cause, is approved by the Visual Studies graduate program committee. The qualifying exam is divided into three topic areas, with each one including a written and an oral component. Each topic area should display historical breadth and variety of media. Two of the topic areas should ideally relate to the future dissertation topic, while one of the remaining must constitute an outside area, examining a topic that is chronologically, geographically and/or methodologically distinct from the other two.
Prior to the end of his/her second year, a student who entered the program with a B.A. should consult with his/her advisor to assemble a group of four faculty members who will serve as examiners, and aid the student in assembling the necessary topic areas, compiling the needed reading lists, and preparing for the written and oral components of the examination in each area. The exam will have two parts. In part one, each student will respond in writing to three general questions, posed by three of their four examiners in the pre-arranged topic areas. In part two, each student will gather together with her/his examiners to field questions probing and clarifying the previously submitted written component of the qualifying exam. In order to pass the qualifying examinations, the student must receive the unanimous endorsement of the committee members.
Advancing to Candidacy
Advancement to candidacy follows and is contingent upon passing the qualifying examinations, all needed language exams, and the subsequent appointment of a dissertation reading committee composed of at least three members.
After advancing to candidacy, a student must complete an approved dissertation prospectus, a colloquium, and dissertation, and pass an oral defense of the thesis. A written dissertation prospectus is due no later than the end of the second quarter following the student’s completion of the qualifying exams. The prospectus is a brief, concise essay (with bibliography) that defines the scope, methodology and rationale for the proposed dissertation. It is prepared in consultation with the student’s dissertation director, who must approve of the document prior to scheduling the colloquium.
The dissertation director, in consultation with the student and director of graduate studies will invite four to five faculty members, in appropriate fields, to attend the colloquium and provide input on the prospectus and assess the student’s preparedness to begin researching and writing the dissertation. Faculty participating in the colloquium need not be members of the dissertation committee, but should represent faculty whose expertise has bearing on the student’s project. A student will pass the colloquium after having demonstrated to the satisfaction of all colloquium committee members adequate preparation to begin researching and writing the dissertation. The dissertation itself must make a significant and original contribution to the field of visual studies, as judged by each dissertation committee member.
An oral defense of the dissertation is the only final examination requirement, unless a petition to waive the oral defense, demonstrating reasonable cause, is approved by the student's primary adviser and the visual studies graduate program committee. The student’s dissertation committee, under the supervision of the director of graduate studies, will conduct the exam. In the event that the director of graduate studies serves on the dissertation committee, the chair of HAVC will oversee the defense. Interested faculty and students in the Visual Studies program will have the opportunity to observe the defense.
Normative Time from Matriculation to Degree
The visual studies Ph.D. program at UCSC is designed to require six years for students matriculating with a B.A. and five to six years (depending on advanced standing granted) for those entering with an M.A. The pre-candidacy period is three years or less, during which time students will devote themselves to coursework, completion of the language examination, some teaching, preparation for and completion of qualifying exams and selection of their dissertation committee. Within two quarters of advancing to candidacy, students will complete an approved version of their prospectus and schedule their colloquium. Students will finish their dissertation and successfully defend it before the end of their sixth year.