Jun 17, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2014-2015 
Rensselaer Catalog 2014-2015 [Archived Catalog]

Electronic Arts Ph.D.

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The Ph.D. in Electronic Arts is an interdisciplinary arts degree that integrates arts practice with theoretical and historical research. The program features an integrated and multidisciplinary approach to the arts with a focus on the use of electronic media in artistic creation and performance. The core of the curriculum focuses on the student’s personal creative practice, informed by theoretical and creative coursework, individual attention from advisers, and culminates in a dissertation and the creation of a practice-based presentation (e.g., a gallery show, performance). One of the first programs of its kind, this Ph.D. program expands traditions of arts pedagogy through interdisciplinary research in contemporary media theory, practice, and production.

Rensselaer’s Department of the Arts is generally considered to be the first integrated electronic arts program within a research university in the United States. Continuing its leadership in the fields of electronic and multidisciplinary arts, Rensselaer is one of the first universities in the United States to offer a practice-based Ph.D. in the arts.

During the past 20 years, the character of graduate education in the arts has been changing. The most visible new features are the prominence of the electronic arts, the development of interdisciplinary approaches, and, related in part to the previous two factors, Ph.D.s in interdisciplinary arts. New professional standards and opportunities require Ph.D.s in several areas:
1) Many artists are now exploring new domains of creativity, which necessitate advanced research in a variety of fields—communication technologies, biology, and gaming–to name a few.
2) In the university teaching market, many art and interdisciplinary arts departments have expanded what were previously positions filled only by those individuals with M.F.A.s to candidates who hold Ph.D.s.
3) There are a number of institutions for advanced creative study that offer research positions for individuals with Ph.D.s in the creative arts.
4) Curatorial positions in museums and university galleries are another professional option for individuals with a practice-based Ph.D.

Students must have an M.A., M.M., M.S., or an M.F.A. to be admitted to the program.

In addition to the standard transcripts, recommendations, and statement of background and goals, prospective students submit a portfolio of creative work, a research proposal, and a scholarly writing sample. Evaluation for admission to the program includes not only artistic merit, but also evidence of a creative orientation that is research-based and appropriate for the type of in-depth interdisciplinary scholarly study the Ph.D. program will provide.

The program is flexible in order to afford each student an opportunity to plan a course of study suited to his or her own creative and research objectives. To assure a coherent program,  students maintain, with the adviser’s guidance, a Plan of Study that is established at the beginning of their first semester and amended as the student progresses through the program. The Plan of Study may include courses offered by the Arts Department as well as other Rensselaer departments and programs such as: video, computer music, science and technology studies, architecture, animation, cultural studies, Internet interventions, bio-technology, information technologies, genomic studies, musicology, cognitive science, mechanical engineering, acoustics, computer science, biomedical engineering, performance, and communication studies.


Students are required to take at least 90 credit hours. At least two-thirds of the total credit hours, excluding dissertation credits, must contain the suffix numbers 6000-7990.  Students must take a minimum of 18 credits of Dissertation (ARTS 9990).

Students will enroll in one or two research methods course/s:

1) A research methods course taken in the first year integrates theoretical and historical research methods with arts practice. This course will include the study of humanities research methods used for academic scholarship and writing.

2) Students dealing with empirical or social science issues will also be directed to take another research methods course in an appropriate discipline.


The Ph.D. Arts colloquium provides doctoral discourse and community for Arts at Rensselaer. The Ph.D. students curate a series of guest speakers representing artists, researchers, theoreticians, historians, and curators to present their work at the colloquium. Related readings and writing assignments will be based on colloquium presentations. Ph.D. students are required to take the colloquium each semester until they have passed their Candidacy Examination.

Minimum 18 credits for Dissertation.


Entrance Evaluation

Upon entering the program, the graduate student will meet with their academic adviser to discuss their interests, skills, and their projected Plan of Study. The academic adviser will discuss this information with the graduate program director and they will make recommendations concerning the student’s potential resource needs and the areas of study that would be beneficial for the student to develop as they prepare for their Candidacy Exam. In certain cases, the student may be asked to take courses in which credits are not applied to the final degree requirements.

Advancement to Candidacy and Dissertation Defense

There are three stages to degree completion: the Qualifying Exam, Dissertation Proposal, and the Dissertation Defense. In addition, there is a presentation of a doctoral student’s dissertation arts practice in a public event (such as a performance or gallery show). A Qualifying Exam must be passed within two years of entry into the degree program (the Qualifying Exam is also referred to as the “Qualifying Event”). Advancement to candidacy includes the completion and defense of the Dissertation Proposal. The Dissertation Proposal Defense is called the “Candidacy Exam” in the Rensselaer Graduate Handbook, and after completing this stage the student is considered “all but dissertation” (ABD). When the dissertation is completed, the candidate must defend it in a public examination conducted by the student’s doctoral committee (Dissertation Defense).

In the normal four-year progress towards the degree, the Qualifying Exam is completed in the second year, advancement to Candidacy is attained by the end of the second year or beginning of the third year of residency, and the dissertation and oral defense are completed in the fourth year.

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