Apr 24, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2023-2024 
Rensselaer Catalog 2023-2024

Electronic Arts Ph.D.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs

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.

In addition to the standard transcripts and recommendations, 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.

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to:

  • demonstrate core knowledge of new media theory with emphasis on 20th and  21st century authors, key artists, movements, works of contemporary music, visual art, and electronic media. 
  • relate historical and theoretical learning to personal artistic practice.
  • employ library resources and other research methods to investigate and analyze historical and  theoretical trends, specific art works, and theories.
  • demonstrate capacity for written and oral expression through regular exercise in response papers, discussion, group work, oral presentations, peer critique, and formal research papers
  • demonstrate proficiency integrating technologies appropriate to a personal creative artistic practice.
  • conceptualize, research, plan, and implement the development of large-scale interdisciplinary creative projects.
  • create a professional artistic portfolio including writings, recordings, and documentation of performances and professional presentations.

Graduation Requirements

  • Forty-eight (48) credit hours beyond the master’s degree; seventy-two (72) credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree.
  • At least two-thirds of the total credit hours, excluding dissertation credits, must contain the course numbers 6000-7999.
  • Individual course requirements can be waived or substituted—in exceptional circumstances—by the Department Head without decreasing the total number of credits required for the degree.
  • No more than 6 credit hours of graduate work can be transferred toward the degree.
  • Participation in Open Studios (Fall), the Arts Graduate Student Exhibition (Spring), and the Critiques (Fall and Spring) until the semester of the student’s Qualifying Examination.
    • Students must successfully pass the Critiques, as described in the Graduate Student Handbook.
  • Attendance at Open Studios/Critiques (Fall) and the Arts Graduate Student Exhibition/Critiques (Spring) until graduation. Students in residence may be excused from attendance at Critiques and Exhibition due to special circumstances by the Department Head and Graduate Program Director.
  • Successful completion of the written and oral: Qualifying Exam, Candidacy Exam, and Dissertation Defense.




  • 4000- or 6000-level Electives & Independent Studies3,4
    • Can be taken any semester


  1. Required to be taken each semester until the semester that the PhD Qualifying Examination is scheduled. Graduate students must have their Dissertation Committee formed and approved by the Dean of Graduate Education, and the Committee must agree upon the Qualifying Exam scheduling prior to the start of semester in which the exam will be taken. Continued participation in the Colloquium is recommended, but not required.
  2. Students may register for Dissertation credits during the semester of their Qualifying Examination and in subsequent semesters until graduation.
  3. No more than 15 credits at the 4000-level are to be allowed. Additionally, credit(s) from 1000- and 2000-level coursework cannot be applied to the Plan of Study.
  4. All course selections must be made in consultation with the Faculty advisor. Independent Study must be coordinated and in agreement with the faculty member of the Independent Study with a syllabus and signed Graduate Student Independent Study Form.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs