Jun 18, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2008-2009 
Rensselaer Catalog 2008-2009 [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 core of the program is the student’s own creative work, enhanced by course work and culminating in a dissertation.

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 Ph.D. in the arts.

During the past ten 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 an interdisciplinary arts Ph.D.

Students must have an M.A., M.M., M.S., or an M.F.A. to be admitted to the program. Students are required to take at least 60 credit hours.

In addition to the standard transcripts, recommendations, and statement of background and goals, prospective students submit a portfolio of creative work, statement of purpose, art practice, research and a 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, each student maintains, 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, communication studies, and so on.


At least two-thirds of the total credit hours, excluding thesis, must contain the suffix numbers 6000-9990.

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 colloquium consists of presentations by artists, researchers, theoreticians, historians, and curators from outside and within the Rensselaer community. It is a forum for Ph.D. students to present their creative work and research and is intended to be a catalyst for creating an electronic arts discourse and community at Rensselaer. Participation in the colloquium–in terms of presentation of research–is a requirement for dissertation research credit. Students not enrolled in dissertation research credit are required to attend, but are not required to present their work, and do not receive credit for attendance.

Minimum 18 credits for Dissertation.


Proficiency Evaluation

A proficiency evaluation will be taken within the first two weeks of the program. Selected faculty committee will evaluate the students’ general competency in the history, theory, and practice of their area of study. Depending upon results of this evaluation, the student may be requested to take courses whose credits are not  applied to the degree requirements.

Candidacy Exam

All students will have to pass a Candidacy Exam, which is taken no earlier than the end of the second semester and within the first two years of the program. The Candidacy Exam is tailored to their areas of research. Exam questions are provided by the Doctoral Committee. Once students have passed the Candidacy Exam, they can proceed to dissertation research.

A student may apply for the candidacy examination, given by the doctoral committee, when his or her course work nears completion or when he or she has the approval of the doctoral committee.

This examination determines if the student has made satisfactory progress. A student is admitted to candidacy for the doctorate when he or she has passed the candidacy examination and received formal approval for such candidacy from his or her doctoral committee and department. When these requirements are met, the chair of the doctoral committee (the student’s adviser) should notify the Office of Graduate Education of the student’s candidacy. 

Dissertation and Final Examination (Defense)

The Electronic Arts dissertation can take either one of two formats:

  • a traditional humanities or social science text presenting original research in the electronic arts; or
  • an innovative creative project and a dissertation text, with the project and text presenting a unified, original contribution to the field of the electronic arts.

When the dissertation is completed, the candidate must defend it in a public examination conducted by his or her doctoral committee.

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