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Graduate Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I enter the program if I have a BFA or MFA?

Yes. In fact, about a quarter to a third of our students are practicing artists. Although the PhD program itself does not include art practice or studio classes, we have a strong interest in questions of theory and practice, and in contemporary art.

Graduate students who are also artists can keep up their studio practice, and we have regular exhibitions of VCS students’ work in the University's Hartnett Gallery.

Will I get transfer credits for my graduate work in another program?

It depends on the program. We do not give one-for-one transfer credits, but it is very likely that if students have taken classes similar to those offered at Rochester, they will receive transfer credits.

This is negotiated on an individual basis with the director of the graduate program once the student is admitted into the program. The maximum number of transfer credits is twelve—that is, the equivalent of three graduate classes (one semester's work).

What will be involved in my teaching assistantship?

We generally ask graduate students with studio backgrounds to assist with undergraduate studio art classes, but others may be involved as well. There are also undergraduate art history and film classes that use TAs.

Some graduate students will be asked to work as research assistants rather than teaching assistants—either by a particular faculty member to whom they have been assigned, or by the director of the graduate program, who may assign them to assist in the Visual Resources Collection, the Hartnett Gallery, or the department office.

In general, we try to match students' preferences and needs with those of the department and program, and we aim to give students a variety of experience during their time at Rochester.

What is the usual length of time to degree completion?

The PhD in visual and cultural studies involves 60 credit hours of coursework—normally five semesters (for those with no transfer credits). After that, students complete 30 credit hours of PhD research, while they prepare for their qualifying examination; this is normally taken one or two semesters after the end of coursework.

After the qualifying exam, students are ABD (all but dissertation), meaning only the dissertation remains to be completed. Completing the dissertation usually takes anywhere from one to three years.

What is involved in the qualifying examination?

Graduate students preparing for their qualifying examination will decide which faculty member they want as an advisor on the dissertation, and which faculty members they would like on their committees. For the qualifying exam, students need to prepare three things:

  • A prospectus of the dissertation as a whole (normally 12 to 15 pages)
  • A draft chapter
  • A comprehensive bibliography

When they are ready to schedule the examination, students consult with the committee about dates and times, and make the arrangements with the administrative assistant in the Department of Art and Art History.

What opportunities are there for teaching?

The University of Rochester has multiple teaching opportunities for graduate students apart from teaching assistantships. Departmental undergraduate classes in both studio art and art history are sometimes offered to VCS students. Students can also apply to be accepted into the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program, in which they teach their own classes.

Locally there are a number of colleges that are often looking for adjunct teachers in art history, studio art, film, and cultural studies. VCS students have regularly taught classes at these places.