Frequently Asked Questions

Can I enter the Program if I have a B.F.A. or M.F.A.?

Yes. In fact, about a quarter or a third of our students are practicing artists. Although the Ph.D. 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 keep up their studio practice, and we have regular exhibitions in the University's Hartnett Gallery of the work of VCS students.

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 come to Rochester with an M.A. in a closely related discipline, in which they 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 in 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 classes, but others may be involved as well. There are also undergraduate art history and film classes which 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, in the Hartnett Gallery, or in the Department Office. In general, we try to match students' preferences and needs with the Department's and Program's needs, and to give students a variety of experience during their time in Rochester.

What is the usual length of time to degree?

The Ph.D. in Visual and Cultural Studies involves sixty credit hours of coursework--normally five semesters (for those with no transfer credits). After that, students complete thirty credit hours of Ph.D. 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, i.e. only the dissertation remains to be completed. Completing the dissertation usually takes from one year 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 adviser on the dissertation, and which faculty members they would like on their Committees. (Committees must consist of at least two core VCS faculty and one 'outside' member.) For the qualifying exam, students need to prepare three things: (i) a prospectus of the dissertation as a whole (normally twelve to fifteen pages), (ii) a draft chapter, and (iii) a comprehensive bibliography. When they are ready to schedule the examination, they 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?

At the University of Rochester, there are certain teaching opportunities (apart from TAships). Departmental undergraduate classes in both studio and art history are sometimes offered to VCS students. Students can also apply to be accepted into the College Writing Program, in which they would teach their own classes. Locally there are a number of colleges that are often looking for adjunct teachers in art history, studio, film, and cultural studies. VCS students have regularly taught classes at these places.