Bard Graduate Center’s PhD program began in the fall of 1998. Unique among American graduate programs, our students study the cultural history of the material world in all times and places, from the arts of the ancient world to the twenty-first century.

Overview
All prospective doctoral students must have an MA degree in order to be considered for the doctoral program. Students complete one to two years of courses, depending on their backgrounds, do three field exams, and complete a dissertation. Our doctoral students have completed dissertations on topics including dress history in France in the 19th century, teenagers and the postwar American home, and alchemy in Puritan England and America, and are working on a wide-range of areas of material culture from military dress in the Revolutionary Atlantic to Chinese Bronzes on the Yuan dynasty.
Degree Requirements
In the fall of 1998, Bard Graduate Center formally initiated its doctoral program, the first of its kind in North America, after approval by the New York State Board of Regents. Doctoral diplomas confer a doctorate in Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture.

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is awarded upon successful completion of the following requirements:

For all students:
  • Reading knowledge of two languages from among French, German, Italian, and Spanish. One of these may, upon successful petition to the faculty, be replaced by another language relevant to the dissertation area. Incoming PhD students are required to take a language exam during the first week of orientation in August.

For doctoral students who enter with an MA in Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture from Bard Graduate Center:
  • Courses (4 electives): 12 credits
  • Directed Readings (3, proposed in preparation for exams): 9 credits
  • Doctoral Dissertation: 6 credits
  • Total: 27 credits
  • 48 credits transferred from the MA for a total of 75 credits required for the doctoral degree
Full-time doctoral students who must complete 27 credits take four elective courses in the fall semester of their first year. In the spring semester, students prepare for their qualifying examinations by taking three directed reading courses. At the end of the first year, students must take and pass examinations in three fields. Exams are written and are held early in the designated exam week. The written exams are followed by an oral exam covering all three areas, held later in the same week. By October of their second year, students must have their dissertation proposal approved. Full-time students must complete the dissertation by the end of their fourth year.

[no-indent] For doctoral students who enter with MA degrees from other institutions, 24 credits can be transferred from another MA program upon successful petition to the faculty. This is the maximum amount accepted from any outside degree.
  • Courses (12, including Survey I and II and Approaches): 36 credits
  • Directed Readings (3, proposed in preparation for exams): 9 credits
  • Doctoral Dissertation: 6 credits
  • Total: 51 credits
  • 24 credits transferred from an external MA program for a total of 75 credits required for the doctoral degree
[no-indent] Full-time doctoral students who must complete 51 credits usually take eight courses (four each semester) in their first year, including the two-semester Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, and Approaches to the Object. Incoming students who have previously taken an equivalent course or courses may petition the faculty committee for a waiver; those courses would then be substituted by additional electives. In their second year, students take four elective courses in the fall term and three directed readings in preparation for the qualifying exams in the spring term. At the end of the second year, students must take and pass examinations in three fields. The three exams are written and are held early in the designated exam week in the spring semester. The written exams are followed by an oral exam covering all three areas, held later in the week. By October of the third year, students must have their dissertation proposal approved. Full-time students must complete the dissertation by the end of their fifth year.
Doctoral Dissertation
The doctoral dissertation should make a significant contribution to the understanding of the decorative arts, design history, and material culture. Bard Graduate Center assists students in seeking financial support for dissertation work, including funds for travel, archival research, and fellowships. The student is responsible for keeping the members of the Dissertation Committee informed of progress and for soliciting advice and guidance as needed.

Dissertation Proposal

The process of selecting a dissertation topic and writing the dissertation is as follows:
  1. After consulting with the director of Doctoral Studies, the student nominates a dissertation committee consisting of three individuals, including a dissertation advisor who is a member of the full-time faculty. At least two committee members are usually drawn from Bard Graduate Center faculty.
  2. The student undertakes a feasibility study in order to determine the availability and accessibility of research resources, such as objects or archives necessary to the successful completion of the dissertation within the set time limits. This may involve a preliminary research trip to relevant sites of objects or archives.
  3. The student prepares a dissertation proposal that demonstrates he or she is familiar with the relevant literature and existing research, shows cognizance of appropriate methodologies, and suggests how the proposed dissertation will contribute to the scholarly discourse on the chosen topic. The student should include a dissertation outline laying out the envisaged structure, a preliminary bibliography listing primary and secondary sources, and a proposed timeline of work to be undertaken. The proposal is submitted to the Graduate Committee for discussion. The Graduate Committee makes the final decision on approval of the dissertation proposal.

Presentation and Defense of the Dissertation

All three members of the Dissertation Committee must approve the completed doctoral dissertation. The student presents and defends the dissertation orally.
Doctoral Students
View Doctoral Students Bios here.

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2016

  • Christina DeLeon
  • Michelle Jackson
  • Julia Lillie

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2015

  • Julie Bellemare
  • Sarah Scaturro
  • Xiaoyi Yang

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2014

  • Antonia Behan
  • Hadley Jensen
  • Anne Hilker
  • Antonio Sanchez Gomez


Entering Doctoral Cohort 2013

  • Martina D’Amato
  • Christine Griffiths

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2012

  • William DeGregorio
  • Meredith Nelson
  • Rebecca C. Tuite

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2011

  • Mei-Ling Israel
  • Mei Mei Rado

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2010

  • Christian Larsen
  • Rebecca Perry
  • Elizabeth St. George


Entering Doctoral Cohort 2009

  • Amy Bogansky

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2008

  • Pengliang Lu
  • Jorge Riva Pérez

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2007

  • Erin Eisenbarth
  • Rebecca Perten

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2006

  • Elizabeth McMahon
  • Shax Riegler
  • Tom Tredway

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2005

  • Christine E. Brennan
  • Joyce Denney

Entering Doctoral Cohort 2004

  • Caroline Hannah
Frequently Asked Questions

Doctoral FAQ for all students starting in 2014 and thereafter. Please consult the student handbook for additional information.

Are there any required courses for doctoral students?

All doctoral students must take 500/501: Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture and 502: Approaches to the Object in their first term, unless they have had the course as part of their BGC MA program. In addition, all doctoral students take three Directed Readings in their final semester of classes to prepare for qualifying exams. If an external student has had the equivalent to the Survey or Approaches class in their MA program, they may petition the faculty to be waived.

Have field exams changed?

No. The list of field exam options is the same, and can be found here.

When are exams held?

All doctoral exams are held during finals week at the end of the spring term.

What is the format of the exams?

Students must sit for three written field exams early in the week and one oral exam covering all three areas on Thursday or Friday of exam week.

Does the program only accept full-time students?

Part-time enrollment may be permitted on a case-by-case basis, but without eligibility for funding. Part-time status applies only while taking courses and exams; once past the exam stage, all students follow the same track to completion.

What if someone starts as a full-time student and then decides to shift to part-time?

Any departure from full-time status must be done by petition and entails the loss of funding. Similarly, students who begin as part-time and switch to full-time are not subsequently eligible for funding. All awards are determined at the time of entry into the program and contingent on maintaining full-time status.

Will there be workshops for students to help decide their areas for exams and Directed Readings and on how to prepare a dissertation proposal?

Yes. The Director of Doctoral Studies (DDS) will lead a workshop every year. Students are also always advised to consult regularly with the DDS for additional help with this and other PhD issues.

Are there opportunities for doctoral students to teach, and are all doctoral students required to do so?

Yes. There are opportunities for doctoral students to teach at Bard Graduate Center both as teaching assistants and as competitively selected doctoral teaching fellows who offer their own graduate seminars. There are further undergraduate teaching possibilities at Bard College. Doctoral students are not required to teach, nor can it be guaranteed, but it is strongly encouraged as part of professional training.

BGC students are now required to apply for outside funding in either their second (for internal MAs) or third (for external MAs) year. How does this impact their aid packages?

Bard Graduate Center requires students to apply for outside grants as part of their funding package. In most cases, students receiving outside awards will be able to keep their internal funding, but BGC examines each instance on a case-by-case basis.

Will there be a workshop for students on applying for grants?

Yes. The Director of Doctoral Studies and invited guests will lead an annual workshop open to all doctoral students.

Are leaves of absence possible? If a leave is approved, is funding held for the student?

Leaves are granted upon petition only in cases of documented major illness. If approved, Bard Graduate Center will hold funding during an official leave of absence.

What are the time limits for the degree?

Internal students who have completed their MA at Bard Graduate Center will have four years to complete the doctoral degree; external students arriving with any other MA will have five years to complete the doctoral degree.

Are extensions possible?

Students may petition for dissertation completion status which may give them up to two additional years to complete the degree. Petitions are considered annually. Students should refer to the guidelines in the Bard Graduate Center student handbook, as well as consulting with the Director of Doctoral Studies. A limited amount of additional funding is available on a competitive basis for doctoral candidates who are researching and writing their dissertations.

When do doctoral students register for classes?

Doctoral students register first each semester and are given priority in their choice of classes.

Is there funding available for primary doctoral research, or for giving papers at conferences?

Yes. Doctoral students who have been invited to present a paper at a conference may apply up to three times during their study for consideration for travel and research funding. Decisions are made by a committee. There is also funding available for primary research for the dissertation. A student may only apply once for this award, and only when they have an approved dissertation topic on file.