Graduate Program Frequently Asked Questions

Performance Studies Doctoral Program

With whom do I speak with questions about the program?
You may contact Robin Davidson, head of Graduate Student Affairs. You can reach her at: 510-664-7613 (AM only) or performancestudies@berkeley.edu

How do I know if I have to take the TOEFL?
Please read the information on the Graduate Division web site and application about admission requirements: http://grad.berkeley.edu/

How important are GRE scores?
We do not consider GRE scores a primary indicator of success in a doctoral program, but we do take them into consideration. GREs are also reported when we nominate students for prestigious campus fellowships, so we do consider that factor during the admissions process. We don’t have a minimum score, but there are no exceptions or waivers for the GRE. Please note, scores must not be more than 5 years old as they are only reported for 5 years after taking the test. Specific information can be found on the GRE website.

How important are the writing samples?
Both personal statements and the critical writing sample are very important. This is the place where the admissions committee will be best able to gauge a candidate’s readiness for doctoral research. Candidates should choose the critical writing sample that best exemplifies their critical capacities as theorists, historians, ethnographers, and/or as cultural critics. Ideally, the writing sample will be in dialogue with a candidate’s statement of research interests, though we understand that some candidates’ “best” writing samples might be somewhat outside declared research interests. Candidates who have been away from academia for a while are encouraged to take the time to develop a new or revised well-researched and critically sophisticated writing sample. While the personal statements are fairly brief, the critical writing samples should ideally be around 15 to 20 pages.

How important are letters of recommendation?
The letters of recommendation are very important. The letters should speak as best as possible to a candidate’s readiness for and interest in doctoral research. While one of three letters might speak to a candidate’s skills as an artist, administrator, or activist, at least two letters should speak knowledgeably about the candidate’s abilities as a researcher and writer.

What kind of financial package is offered to doctoral students in performance studies?
We offer each student a five-year package of tuition support and stipend. The details of each package vary somewhat depending upon the availability of external campus funding and on the mix of fellowship and teaching responsibilities offered a student in any given year. However, we do not admit any student unless we can guarantee him or her a five-year package.

Can any requirements be waived through work completed in my Masters program?
Not usually. The doctoral program in performance studies is rigorous and very specific to UC Berkeley. Many students enter our program with a Masters degree, however, and we find that such students are particularly adept in composing a specialized research curriculum and often take less time to finish their dissertations at the end of the program.

Do you encourage students to take courses in departments outside of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies?
Seminar experiences outside of the department are essential to the performance studies doctoral program at Berkeley. While the first year is largely devoted to program requirements in theory (201), methods (202), theory/practice experiments (203), and professional development (200a/200b), the rest of a student’s coursework is carefully selected from an array of courses offered on the Berkeley campus. Students meet regularly with the Head Graduate Advisor to craft a curriculum that best suits the research interests of the individual students, each of whom will be pursuing a research agenda that varies historically, regionally, theoretically, artistically, politically.

What is the role of the Graduate Group faculty in Performance Studies?
The Graduate Group in Performance Studies is composed of scholarly faculty from within TDPS as well as a network of faculty whose work engages issues of performance from a variety of disciplinary angles. Graduate Group faculty rotate in two and three-year cycles onto the Executive Committee which is responsible for graduate admissions, curriculum decisions, and graduate student reviews. Graduate Group “affiliate” members regularly admit PS students into their courses and serve on their orals and dissertation committees. Graduate Group “core” members serve on the Executive Committee and can also serve as dissertation directors.

Can I apply to the doctoral program if I have a BFA?
Some students are justifiably concerned that their undergraduate degree has not prepared them for doctoral research. In those cases, we encourage candidates to take interim steps through coursework or other kinds of intellectual affiliation to develop skills as a researcher and theorist.

Can I apply to the doctoral program if my Bachelor’s degree is in a field other than Theater, Drama, Dance or Performance Studies?
Performance studies is a diverse and interdisciplinary field with scholarship representing a range of specialties in the humanities and social sciences, as well as occasionally the sciences. In light of this, a variety of undergraduate degrees are acceptable as long as the admissions statement includes a clear intention to pursue performance studies at the graduate level.

Can I pursue a doctorate while living outside of the San Francisco Bay Area?
Because students take courses on campus for the first three years and teach regularly in the program, it is not possible to pursue our doctoral program on a commuter basis. In the summers and in the fourth or fifth years, students whose research requires national or international travel are certainly allowed to relocate for an appropriate period of time.

Is there financial support for conference or research travel?
Students regularly receive funding for one conference a year. The department also offers partial support for travel to facilitate doctoral research; allocations are made every year and depend upon the number of requests received. There are also other sources for travel funds throughout the campus and, additionally, a variety of fellowship opportunities to support lengthier periods of research.

Is it possible to pursue scholarly research in dance at UC Berkeley?
Yes. Dance Studies is an important aspect of our program and we currently have several students in residence who work in this field. In addition, several Graduate Group members publish on dance in the context of larger scholarly projects in contemporary performance, transnational performance, and popular, mass, or vernacular performance forms. Additionally, our choreographers are active in promoting dance studies, and some are very committed members of our Dance Studies Working Group, a multi-disciplinary scholarly group composed of faculty and graduate students in PS, Rhetoric, Art History, Digital Art, English, Anthropology, and more.

What is the role of production in the performance studies doctoral program?
The doctorate program is designed to enable graduate students to become competitive in an academic job market, and we encourage students to participate in production to the degree that it advances their profiles as emerging scholars in performance studies. Our doctoral program is not an M.F.A. program. However, graduate students whose performance work coincides with their research have a variety of opportunities to cultivate their skills as artists, from the first year Lab Run festival of new work to courses in directing and performance art. After the first year, students can also apply to direct lower-budget Studio or Workshop productions.

How can I contact a graduate faculty member?
The profiles, research interests, and contact information of our faculty are available on the website. After studying their biographies and research information, you can contact those whose interests are closest to yours. You can also contact the Head Graduate Advisor in Performance Studies, Professor Shannon Steen, steen21@berkeley.edu.

Can I visit a seminar?
Visiting a seminar is something that occurs at the discretion of the professor; you can feel free to contact a professor about the possibility of visiting his or her course. Our course schedule is posted on the website.

Can I speak with any current students in the program?
The profiles and research interests of our current graduate students are posted on our department website, along with their emails. After perusing their biographies, you can contact students, especially those whose interests are closest to yours.

Is it possible for international students to take graduate courses at Berkeley?
International students are welcome to apply directly to the doctoral program. Those international students who wish to pursue graduate study at Berkeley for a limited time may apply through a number of programs:

Education Abroad Program (EAP) is an international educational program of the University of California that provides academic exchanges for one or two semesters.
http://eap.ucop.edu

AMIDEAST Fulbright, America-Mideast Educational and Training Services, Inc., http://www.amideast.org

German and Portuguese Fulbright Commissions
http://www.Fulbright.de
http://www.ccla.pt

Institute for International Education Fulbright
http://www.iie.org

Is it possible for domestic students to take graduate courses at Berkeley?
Domestic students who want to undertake graduate study without working for a higher degree may apply for course-work-only status. They must, however, meet the same admission requirements as degree candidates, have a definite scholarly or professional purpose in applying, and be admitted to a regularly established major field of study. There is no limited or unclassified status available to graduate students. Course-work-only students do not qualify for fellowship consideration or for academic appointment as a Graduate Student Instructor and can be accommodated only if a department is willing to include them in its enrollment target. There is a maximum of two semesters of study. Admission to course-work-only status precludes all future admission to any degree program at UC Berkeley. Please see information on this website about graduate admission and the link to the application itself on the Graduate Division website. Current graduate students from any UC campus, Stanford University, CSU East Bay, San Francisco State University, Mills College or Sonoma State University may participate in an Intercampus Exchange Program. Check with your home campus for details. UC Berkeley’s general catalog provides information for Cal students wishing to study at the above campuses: http://catalog.berkeley.edu/grad/opportunities.html
For those attending universities other than those mentioned above, check with your home campus to see if any kind of exchange may be arranged.