Doctoral Requirements



Students must complete a total of 39 credit hours of coursework toward the doctoral degree. As per Rackham rules, they must complete at least 18 of those credit hours on the Ann Arbor campus. In the first year, students are strongly advised to take 9 hours of courses in each of the two initial terms; among them must be SAC 600: Introduction to Screen Arts and Cultures and at least one of the other three required core courses-SAC 601: Seminar in Theories of Film or Electronic/Digital Media, SAC 602: Seminar in Film or Electronic/ Digital Media Historiography, and, beginning in 2009-2010, SAC 603: Seminar in Material Practices.

Required, core courses [to be offered once a year]: 3 credit hours each

SAC 600: Introduction to Screen Arts and Cultures

SAC 601: Seminar in Theories of Film or Electronic/Digital Media

SAC 602: Seminar in Film or Electronic/Digital Media Historiography

SAC 603: Seminar in Material Practices (to be offered in 2009-2010)

SAC 700: Directed Research

Supporting Area Courses (minimum of 3 courses)

Working with their advisor, students will develop a program of at least 3 additional seminars you can take that will form an individualized and integrated study of film, television and digital media. At least one of these seminars must be relevant to one of the three core survey courses and at least two should supplement/expand an area of interest pertinent to their proposed dissertation topic. These courses can be taken from any of the offerings of the Graduate School, including those in the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures. Students may gather information from various sources about potentially useful sets of courses, but they should make their selection in consultation with their advisor.


Students achieve candidacy by passing their comprehensive exams.

Graduate/Professional Development


Students will each be assigned a mentor at the beginning of her/his first year of coursework. By the end of that first year, in consultation with the Director, each student should select an advisor (which may be someone else than the first-year mentor) with the expectation that the advisor will become at least a member of the student's comprehensive examination committee and perhaps also a member of the student's dissertation committee.

Pedagogical Training

Prior to the first term of a GSIship, students will participate in the New GSI Teaching Orientation organized by CRLT. They also will participate in two workshops organized by Screen Arts & Cultures: one to be held shortly after the CRLT Orientation and the other at the midpoint of the term that they first act as GSIs. The first workshop will consider pedagogical issues specific to Screen Arts & Cultures and involve a variety of informative exercises. The second will have the new GSIs meet with several faculty and experienced GSIs to address issues and questions that have arisen in their courses.

Additional Information

In addition to completing SAC and cognate coursework, students are required to devote substantial time to professional development activities and research projects. The program requires each student to present independent research at either department colloquia or national conferences. Students are also expected to teach for at least four [six/] terms at the college level (as GSI or lecturer).


The following sections outline the typical shape and major steps of a UM graduate career in SAC.

First Year Review

Students are required to submit first year review materials by early September in the fall of their second year. Materials must include one representative writing sample, two faculty letters of assessment, an unofficial transcript and a self-evaluation that reflects upon the student's first year activities (both academic and professional), the strengths and weaknesses that the student sees in his/her development as a member of an academic community (scholarship, coursework, collegiality). The self-evaluation should also indicate the student's goals and needs for the upcoming year. By the end of September or early October, students will receive feedback on review in a meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies and their advisor. The self-evaluation component of the review will be repeated annually and submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies.

Second-Year Review

Students should submit a self-evaluation by the first week of fall term in their third year of study. The self-evaluation should reflect on the student's second-year activities (both academic and professional), the strengths and weaknesses that the student sees in her/his development as a member of an academic community (scholarship, coursework, and collegiality). It should also indicate the student's goals and needs for the upcoming year. By mid- or late September, students will receive feedback on the review in a meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies and their advisor(s).

Language Requirement

In order to master a wide range of critical work, Screen Arts & Cultures doctoral students must demonstrate proficiency in at least one language other than English.  Demonstration of proficiency must occur prior to the preliminary exam.  Proficiency is determined by successful completion of at least four semesters of college-level language instruction with a grade no lower than B-, or an equivalent course of study in a language immersion program (the latter requires approval by the Graduate Chair). When appropriate, the deadline for fulfilling this requirement may be extended with the Graduate Program Committee’s approval.

Comprehensive Exams

By the end of their third year, all students must pass comprehensive exams in (1) theory, (2) historiography and (3) one other pertinent area of study before being able to advance to candidacy. For this purpose, and in consultation with her/his advisor and the Graduate Chair, each student must form a committee of three faculty, at least two of which must be members of the core SAC faculty, and one of which may be an affiliated member or a member from a department/discipline relevant to the student’s expected dissertation project.

Departmental reading lists are available for the exams in theory and historiography, respectively. In consultation with their committee, students will customize each of these lists for their exams, explaining their approach in a 2-page rationale for each list. The third list, to be designed in consultation with the advisor, will be based on an area of study pertinent to the student’s proposed dissertation topic. Here, too, the student supplies a 2-page rationale. All three lists are due by the end of the term preceding the exams.

Students may take their exams on any three consecutive weekends during the semester prior to the end-of-the-term study period. For each individual exam, they will receive two questions at noon on Friday, and need to submit a 10-12 page essay (plus endnotes) answering one question of their choice by the following Monday at noon. Approximately one week after submitting their third exam, students will meet with their committee to discuss the results. If a student does not pass an exam, he or she can retake it only once during the summer following the third year. If a student fails any exam a second time, he or she may be granted a Masters in Screen Arts & Cultures as a terminal degree contingent upon fulfillment of the program’s coursework requirements.


By the end of the term that follows the completion of Comprehensive Exams, students must submit a formal written dissertation proposal, 25 pages in length. The dissertation proposal should provide an overview and analysis of the field(s) to which the candidate's scholarship will contribute, identifying major debates that characterize the field. It should clearly identify the topic and argument of the dissertation, its organization, the methodologies to be used, and a research plan (including archives to be consulted and a timetable). It should also indicate how the dissertation would constitute an original and scholarly contribution to the field.

In preparation for the prospectus examination, candidates should submit a dissertation committee roster to the Graduate Studies Committee no later than two months after the successful completion of Comprehensive Exams and at least one month before the oral defense. The dissertation committee should be constituted of at least four members one of whom should hold an outside appointment in a cognate field related to the student's dissertation topic. The prospectus examination is configured to assess the project's merits and to provide students with faculty feedback on areas to be further refined while researching and writing the dissertation. Each candidate will give a 20-minute presentation of his/her prospectus for the dissertation chair and committee members. This will be followed by a discussion of the prospectus, when the entire committee members can ask questions of the candidate. After a deliberation period, the committee will inform the candidate of their decision on the prospectus examination and provide additional comments on the proposed dissertation project. If the committee agrees that the candidate has met all expectations for the prospectus, he or she will pass the defense. If one receives a conditional pass, minor revisions must be made and the revised prospectus must be submitted to and approved by both the dissertation chair and the Director of Graduate Studies. If major revisions are required of the prospectus, candidates will be advised to resubmit the prospectus after meetings with his or her dissertation chair and committee. A second prospectus defense can be scheduled following the next comprehensive examination period.


After a candidate passes the prospectus examination, he or she will be required to map out a research and writing schedule on the Grad-Tools website. In addition to noting the regularly scheduled meetings with their dissertation chair(s) and/or committees, candidates will track their movement towards benchmarks of the dissertation process (developed, in accordance with guidelines from Rackham and formulated under the supervision of the chair of his/her committee. The dissertation committee, as well as the Director of Graduate Studies, will be able to access and monitor the candidate's progress on Grad-Tools.

After all members of the committee have approved the dissertation draft for defense, candidates will be given a public forum to defend their dissertation with their committee. Candidates are expected to complete the dissertation by the end of their twelth term or sixth year of enrollment. [Candidates should consult Rackham for deadlines on conferral of degrees.]

(revised November 9, 2010, Abel)