Ph.D. Program in Pan-African Studies

Students enrolled in the doctoral program in Pan African Studies will acquire a mastery of the knowledge, research strategies, and intellectual discourse of the discipline. As a distinctive part of the program, graduates of the proposed program will have (1) area specializations in African American, Caribbean and the rest of the African Diaspora, as well as (2) grounding in a traditional discipline such as history, literature, philosophy, politics, psychology, anthropology, sociology, religion, art, music, Women Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, and others. Competencies in these fields will be developed in the following curriculum plan.

Program Requirements

Academic requirements for the Ph.D. Program in Pan-African Studies, including admission and degree requirements, can be found on the Academic Catalog website.

The Professional Development Seminar

The professional development seminar has 0 credit hours but it required and will be offered every semester.  Students must complete the seminars with a Pass - Fail grade before registering for degree candidacy.  The seminar will meet once per month (approximately 4 sessions per semester) and be inclusive (not exhaustive) of the following areas: research of graduate students and faculty, grant writing, special discussion sessions, writing for journal publications, presentation at conferences, teaching and technological developments, etc.).  These sessions will be organized by the Director of the PAS Ph.D. program or a member of the Graduate Studies Committee. They will also involve faculty members within and external to the department as well as other specialists in the field. Part–time students will be expected to attend at least two seminars per semester until the degree candidacy stage.  In total, the meetings that part-time students attend should cover the range of professional development topics in order to meet seminar requirements. In order to accommodate the work schedules of part-time students, seminars will be held after working hours and if necessary on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings.

Part-Time Students

The above-mentioned structure is based on the enrollment of full-time students.  All part-time students will employ the following steps to ensure access to an intensive and immersive educational experience.

  • All part-time Ph.D. students will follow the residency policy as stated in the Graduate Catalog as written. This policy constitutes a written element of your admissions proposal.
  • Beginning with their enrollment in the Pan-African Studies Ph.D. program, part-time students will be included with full-time students in all aspects of the program, with the exception of the requirement to serve as graduate teaching assistants or the receiving of a university fellowship.
  • Part-time students are expected to enroll in the Professional Development Seminar where provisions have been made for their participation.
  • In order to be properly advised, all  part-time students are to be in contact with the Director of the Ph.D. Program at least twice per month via email,  telephone, and/or face to face every semester. When in degree candidacy, each student is to meet with the Chair of their committee at least once per month until successfully completing their degree.  Additionally, faculty members will be encouraged to mentor part-time students as they would full-time students. The department will support the efforts of part-time students to present at professional meetings and conferences.

Course Descriptions

Most classes are structured as graduate seminars aimed at helping students move from generalized research areas to more subject specific, content-based approaches of study and research. The goal is to have doctoral students gain mastery of both research strategies and intellectual discourse in an area of expertise. This approach, we believe, will hasten graduation and position our graduates favorably in the highly competitive academic job market.  Part-time students will follow a schedule appropriate to their needs.

Doctoral Examinations

Students are required to take and pass two exams:  Comprehensive and Special Topics Exams. The purpose of both the Comprehensive Exam and Special Topics Exam is to demonstrate expertise in research strategies, intellectual approaches, and content knowledge in a major area of study.  They are designed to cover an area larger than the dissertation and to qualify the student to teach in a given field.

Students must petition the Graduate Studies Committee to schedule their examinations. For students who plan to take their exams during a fall semester, they must petition the Graduate Studies Committee no later than March 1 of the spring semester. For students who plan to take their exams during a spring semester, they must petition the Graduate Studies Committee no later than October 1 of the fall semester. Students who do not do so will delay their degree progress and will have to wait to take their written exams a semester later.

Comprehensive Examination

  • Committee Structure - the committee structure for the Comprehensive Exam consists of (1) the proposed Chair of the student’s dissertation committee and (2 a) PAS faculty member, as designated by the dissertation committee Chair and the student. The PAS faculty member would most likely be a member of the student’s doctoral dissertation committee and (3) the third member of the Comprehensive Exam committee would be a member of the department’s Graduate Studies Committee.
  • Exam Structure - he Comprehensive Exam will test the student on key theoretical and methodological perspectives in Pan-African Studies.  The exam will be based on a reading list provided by the Graduate Studies Committee (approved by the Department).  The student’s committee will create a series of study questions (12-18) from which four related questions (two theoretical questions, two methodological questions) will be administered to the student for the exam.  The exam will be administered in a closed book format in a secure room on campus for no longer than eight hours.  The student, in collaboration with the Graduate Studies Committee, will schedule their Comprehensive Exam to take place during the fourth or fifth week of the semester they intend to take said exam.

Special Topics Examination

Within one week of completing the closed book Comprehensive Exam, the student is given the Special Topics Exam.

  • Committee Structure - he committee for the Special Topics Exam consists of  (1) the proposed Chair of the student’s dissertation, (2) the PAS faculty member who was designated as a member for the Comprehensive Exam, and (3 a) special topics committee member.  The special topics member would most likely be a faculty member outside of the Pan-African Studies department whose interests are in the student’s specialized research area.  This faculty member may be a part of the student’s doctoral dissertation committee.

  • Exam Structure - he Special Topics Exam will test the student on their research area of specialization and secondary study area/discipline.  The exam will be based on a reading list selected by the student, in conjunction with his/her committee.  Preparation for this exam will include materials from student coursework within a given track area, a specific discipline, elective courses, and from the student’s dissertation research efforts.  The exam will be administered as a written take-home exam that is to be completed within 72 hoursat a date and time agreed upon by the committee and the student.  As stated previously, this exam must occur within one week of the Comprehensive Exam.  The Special Topics Exam can be administered as either a major research paper or in a question/essay format but must include the methodological approaches and the theoretical/intellectual perspectives of the student’s declared discipline (e.g. history, sociology religious studies, etc.) or secondary area studies (e.g. women and gender studies, Latin American and Latino studies, Native America studies, etc.), as well as a research topic focus. The choice of the exam format is at the discretion of the student’s Chair.

Grading of Comprehensive and Special Topics Exams

After both the Comprehensive Exam and Special Topics committees have assessed the written work and if they determined that the student has passed (ideally within a period no longer than two weeks), the student’s Chair will schedule an oral exam of not less than one and not longer than three hours prior to the end of semester they complete their written exams. During the oral examination the student will respond to questions presented by members of the examination committees about both the Comprehensive Exam and Special Topics Exam. The oral committee consists of all 4 members from the Comprehensive and Special Topics Exam committees, although the outside member can select to participate in that portion of the oral exam meeting that is centered on the special topics.  For instance, logistically, questions regarding each exam can be covered separately (first hour designated for Comprehensive Exam, second hour focusing on Special Topics Exam, for instance).

Successful completion of the Special Topics Exam will be determined by the four-member committee agreeing that the student has adequately passed the written and the oral portions of the exam. Special Topics Exam will be graded as Pass/Fail.  

If a student fails to pass a written portion of the exams on their first attempt, the student will work with the Graduate Studies and examination committees to reschedule the exam for the following semester. If the student fails to pass the written exam a second time, then the student will be dismissed from the program. A student cannot move onto the oral examination until they have passed both the Comprehensive and Special Topics Exams. If a student fails to pass the oral examination, the student will be dismissed from the program. However, in the case that the student does not pass their oral exam, they have the option to appeal to the Graduate Studies Committee to re-take that portion of the exam process one final time before the end of the same semester. If the student is granted this re-take of their oral exam and do not pass, they will be dismissed from the program. 

Only on successful passage of both the Comprehensive and Special Topics Exams and the oral exam will the student continue to the next step of degree candidacy and the dissertation proposal.  The dissertation proposal must be successfully defended by the end of the following semester of the exams.


Doctoral students are expected to produce high quality work.  No student may take the qualifying exams until he or she has completed all Incompletes or X grades, except for dissertation or research hours.

No student who has more than 6 hours with a grade of C+ or below may take either the Comprehensive or Topic Specialization Exam. Students who fail the exams may re-take work judged unsatisfactory by the following semester.  Students failing the second attempt will be dismissed from the program.

Dissertation Proposal

Upon successful completion of the written and oral Comprehensive and Special Topics Exams, students will be admitted to candidacy. Students approved for candidacy are required to write and present a dissertation research proposal to a dissertation committee for approval. The dissertation committee will consist of at least four faculty members, one of which must be external to the program and qualify as a graduate faculty. The proposal will include:

  • Summary of research literature on the topic to be researched;
  • Ways in which the proposed research is expected to expand upon current  literature in meaningful ways;
  • An explanation of the theoretical framework and/or relevant concepts that will, or are likely to inform the analysis;,
  • Data collection methods to be used and the source of the data to be analyzed.

Upon completion of the proposal, the dissertation committee chair will schedule a defense of the proposal, at which the student will address questions and concerns presented by committee members.  Such concerns will be included in a final draft of the research proposal, which the student will distribute to all committee members.

After approval of the research proposal, the student will conduct research for the dissertation, which will include the elements required in the research proposal, as well as a section on findings, analysis and discussion, summary and conclusion.

Documentary /Fieldwork Requirements

To qualify for documentary and/or fieldwork, students will be required to have successfully completed all prerequisite exams with a minimum grade of B-. Additionally, the student must have successfully defended her/his dissertation proposal. Documentation/Fieldwork research can only be embarked upon when the student is ready, with the approval of the major dissertation advisor or supervisor. The

Documentation/fieldwork may consist of collection and analysis of primary or secondary data. The Graduate Advisor, who serves as the director of graduate studies, will work together with the student and the chair of the dissertation committee to coordinate research work preparation and logistics. Each student’s committee Chair/mentor will supervise the documentation process and/or fieldwork.

The documentation/fieldwork report will consist of the following sections:

I. Summary of the Research Topic,

Purpose of the Research,

Research Questions and/or Hypotheses,

Summary of Assumptions and Concepts;

II. Research Strategies;

III. Findings;

IV. Summary and Conclusions.

Dissertation Defense

Upon completion of a defensible draft of the dissertation, the student will submit the draft to all members of the dissertation committee. The student will also place a copy of the dissertation at the front desk in the Pan-African Studies Department, where it may be read by interested faculty. The committee chair will schedule a defense to be held not less than one week after distribution of the final defense draft and its placement at the front desk of the Pan-African Studies Department. Enough time will be allowed for a university-wide announcement and the dissertation defense should be held not more than two weeks after its distribution. In the defense, the student will present his or her work and then respond to questions and critiques from members of the committee.  The student will be responsible for making any final changes required by committee members.

Upon completion of final edits, the document will be distributed to committee members and submitted to the University, following all applicable Graduate School guidelines.