Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee


Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:  Master Plan Amendment to authorize the Institute to offer a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program in Electronic Arts




January 23, 2007




Goals 2 and 4







Issue for Decision (Consent Agenda)


Should the Regents approve an amendment to the master plan of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute authorizing the Institute to offer a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program in Electronic Arts?


Reason(s) for Consideration

            Required by State regulation.

Proposed Handling


This question will come before the Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee at its February 2007 meeting where it will be voted on and action taken.  It will then come before the full Board at its February 2007 meeting for final action.


Procedural History


Master plan amendment is required because this will be the Institute’s first doctoral program in the discipline of Fine Arts.


Background Information


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute submitted this proposal in April 2006 and the Department has determined that the program, if approved, would meet registration standards.  Master plan amendment approval is needed to authorize Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to offer its first doctoral program in the discipline of Fine Arts.




It is recommended that the Board of Regents approve a master plan amendment to authorize Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to offer its first doctoral program in the discipline of Fine Arts.  This amendment will be effective until February 28, 2008, unless the Department registers the program prior to that date, in which case master plan amendment shall be without term.


Timetable for Implementation


If the Board approves this master plan amendment, the Department will register the program and the Institute will proceed to recruit and enroll students.



Information in Support of the Recommendation


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, located in Troy, New York, is a degree-granting independent institution offering baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degree programs in the areas of engineering, biological science, health professions, business, physical science, social science and humanities. In the fall of 2005, 5,012 undergraduate and 1,241 graduate students were enrolled.


The Ph.D. in Electronic Arts will be an interdisciplinary arts degree that will expand traditions of arts pedagogy through interdisciplinary research in contemporary media theory, practice, and production. It will integrate arts practice with theoretical and historical study.


During the past ten years, the character of graduate education in the arts has been changing. The most visible new features are the prominence of the electronic arts and the development of interdisciplinary approaches. Related in part to the previous two factors, a third critically important shift is just beginning to materialize: the demand for Ph.D.s in interdisciplinary arts. Institutions outside (and more recently within) the United States have initiated Ph.D.s in the multidisciplinary and electronic arts. A current goal of the Institute is to "achieve greater prominence" as a "world class" university. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute needs to, therefore, participate in international standards for graduate research and education. The Ph.D. in Electronic Arts will contribute to this goal.


New professional standards and opportunities require Ph.D.s. in several areas.


                           (1)            Many artists are now exploring new domains of creativity which necessitate advanced research in a variety of fields – communication technologies, biology, and gaming – to name just a few.


                           (2)            In the university teaching market, many art and interdisciplinary arts departments have expanded what were positions previously filled only by those individuals with M.F.A.s to candidates who hold Ph.D.s.


                           (3)            There are a number of institutions for advanced creative study that offer research positions for individuals with Ph.D.s in the creative arts.


                           (4)            Curatorial positions in museums and university galleries would be a professional option for individuals with an interdisciplinary arts Ph.D.


A review of the college’s finances found it in sound financial condition.


In response to a canvass conducted of all doctoral degree-granting institutions statewide and a canvass that was conducted of all the colleges and universities in the Northeastern region of New York State, six institutions responded that they supported the program or indicated that the program would have no impact on their institutions.