About the Program
Founded in 1984, the graduate program in Ethnic Studies is the first interdisciplinary PhD program in the U.S. dedicated to the study of comparative race and ethnicity in national, hemispheric, and global contexts. It continues to be a premiere PhD program that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training as well as critical grounding in comparative, relational, and intersectional analysis made possible by the core subfields of the department: Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies, Native American Studies, and Comparative Ethnic Studies.
The graduate program draws on faculty strength in a wide range of fields, including studies of race, ethnicity, indigeneity, gender, and sexuality; citizenship, migration, and borders; diaspora and transnationalism; sovereignty and decoloniality; representation and performance; social movements and cultural politics; religion, food, museums, labor, and war. Students learn social science and humanities methodologies, including archival research, ethnography, oral history, and textual and visual analysis. Students also have the opportunity to pursue a “Designated Emphasis” in such areas as Critical Theory, Film Studies, New Media, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality.
Admission to the University
Minimum Requirements for Admission
The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:
- A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
- A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
- If the applicant comes from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
- Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.
Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree
The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.
Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.
Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.
The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:
- Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
- Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.
Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.
Required Documents for Applications
- Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. If the applicant is admitted, then official transcripts of all college-level work will be required. Official transcripts must be in sealed envelopes as issued by the school(s) attended. If you have attended Berkeley, upload your unofficial transcript with your application for the departmental initial review. If you are admitted, an official transcript with evidence of degree conferral will not be required.
- Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, not the Graduate Division.
- Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants from countries or political entities in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to applicants from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:
- courses in English as a Second Language,
- courses conducted in a language other than English,
- courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and
- courses of a non-academic nature.
If applicants have previously been denied admission to Berkeley on the basis of their English language proficiency, they must submit new test scores that meet the current minimum from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833. Official IELTS score reports must be mailed directly to our office from British Council. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years.
Where to Apply
Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.
Admission to the Program
Criteria for Admission
Applicants are evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:
- Academic achievements: These include but are not limited to undergraduate (and, if applicable, graduate) GPA, instructors' written evaluations on performance in areas such as coursework, academic honors received, and publications. GRE scores are not required. The typical minimum GPA is 3.0. If your GPA falls below 3.0, please provide an explanation in your statement of purpose.
- Statement of purpose: The statement of purpose should give a clear description of the applicant's academic preparation and intellectual development, research interests, motivation for and commitment to graduate study in this program, professional goals, and other matters that would help the Admissions Committee evaluate his/her aptitude for advanced academic work and research. Preference is given to applicants who express clear plans and an understanding of the field of ethnic studies. Applicants whose undergraduate majors may not be directly relevant to ethnic studies should give an account of their decision to pursue the field.
- Writing sample: The writing sample should be an expository piece about 20 pages in length that can showcase the applicant's ability to conduct research, sustain an intellectual analysis, and make a persuasive argument using the conventions of academic discourse. The sample can be a complete paper, such as a term paper from a course; an excerpt from a longer piece, such as a chapter from a thesis; or an essay written specifically for the purpose of application. No more than two shorter pieces may be substituted for one 20-page piece, but the latter is preferred. Non-expository work, such as creative writing, journalistic writing, or co-written pieces, may be submitted in addition to, but not in place of, the expository writing sample.
- Letters of recommendation: Please provide three letters from people familiar with your academic performance, ideally from tenure-track professors. Letters from graduate student instructors (teaching assistants), non-academic supervisors or employers will also be considered but don't carry as much weight as those from professors. Recent letters are preferred. If you are a re-entry student without recent letters from professors, please explain your situation in your statement of purpose.
- Match of research interest to faculty expertise and research interests: Applicants who are academically superior but whose research interests are a poor match with the expertise and research interests of the faculty will not necessarily be selected.
- Promise of extending Ethnic Studies scholarship: Preference is given to applicants whose proposed research promises to move Ethnic Studies scholarship in new directions.
- Disadvantages overcome: The admissions committee takes into consideration significant socioeconomic and educational disadvantages overcome by an applicant, with a view to enhancing graduate student diversity.
- Record of community service: The admissions committee takes into consideration an applicant's track record of serving various communities, such as student populations, disadvantaged groups, and ethnic communities with a view to enhancing graduate student diversity.
Doctoral Degree Requirements
Normative Time Requirements
Normative time to advancement is six semesters.
Normative time in candidacy is six semesters.
Total normative time is twelve semesters.
Time to Advancement
Total number of units required: 50.
Core Requirements (5 Courses, 18 Units)
|ETH STD 200||Critical Terms and Issues in Comparative Ethnic Studies||4|
|ETH STD 201||History and Narrativity: Contemporary Theories and Methods||4|
|ETH STD 202||Cultural Texts: Contemporary Theories and Methods||4|
|ETH STD 203||Social Structures: Contemporary Theories and Methods||4|
|ETH STD 302||Professional Orientation||2|
Note: The core 200-201-202-203 series must be taken in sequence in the company of your cohort, as the comprehensive exam for each cohort will be tied to the content of these courses. ETH STD 200/ETH STD 201 and ETH STD 202/ETH STD 203 are offered in alternate fall semesters. The comprehensive exam is taken at the end of the second year in the program.
No outside students are allowed in this series, and no exceptions will be made to the sequence.
Research Seminar Requirements (8 Courses, Typically 32 Units)
Five courses must be taken from within the program and three courses from outside the program.
|ETH STD 240||Series in Comparative Transnational Theories and Methods||4|
|ETH STD 250||Research Seminar: Selected Issues and Topics||4|
Choices outside ES: Students may take graduate-level research seminars from: departments in traditional disciplines, such as history and English; certificate-granting programs (such as the designated emphasis in Gender and Sexuality through the Women's Studies Department); a coherent, interdisciplinary program created in consultation with, and with the approval of, the graduate adviser.
Directed reading courses taken inside or outside ES may not be substituted for research seminars to fulfill this requirement. Except for professional orientation, all the above courses must be taken for a letter grade.
The following series of 2 unit courses related to professional training are graded Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory:
- Professional Orientation (required in the first semester);
- Professional Training: Pedagogy;
- The Qualifying Examination—Preparation;
- Researching and Writing Conference Papers, Research Articles;
- Researching and Writing Dissertations;
- Encountering the Job Market.
Note: Professional Orientation is required for all incoming students. Professional Training: Pedagogy is required for all students who wish to teach in the ETH STD 103 series, regardless of previous teaching experience in other institutions.
In addition to the above courses, students may take any courses they feel are needed to complete their training. Students entering ES without prior ethnic studies training often take upper division undergraduate courses to strengthen their background in the field. In such cases, they may arrange with the instructor to do additional readings or writing assignments in order to take the course as a ETH STD 299. These arrangements are strictly between individual students and instructors and do not involve ES. Foreign language courses taken during your graduate career in ES to fulfill the foreign language requirement may not be used to fulfill degree requirement.
Designated Emphasis courses
Students may elect to obtain a designated emphasis (e.g., Women, Gender and Sexuality or Film Studies) offered by another UC Berkeley department to augment their professional training in ES. The commitment to obtain a designated emphasis is made in addition to a student's commitment to complete the requirements for the PhD in ES. Questions on designated emphasis requirements should be directed to the department concerned and not to the ES graduate adviser.
Graduate seminars in one or more departments outside Ethnic Studies and African American Studies. These courses should constitute a coherent theoretical and methodological perspective that articulates with a traditional discipline (e.g., history, sociology) or an emergent field drawing from more than one traditional discipline (e.g., women's studies, cultural studies, immigration studies), consonant with the student's chosen focus in Ethnic Studies. Students entering with an MA may transfer one graduate course from another institution to fulfill the affiliated discipline requirement with approval from the graduate adviser.
Foreign Language Requirement
Proficiency in a language other than English is required. The foreign language requirement must be fulfilled before a student takes the doctoral qualifying examination. It may be fulfilled by one of the following means:
- Passing a written translation examination administered by an appropriate language department on campus or by faculty in the Department of Ethnic Studies;
- Providing evidence of having satisfactorily completed a four-semester (or six-quarter) sequence in the foreign language at the undergraduate level;
- For a native speaker of a foreign language that has professional value for studies, providing evidence of proficiency such as secondary school or university transcripts.
Course units taken to fulfill the foreign language requirement count toward a full course load but not toward the degree.
Masters Comprehensive Examination
The master's comprehensive examination (or comp exam for short) tests the student's mastery of theories and methods in Comparative Ethnic Studies as covered in the core requirements. This written test is normally taken at the end of a student's second year in the program. Students entering the Ethnic Studies Graduate Group doctoral program with an MA degree must still take the core requirements and the comprehensive examination.
Doctoral Qualifying Examination
The doctoral qualifying examination (or orals for short) tests the student's readiness to pursue advanced independent research in comparative ethnic studies with appropriate concentrations. It is normally taken at the end of a student's third year in the program. A graduate student is expected to write three position papers. The position paper serves as a written account of the student's mastery of three fields of study that she/he has chosen for her/his qualifying orals exam. These fields of study may be in recognized traditional disciplines or may be in emerging fields of study grounded in recognized intellectual traditions. The position papers also prepare the student intellectually for the future tasks of scholarly research and teaching.
The written doctoral qualifying examination consists of three essays, each drawn from bibliographies of approximately twenty to thirty scholarly article and book titles. Each of the three written exams should be approximately twenty-five to thirty-five double-spaced pages, excluding the bibliography, and regular, one-inch margins. At least half of a student's bibliography for each exam must be drawn from the present list which reflects both foundational contributions to ethnic studies and the areas of specialization of our faculty and thus, seminars. However, a student, under the guidance of her or his faculty QE chair, may choose as many texts from this list as desired. By requiring only half of a student's bibliographies to come from this list, allowance has been made to broaden, update, and reflect a student's unique areas of specialization.
Two of these essays must be literature reviews of the key texts of a particular field. Thus, they must discuss basic and essential developments, key issues, debates, and signal contributions of specific authors within a particular discipline or interdisciplinary field of study. These essays must reflect an understanding of the development of a broad area of specialization (e.g., late-19th century and 20th-century comparative ethnic studies history), rather than focusing exclusively on a student's eventual, and more narrow field of dissertation specialization (e.g., post-sixties history of one ethnic group, for example).
The third written exam must be a thematic essay. It may be grounded in a student's specific area of dissertation research interests, and may therefore substantially elaborate upon a graduate seminar paper, for example.
At least one of the three essays must be interdisciplinary. Thus, a student specializing in the social sciences or history, must reflect interdisciplinary mastery of relevant key humanities texts; while those specializing in the humanities, must likewise reflect their grounding in relevant social sciences and historical theories and studies.
At least one essay must be comparative across ethnic groups. Thus, a student specializing in one particular ethnic group, for example, must dedicate at least one essay to a broader comparison to one or more other ethnic groups.
NB: The requirements of this exam are mandatory only for the 2009-2010 cohort and those to follow. It is, nonetheless, recommended that previous cohorts follow the new requirements, to the extent possible. Previous cohorts may, however, choose to organize their QE lists following the previous option allowing them, in consultation with their faculty QE chair, to choose between two literature reviews and one thematic essay, or two thematic essays and one literature review.
Time in Candidacy
A dissertation prospectus of approximately fifteen pages, excluding bibliography, will be due the semester following the QE exams. Thus, for those taking their QE exams in the spring, the prospectus will be presented in the fall semester to the entire dissertation committee in a one hour meeting. All members of the committee must receive a hard copy of the prospectus one full week before the exam. Exams should be scheduled by the student at the beginning of the semester, in consultation with the graduate officer, who will organize room scheduling.
Finally, please note that the QE list is organized alphabetically per section, and that each section collects an interdisciplinary array of texts. The organization of a student's QE bibliography will instead reflect particular disciplines or areas of studies, such as contemporary literature; transnational feminist theories; visual culture and racialization; literature and critical legal studies; history of civil rights youth movements; gender and sexuality in 20th century immigration; contemporary queer politics and religion, partially drawn from across the master list.
Upon advancement to candidacy, the student submits a dissertation prospectus to members of the dissertation committee, who will discuss it in a meeting with the student. In the coming years, an ad-hoc committee will be created to determine what exactly the prospectus should contain; this meeting will be chaired by the graduate adviser.
The dissertation should be a product of original research on a topic of significance in Comparative Ethnic Studies. It must be analytical rather than merely descriptive in nature, and must incorporate a comparative element either in its choice of ethnocultural groups or in its analytical outlook. Upon final acceptance of the dissertation as an original piece of scholarly research by each of the committee members and approval by the dean of the Graduate Division, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is awarded.
Required Professional Development
Graduate Student Instructorships (GSIs)
As part of their training, all students will be expected to serve as a graduate student instructor for a minimum of one semester and a maximum of eight semesters. The Graduate Appointments Unit of the Graduate Division must approve exceptions. GSIships awarded for the summer session are excluded from this maximum.
The Department of Ethnic Studies offers a number of graduate student instructorships (teaching assistantships), which pay approximately $8,800 per semester (as of 2011-2012). GSI applications are available from the student affairs officer. They are due in March/October for the fall and spring semesters respectively.
Students must be registered during the term in which they serve as GSIs, have a GPA of at least 3.0, and have no more than two incompletes in coursework taken during the time of their employment. GSIs are eligible for partial fee remission and remission of the Graduate Student Health Insurance Plan (GSHIP) premium fee if their payroll appointment is 25% time or greater for an entire semester. Students who receive a GSHIP fee waiver from the University Health Service or have their fees paid by fellowship, traineeship, grant-in-aid, or other sources (excluding awards made by the Financial Aid Office) are not eligible. Students on filing fee status are also not eligible.
Note: before you commit to serve as GSI for a course, you are responsible for checking your own records to ensure that you have no more than two outstanding incompletes. Check directly with student records, as printed transcripts are sometimes out-of-date. Also check with faculty to ensure that necessary removal of incomplete forms have been filed. If it is discovered too late that you have more than two outstanding. Incompletes, both you and the department will suffer—you will be prohibited by the Graduate Division from teaching and may have missed opportunities to find other financial support, while the department will have to find a replacement instructor at the last minute. The department will not be responsible for finding replacement sources of financial support if you are prohibited from teaching.
- Professional Conference Attendance
Graduate Program Outcomes
Graduates of Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies PhD program currently hold positions at the nation’s most prestigious research universities, including Yale, Cornell, NYU, Rutgers, UCLA, UCSD, and Berkeley; others have pursued careers at tribal colleges and liberal arts colleges. Some graduates have chosen paths other than academia and work in areas such as public policy and museum administration. For a glimpse of what our graduates have accomplished, see the alumni directory.
Over the past ten years, Ethnic Studies graduates have consistently experienced higher placement in research university tenure-track positions than Berkeley’s Social Sciences division as a whole. From 1999-2003 to 2004-08, Ethnic Studies graduates reported an increase from 50% to 61.9% in placement of this type compared to the division’s 37.5% and 41.5%. And while both the department and the division saw a drop in employment for UCB graduate placement in research university-doctoral granting institutions, since 1999, ES graduates showed higher rates of employment in these compared to their divisional peers (61.9% in 04-08 in ES; 56.4% SS). Ethnic Studies graduates also took the lead on employment in 4-year colleges (28.6% ES to 10.9% SS), with percentages below 10 with respect to 5-year and community college employment.
Post-doctoral awards for Ethnic Studies graduates dropped from 36.7% in 1999-2003 to 14.3% in 2004-08. This drop reflects a 7% rise in employment during this time (from 68.2 to 75%), and shifts from the negligible to 4.8% in research positions, and from 10% to 19% in non-tenure track jobs. The average rates of employment during this time for the division were consistently at about 75%.
Faculty and Instructors
William M. Banks, Professor.
Ramon Grosfoguel, Associate Professor. Global cities, international migration, ethnic studies, race/ethnicity, latino studies, Caribbean Studies, Latin American Studies, international comparative development, political-economy of the world-systems, urban sociology.
David Montejano, Professor. Social change, historical sociology, political sociology, community studies, race and ethnic relations.
G. Ugo Nwokeji, Associate Professor. Atlantic slave trade, historical demography, African history and political economy, oil and gas policy.
Laura E. Perez, Associate Professor. Chicano studies, US Latina and Latin American women's writing, Chicana/o literature, visual arts, contemporary cultural theory, Latin American women's oppositional writings.
Lok Siu, Associate Professor.
Ethnic Studies Graduate Program
506 Barrows Hall