PhD in Visual Studies

In the Doctoral Program students deepen their exploration of art history and demonstrate their ability to carry out original scholarship. The department advises doctoral students in the following areas of study: late medieval and modern European and American art and culture; material culture; patronage and collecting; gender and the arts; and the social history of art. Doctoral coursework draws from historical and theoretical studies in the SVS, and students are also encouraged to take courses in other graduate programs such as English, History, Women’s and Gender Studies, as appropriate to the students’ interests. Students may also elect to combine their Visual Studies degree with one of several graduate certificates, for example those offered in Digital HumanitiesPublic Engagement, or a minor in Museum Studies. 

Area resources include our excellent Ellis Library, steps away from Swallow Hall, the comprehensive collections of the Museum of Art and Archaeology, the archival and museum resources at the Center for Missouri Studies, and a vibrant arts community on campus and in the broader community. The cost of living in Columbia is uniquely affordable given its diverse and progressive cultural advantages. Columbia is home to three colleges, a dynamic live-music scene, numerous cafes and bars, the annual True/False documentary film festival. World-class museums in Saint Louis and Kansas City are less than a two-hour drive from campus.

The department accepts students who have earned an MA or its equivalent in art history or visual studies, either from the University of Missouri or from an institution recognized by the university. An MA thesis is usually a prerequisite for the Ph.D. The Doctoral program committee (see below) determines the acceptability of work completed elsewhere. Students completing an MA degree in the School of Visual Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia who want to continue for the Ph.D. must be accepted for advising by a faculty member who is a member of the doctoral faculty. Such students should submit a statement of purpose and a current CV to the department by the January 18 deadline. After they are accepted for advising, they need to submit a “Change of Program, Degree, Emphasis or Advisor Form” to the Office of Graduate Studies.

For more information contact Jim van Dyke (, Director of Graduate Studies.

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Teaching Assistantships
Along with admission, teaching assistantships and non-teaching assistantships may be offered to qualified graduate students. All assistantships include a monetary stipend. Funding may continue to be awarded in subsequent semesters if graduates qualify and if additional positions are available. Be sure to carefully follow admissions instructions if you wish to be considered for these opportunities.

Tuition Waivers
Graduate Teaching Assistantships also entitle participating graduates to receive a tuition waiver for the semesters that they have a GTA position.

To learn more about funding opportunities available through the SVS Art Program and the Graduate School, see Scholarships and Awards