At two points in the program, the student meets with a committee that assesses his or her accomplishments and prospects. First, after completing 8 courses (or 6 courses for those who enter the program with an M.A.), the student undergoes a qualifying review and is certified to continue studies. Those who entered the program with a B.A. are now awarded an M.A. in Modern Culture and Media. Second, after completion of all coursework, the student takes the preliminary examination, which authorizes her or him to initiate the dissertation process.
The qualifying review is a meeting with the department Graduate Committee. The committee reviews the student's progress to that point and then confers with the student for a 90-minute discussion. This gives the student the opportunity to communicate with the committee. The substance of the meeting is both retrospective and prospective. It includes discussion both of the student's work at Brown to that point and of conceptualizations and plans for future directions. The latter includes possible preliminary examination fields.
The preliminary examination is an oral examination conducted by a faculty committee constituted by the student in conjunction with the department Director of Graduate Studies. The substance of the exam depends on the student's particular research and teaching interests, and the student has an important role in determining exam areas. In delineating those areas in collaboration with her or his committee, the student is in many ways defining her or his intellectual and professional arenas. This self-definition is carried out in two related stages of preparation for the examination.
First, the candidate, in consultation with the exam committee, defines and prepares three exam fields. The three fields will be configured as follows:
- Field One: In the history and theory of a medium.
- Field Two: In modern cultural theory.
- Field Three: In an elective field that provides a comparative perspective.
Working with his or her preliminary examination committee, the student constructs core bibliographies in each field, including media texts for Fields One and Three. Taken together, the fields should define the areas in which the student is planning to teach as well as the scholarly contexts for the student's projected research.
Second, in consultation with the committee the student writes a fields essay. This fields essay explains the three fields and their interconnections, the kinds of issues and scholarship that constitutes them, and the kinds of research questions, scholarly issues, and debates in which the candidate plans to intervene. This essay will provide a starting point for the examination.