Frequently Asked Questions about the Graduate Program in Modern Culture and Media

May I arrange a meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss the program?

Unfortunately, we cannot interview prospective applicants, nor do we schedule individual visits; there would simply be too many for us to handle during a busy school year. (We do encourage and support visits once someone is admitted, so that the person can make an informed decision about whether to accept our offer.) You are free to meet with any faculty, including the Director of Graduate Studies, during their regular office hours, which are posted on the department website. (This academic year (2022/23) the Director of Graduate Studies is Lynne Joyrich, whose regular office hours are by appointment. We do advise you to check with any faculty members before showing up, to be sure there will be no change in their schedules for that week. You may also want to e-mail the Director of Graduate Studies with questions at [email protected].

What criteria does the admission committee use in determining admission?

The Graduate Admission Committee weighs a number of factors when considering candidates. The admission committee places great importance on a candidate's personal statement and writing sample. These pieces of writing must show, first of all, that the applicant would like to be a part of and is capable of succeeding in a graduate program whose goal is to train students to produce significant scholarly work in media studies and cultural theory. We look for applicants who are asking provocative questions about the media and their relation to larger cultural and theoretical issues and who are interested in pursuing these questions in a rigorous intellectual environment. The personal statement and writing sample must also demonstrate that the candidate would fit in well with our program's strengths. Third, they must show that the candidate has the skills and abilities required for those who are to be trained in film, media and cultural studies. Obviously, a candidate's undergraduate and -- if applicable -- graduate record is also very important in determining admission, as are test scores and letters of recommendation.

What are the requirements for admission to the Ph.D. program?

Applicants to the program should submit the application, 3 letters of recommendation, personal statement, writing sample, and transcripts. The TOEFL test is required for foreign applicants, except those who hold (or will receive) a degree from an institution where the language of instruction is English.

What are you looking for in a Personal Statement?

The Personal Statement should give the committee a sense of your interests and academic accomplishments and what you have studied and why at the undergraduate and/or M.A. levels. It should outline in general the aspects of Modern Culture and Media you would like to emphasize and any particular or more specialized questions you would like to pursue at the graduate level.

How long should the writing sample be, and what criteria do you use to evaluate the samples?

We have no official requirement regarding the length of the writing sample. We ask that you send us a piece of your writing so that we can determine from this material if you have the necessary skills to succeed as a graduate student in Modern Culture and Media and, ultimately, a professional media and cultural theory scholar at a major university. Such skills would include an ability to produce a challenging and focused argument about some aspect of media and culture. Twenty-five pages would not be too much to send. On the other hand, a four-five page analytical paper would be far too short. Most applicants submit the equivalent of a term paper or seminar paper. You may also submit a chapter or chapters from an Honors Thesis, or a chapter from an M.A. thesis, perhaps with a brief introduction explaining the nature of the thesis as a whole. We do recognize that some applicants may not have had the opportunity to produce work in such formats, and they sometimes submit two or three shorter papers. Whatever you send, we strongly recommend that you seek the counsel of a faculty member at your present school (if you are currently attending one) or one of your previous institutions who has some familiarity with the current state of film and media studies and cultural theory.

Do I have to take the GREs?

No. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) will not be required for applicants to the Graduate Program in Modern Culture and Media. 

Are students admitted directly from undergraduate programs?

Yes, we do admit students directly from undergraduate programs. Speaking abstractly, any undergraduate major is acceptable, if the applicant has a way of showing good potential in fields of interest to us. Naturally, the majority of our students have undergrad majors in areas like film or media or cultural studies and the like. We have admitted students with B.A.’s in East Asian Studies, in English, in Art History, as well as in Film and Media Studies.

Do I have to take the TOEFL exam if my native language is not English?

Yes. Brown University requires this exam, except for those who hold (or will receive) a degree from an institution where the language of instruction is English. At Brown, TOEFL requirements are set by the Graduate School, not the individual department, and the Graduate School administers the collection of application materials. Therefore, any questions about waivers should be addressed to the Graduate School.

Can someone tell me in advance whether I am likely to be admitted to your program?


What financial support does Brown offer its graduate students in Modern Culture and Media?

Brown offers five years of guaranteed support. First-year students are on fellowship. Students in their second and third years work as TAs (one course per semester), leading a discussion section of a large lecture. Students in their fourth year design and teach their own section of MCM 0900 “Undergraduate Seminars in Modern Culture and Media.” Students in their fifth year usually are supported through a combination of TAships (again, one course per semester) and university fellowships.

Do international graduate students receive the same type of funding as American graduate students?

International graduate students are funded in exactly the same way as American students. If you are admitted to the program, you will receive 5 years of funding through fellowships and teaching assistantships.

If I submit an application online, how do I get the writing sample to you?

We prefer writing samples to be submitted with your online application. If for some reason you are unable to send a writing sample electronically, please mail a hard copy to Brown University, Graduate School, 47 George Street, Box 1867, Providence, RI 02912. All material must first be submitted to the Graduate School.

Can I reactivate my application from one year to the next?


Can I take courses outside of the Department of Modern Culture and Media?

Students are encouraged to take courses throughout the University and many take advantage of courses in the departments of English and Comparative Literature. Many of our PhD students include faculty from outside the department on their preliminary exam committees and on their dissertation committees.

Does the Ph.D. program require a media production component?

The production courses listed on the website are aimed at undergraduate students. The Ph.D. program is theory, history, and analysis of the media. In fact, we do not allow Ph.D. students to take more than one production course for credit and it is certainly not required.

Whom should I notify if the name on my transcripts, GREs, or other documents is different from the name on my initial application (maiden name, married name, etc.)?

Notify Maria Faria by email ([email protected]) in order to avoid any mishaps with admission materials submitted to the Graduate School.

Does the Department of Modern Culture and Media offer an MA program?

The Department does not have a separate MA program and does not encourage applications from students who only wish to pursue the MA degree. Students can earn the MA on the way to the Ph.D.

When will I learn whether I have been admitted?

Decisions regarding admission and financial aid are made by mid-March. Applicants must make enrollment decisions by mid-April.

Where can I get an application?

The Department of Modern Culture and Media does not have the applications. You can apply on line at the Graduate School Website.

What is your University code?

Our University code is 3094.

What kind of jobs do your students get after graduation?

Most if not all of our students in the Ph.D. program go on to work in academia, in positions as professors, teaching and doing research. Our program is very young and we therefore have only a few students who have completed the Ph.D. so far. But all of them now have jobs in academia. This does not mean it would be impossible to go into some other profession--curating or working for a non-profit agency, for instance. But it is not the most likely outcome. We train students for work in academia.