Virginia Commonwealth University

Media Art & Text Ph.D program


« MATX handbook

MATX handbook for pre-2011 students

Please note: Those MATX studnets who entered the program prior to the fall of 2010 may refer to the orginal edition of the handbook at


Welcome to the interdisciplinary PhD Program in Media, Art, and Text, a joint endeavor of VCU’s Department of English, School of the Arts and School of Mass Communications. This handbook provides general program information as well as details about advising, registration, curriculum requirements and examinations.

The current Graduate Bulletin ( outlines general academic regulations that apply to all graduate students. You are expected to be familiar with all university regulations as spelled out in the Graduate Bulletin. Another source of important information is the web site of the Division of Student Affairs ( The Division of Student Affairs is located in Sitterding House, 901 Floyd Avenue, 828-1244.

Questions regarding the MATX program may be directed to Thom N. Didato, Graduate Studies Adviser (804-828-1329;, and Dr. Eric Garberson, Director of the MATX PhD program (828-7295; To find contact information for individual faculty associated with the program, use the search engine on

Every enrolled student must have a VCU ID and email account. All students have a legal responsibility to check their university account on a regular basis. Electronic mail is also the primary vehicle for conveying program information regarding courses, examination dates, fellowships and other professional opportunities. A number of courses will be conducted in electronic labs that are accessed through your eID.

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General Program Information


All new students are initially advised by the MATX Director, who will continue to meet with each student regularly during his or her course of study.

It is your responsibility to make sure that all requirements are completed in a timely manner. Requirements include coursework, competencies, comprehensive exams and the final dissertation project. Print out and maintain your own copy of the Program Worksheet included below. You should also check your online transcript regularly to verify that all grades have been posted correctly or to check any changes in your status. The university allows a generous eight years for the Ph.D. Monitor your time in the program (count from the first semester of enrollment). All courses applied toward the degree, including courses transferred from other institutions, cannot be more than eight years old when all degree requirements are fulfilled and graduation is applied for.

Degree requirements are binding as published in the Graduate Bulletin each fall. This is available online at Students are bound by the Bulletin in force when they enter the university and are generally not affected by subsequent changes. This handbook is a supplement to the Bulletin and outlines specific procedures for meeting program requirements.

Student Status
A graduate student at VCU is considered full time if enrolled for a minimum of nine and a maximum of 15 credit hours per semester. More than 15 hours is an overload and requires special permission. No more than 12 semester credits may be earned in a summer semester.

Summer enrollment may be required by the rules governing a student’s assistantship.  Please check with the graduate programs adviser if you have any questions on summer enrollment.

MATX students must observe the university’s continuous enrollment policy. Once admitted, a graduate student is expected to comply with the minimum enrollment of one course per year. A graduate student who has advanced to candidacy must register for at least one credit at VCU each fall and spring semester until the degree is awarded. Students must be enrolled during the semester they plan to graduate. If candidates intend to graduate in August and/or if they have contact with faculty or use university resources over the summer, they must be enrolled for at least one semester hour in the summer session. Students who, for significant reasons, cannot continue their studies during a particular semester or calendar year should apply to the MATX Director for a leave of absence. Failure to maintain continuous enrollment will result in withdrawl from the program; reinstatement requires formal re-application.

Graduate teaching assistants must register for at least nine hours each semester and must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0. This “reasonable progress” toward the degree is required to maintain funding.

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Course Information

Registration and Credit Requirements

You are strongly encouraged to register during advance registration. Please remember that even though the University generates a bill when you register, tuition is not due until the semester begins; do not let the bill deter you from registering in advance. Students should consult with the MATX Director during the advising period prior to advance registration. For some classes in the School of the Arts and the School of Mass Communications students must obtain the permission of the instructor in order to register.

Graduate courses are listed in the Graduate Bulletin. The meeting times and registration information for these classes can be found in the university's Schedule of Classes published each semester.

All courses must be at the 500-, 600-, or 700-level. At least half of the required courses for the degree must be numbered 600 or above.

To graduate, degree applicants must achieve an overall grade-point average of 3.0 (“B”) on a 4.0 scale with a grade of C in no more than two courses. The GPA for graduation will be based on all graduate courses attempted after acceptance into the program.

The Graduate Bulletin contains further information about the Graduate School's regulations, including attendance requirements, grades of "W" (withdrawn) and "I" (incomplete), time limits for completing courses graded "I" and other academic policies.

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Other Resources

Graduate Teaching Assistantships

The School of Graduate Studies and the participating units in the MATX Program offer a limited number of graduate teaching assistantships each year. Assistantship duties usually involve teaching courses in various departments, working in the computer labs of the English department and Mass Communications, or assisting with the editorial work of Blackbird, the online journal of literature and art. Assignments are made by the director in consultation with the MATX Committee. Assistantships are awarded each year on the basis of each applicant's academic records (undergraduate and graduate), GRE scores, letters of recommendation and professional qualities. All applicants to the MATX Ph.D. program are considered for assistantships (no separate application is required).

Graduate students on 12-month assistantships will be assigned to teach/assist/or carry out other teaching and service work for 20 hours per week during the Fall and Spring semesters. During summers, depending upon the rules governing the funding, they will be expected to register for at least three and possibly up to six graduate course credits (including independent study or internship). The absence of assigned work during the summer is intended to allow students to concentrate on their studies, on independent projects and conference presentations, or on preliminary dissertation research.  Having unencumbered time is essential to their intellectual and scholarly development.  It will allow them to advance the progress toward the completion of their degrees, and will enhance their professional accomplishments, thereby contributing to the reputation of the program.

This policy accords with the Graduate School’s “Policies and procedures on graduate fellowships and assistantships,” in particular the final paragraph in the relevant section that states: Graduate assistantships are awarded for not longer than one calendar year and are not renewed automatically from year to year unless specifically stated in writing. Graduate program directors generally determine eligibility for renewal of graduate assistantship awards in subsequent academic years. Specific work assignments, scheduling and arrangements relating to vacation and personal leave are determined by the department, program or administrative unit to which the graduate student is assigned.

Computer Rooms, Production Lab, and Studios

The Department of English maintains a computer center on the third floor of the Hibbs Building. This center is available for use by all English and MATX graduate students. Additionally, MATX student may be assigned space in Hibbs 408. Qualified MATX students may be assigned studio space in the MATX Annex Building. Rules and application information regarding studio spaces may be obtained from the graduate programs adviser.

Conferences and Papers

MATX students are encouraged to begin participating in academic professional life by submitting proposals and abstracts for conference papers. Notices will be posted on the MATX listserv; students are also encouraged to seek out opportunities on their own. There are a number of graduate symposia around the country, and graduate students may also submit proposals for national or regional conferences. It is strongly recommended that students discuss such plans with and submit all abstracts and proposals to their dissertation director, the MATX director, and/or the graduate programs adviser. Remember, at such conferences you represent the program and the university. Your performance affects our reputation. Assistance with travel costs may available through the MATX program. See the graduate programs adviser for details. If you are awarded funds, please note that they will be disbursed only in accordance with state and university procedures. Travel requests must be made 30 days before travel within the US and 45 days for international travel.

Blackbird, the online journal of literature and the arts published in partnership with the New Virginia Review, Inc., offers MATX students opportunities for internships and other editorial participation.

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Requirements for the Degree

Credit Requirements

Students are required to complete 42 credit hours in core and elective courses and to conduct research or produce significant scholarly or creative work within the participating disciplines. The core courses are offered through Media, Art, and Text; additional elective courses consist of MATX seminars and courses offered in participating units.

Grade Requirements

To graduate, degree applicants must achieve an overall grade-point average of 3.0 (“B”) on a 4.0 scale with a grade of C in no more than two courses.  

Transfer and M.S. / M.A. / M.F.A. / M.A.E. credits

Graduate-level coursework completed prior to matriculation into the program, including coursework taken in another program at VCU or at another accredited institution, will be evaluated to determine whether it can be used to fulfill degree requirements of this program. A limit of six credit hours may be transferred into the program; however, no transfer credits will be applicable towards core requirements. Credits earned before entering the program must not have been applied toward a degree and must be on the appropriate graduate level. A minimum grade of B is required for credit to transfer. A syllabus may be requested for determining equivalence. In addition to transfer credit, three hours may be granted for extensive and appropriate professional experience. All work applied toward the degree, including work transferred from other institutions, cannot be more than eight years old when applying to graduate.

Course Work

The 42-hour MATX curriculum (36 hours of course work plus six hours of dissertation research) is designed to foster an intellectual, creative and artistic environment in which students from different disciplines can work collaboratively and independently to develop and disseminate knowledge in new ways. Designed for students who enter with an M.A., M.S., M.A.E., or M.F.A., the program assumes that students have a strong background in one of the participating disciplines. The coursework is designed to build and expand upon existing strengths in order to develop new intellectual and creative connections within the multiple media, disciplines, and approaches joined in the program.

The curriculum includes a set of core and elective courses, seminar experiences and a strong interdisciplinary research component. The first year of core coursework is required of all students (12 hours). This part of the program provides significant theoretical grounding in the fundamental concepts of the program, history and theories of textuality, history of interdisplinarity and multimedia. This core is supplemented with a research methods course and a theory course drawn from the offerings of the participating units (6 hours). The 18 hours of elective credits are selected in consultation with the MATX director and/or the student’s dissertation director. They are drawn from the regular offerings of the participating units and from the MATX 690 seminars offered each semester. These interdisciplinary seminars are developed by faculty members based on their own research.

Independent Study: Students who wish to pursue topics outside regular course offerings may solicit a full-time member of the graduate faculty in one of the participating units to supervise an independent study course. The prerequisite is six credits of appropriate graduate course work. Independent study is not allowed to duplicate courses already offered. Neither can it be used as dissertation hours. A student may take one or three credits of independent study per semester. Additional credits may be authorized for purposes of continuous enrollment. No more than six credits of independent study may be counted toward the degree.

After consulting with the supervising faculty member, the student must submit to the MATX director a description of the course of study, a bibliography, and the anticipated final product (e.g., a long paper, a creative project). Upon approval by the MATX director override permission to register will be processed by the graduate programs adviser.

Internships: A variety of internship opportunities exist in the Richmond area, at a range of institutions including but not limited to museums, libraries, and galleries. Students will usually seek out their own internships and submit to the MATX director a description of the planned internship with the approval of the external supervisor. The final evaluation will be made by the supervisor in consultation with the MATX director. A student may take 1 or 3 credits of internship in a given semester. Additional internships may be authorized for purposes of continuous enrollment.

Further Requirements and Admission to Doctoral Candidacy
Before admission to candidacy for the Ph.D., students must have completed all required coursework, successfully completed comprehensive or qualifying examinations, and fulfilled the requirement for demonstrated competencies.

Requirement for Demonstrated Competencies: In addition to the core courses and electives selected from the curricular offerings, students must also demonstrate competencies in two areas:

1. Competency in digital media to be demonstrated through an e-portfolio assembled from work created during the first three semesters in the MATX program, including work from the core courses. At a minimum, this e-portfolio should include:

  • A web page created by the student, using the most current web standards available at the time. Within that web page, students should display multi-modal work (photoshop images, multi-media work) in addition to more expository (hyper)text papers. The web page may become the template for the presentation of the entire e-portfolio.
  • A short audio piece.
  • A video piece.
  • A multimodal piece in Flash or other code, creating an animated or interactive narrative also using the skills learned from the audio and video.

This portfolio must be accompanied by a theoretical introduction that explains the basis for the work, relating it to the student’s critical studies and placing it in the context of other multimedia work that it builds on. This theoretical introduction should justify the work displayed in the e-portfolio, while also reflecting on some of the technologies used, their creative but also manipulative effects (e.g., the student should show some awareness of the effects of their audio- and video editing, of digital photo manipulation, or of mixing media). The e-portfolio will be evaluated at the end of the third semester by two faculty who taught the MATX 600 lab, the MATX 604 Production Workshop or other core courses, the MATX director, and the student's dissertation adviser (if one has been identified) as a nonvoting member.

2. Competency in a skill or technique relevant to the dissertation research or creative work. This second competency and its means of demonstration will be determined in consultation with the dissertation committee. This competency should be demonstrated to the committee prior to or at the prospectus defense (see below).

Qualifying (Comprehensive) Examination: This consists of two parts, one on the core and one on a reading list established by the dissertation committee.

At the beginning of the fourth semester, as they complete or are close to completing the required 42 credit hours, students will take a the first part of the written qualifying examination, covering material from the core curriculum. This portion of the qualifying exam will be the same for all students and will be written and evaluated pass/fail by two faculty who taught the core courses and the MATX director. A student who does not pass one or both of the questions may take the failed part of the exam a second time within six months of the first attempt. If the examination is failed a second time, the student will be terminated from the program.

At the end of the fourth semester or early in the fifth semester, after they have completed the required course credits, students will take the second part of the qualifying examination, based on a bibliography compiled in consultation with the dissertation committee. The texts and other resources on this bibliography should be both theoretical and applied, scholarly and creative. The exam based on this bibliography will be written and evaluated pass/fail by the dissertation committee. A student who does not pass the qualifying exam, part two, may take the exam a second time, with the approval of the MATX Committee.


Dissertation Project and Committee: Given the interdisciplinary nature of the program, students are encouraged to be creative and innovative in designing this capstone to their course of study. The project may take one of two forms: 1) A scholarly investigation of a topic relevant to the foci of the program. 2) A combination of major creative work with a scholarly investigation that provides a theoretical and/or historical framework for sustained analysis of the creative work or of specific topics or issues central to that work.

The dissertation committee consists of the director (who must hold a Ph.D.) and three or four additional members whose scholarly knowledge and interests are relevant to the project. The committee must have at least one member from each of the sponsoring units (School of the Arts, School of Mass Communication, Department of English), although exceptions may be granted in individual cases. At least one member should be from a discipline other than those pursued by the candidate. All must be members of VCU’s graduate faculty; appropriate faculty from outside VCU may serve on committees (but not as director) with the approval of the MATX program and the graduate dean.

Dissertation Prospectus and Prospectus Defense: Before embarking on the dissertation, the student must submit a prospectus or project proposal. It should include the significance of the research, a short review of relevant literature, the research questions, the proposed methodology and media to be used, an outline of the student's anticipated time/work schedule, and a bibliography. The precise format of the prospectus will be specified by the dissertation committee.

The student will defend the prospectus before the dissertation committee. The final draft must be provided to each member of the committee at least two weeks prior to the defense. At the defense, the committee will decide to accept the prospectus with or without revisions or reject it. Upon submission of the approved prospectus to the MATX Director, candidacy for the doctoral degree will be granted. Only after candidacy is granted may a student enroll for dissertation credits.

Dissertation Defense: Upon completion of the dissertation, the dissertation director will convene a meeting of the dissertation committee open to all faculty and graduate students. The candidate will defend the work presented and the committee will examine its intellectual content (both within their disciplines and within the program) and its contribution across disciplines. An announcement of the oral defense, including the candidate’s name, dissertation title, and the day, place and time of the defense, shall be made at least 10 working days in advance of the defense.

At the conclusion of the defense, the committee will vote to approve the dissertation, either as written or with specific changes, or to reject it. There can be no more than one negative vote; the positive votes should include that of the committee chair. Upon successful completion of the defense and dissertation, the candidate may apply for graduation from Virginia Commonwealth University with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Media, Art, and Text.

Time Limit
All requirements for the Ph.D. degree, including the dissertation, must be completed within eight years from the date of admission to the degree program.


To graduate, students must complete the requirements for the MATX program and submit a completed graduation application. Graduation applications are available online. Completed and signed applications must be submitted to the MATX Director during the first two weeks of the semester in which the student plans to graduate. Students must be enrolled the semester they plan to graduate.

Program Organization

The MATX committee, with the MATX director and graduate programs adviser as ex officio members, and faculty representing the three participating units (English department, School of the Arts, and School of Mass Communications), monitors the program. The committee serves as an admission committee and governing body.

Administration of Participating Units

Fred Hawkridge, Acting Dean, College of Humanities and Sciences
Catherine Ingrassia, Executive Associate Dean, College of Humanities and Sciences
F. Douglas Boudinot, Dean, School of Graduate Studies
Susan Roth, Acting Dean of the School of the Arts
Terry Oggel , Acting Director, School of Mass Communications and Chair, Department of English

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Program Worksheet

PLEASE NOTE: a downloadable .pdf version of this program worksheet is available at: matx-worksheet.pdf

Doctoral Program in Media Art & Text
Program Worksheet

Name: _______________________                    
Semester of Entry:______________

Courses (36 credits)

Core Courses

MATX 601/Texts & Textuality
MATX 602/History of MATX
MATX 603/Interdisciplinarity & Multimedia
MATX 604/ Production Workshop



Core Electives
Theory:   __________________                _____________________
Methods: __________________                _____________________


(including MATX690 seminars)
1. _______________________                  _____________________
2. _______________________                  _____________________
3. _______________________                  _____________________
4. _______________________                  _____________________
5. _______________________                  _____________________
6. _______________________                  _____________________

Dissertation Credits
(6)                        _____________________


1st Competency/ e-portfolio
2nd Competency
1st Comprehensive Exams
2nd Comprehensive Exams



Concept submitted to MATX Director
Prospectus Defense
Dissertation Defense


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