PhD Program Structure

PhD Program Structure 

Our next cohort will begin accepting applications on September 16, 2022. See "How to Apply" for details.

The PhD in Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies is designed to be a five-year program. Students spend the first two years completing core, substantive, and elective courses. The third year is focused on completing the Qualifying Exams, and the last two years are dedicated to the dissertation. We do not have a Master's Degree Program, thus we do not admit students seeking a master's degree.  

The following is a brief description of the PhD program; for more details about requirements and policies, see the Graduate Handbook (Coming Soon). 

Course Work 

In the first year, all students will take ES 614: Colloquium, which focuses on professional development, teaching and pedagogy, and mentorship. The colloquium will include workshops and research talks by IRES PhD students, faculty, and invited speakers.  

In the first and second years, students will complete Core and Substantive courses taught by Graduate Faculty members.  


Required Core Courses (18 Credits):  

  • ES 614:  Colloquium - Focuses on professional development, teaching and pedagogy, and mentorship.  
  • ES 615:  Theoretical Foundations in Ethnic Studies - Theoretical foundations and debates in Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies.  
  • ES 616:  Interdisciplinary Methodologies - Examination of interdisciplinary methodologies in the various fields of IRES, with a focus towards students developing methodological approaches for their own work. 
  • ES 617: Genealogies of Ethnic Studies - Examines the emergence and evolution of the discipline of Ethnic Studies, including major intellectual shifts in the field, particularly as they relate to changes in the social science and humanities; and the state of the discipline today. 


Required Substantive Courses (20 Credits) (Topics vary depending upon faculty instructor)

  • ES 620:  Race, Space, and Power - This course questions the variety of ways that social constructions of race and space are inextricable from one another and constitute, as much as they are constituted by, modern power relations. 
  • ES 621:  Cultural Production - Graduate introduction to the theories and methods utilized within Cultural Studies scholarship with attention to race, gender, nation, sexuality and indigeneity.    
  • ES 622:  Resistance and Dissent - Surveys historical and contemporary methods people of color have used to subvert and challenge white power and privilege in the United States 
  • ES 623:  Race and Sexuality - Examines the ways in which race is deeply intertwined with gender and sexuality in the production of racial, gender, and sexual violence since the inception of European settler colonialism in the Americas. 


Elective Courses (25 Credits):

Elective courses can consist of ES substantive courses (listed above) that are different by topic and faculty instructor, and 500 and 600 level courses taught by IRES Graduate Faculty members. We encourage students to take elective courses that will support their primary area of study. Electives should be carefully selected, using guidance from consultation with your advisor(s) and the Graduate Director.

[For a list of commonly taught 500 and 600 graduate seminars by Graduate Faculty, click here]


  • All students are assigned temporary first year advisors. A permanent advisor needs to be selected and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies by the Spring of the first year. 
  • Students must pass all of their Core and Substantive Seminars with a B or higher to continue in the program. 
  • Annual evaluations of all graduate students are conducted in the Spring quarter. These evaluations consist of an annual review written by the graduate student, a meeting to discuss the annual review with their advisor, and an official written response from the advisor evaluating student progress. 
  • By January of the Winter quarter of their second year, students will be notified if they will be allowed to continue through to the Qualifying Exams. If students are unable to continue through to the QE’s, they may earn a terminal Master’s Degree. If they are to leave the program with a M.A., the filing deadline is in the Spring quarter of their second year. If they do not pass the terminal M.A. on their first attempt, they can retry one time by the following Fall quarter university deadline.
    • In order to achieve a terminal Master’s Degree the student must have an approved committee of two faculty members (the chair must be an ES Core faculty member), by the end of Winter quarter.
    • The terminal Master’s paper should be based off of a term paper written for an ES course and should demonstrate solid research, coherent argumentation, and a cohesive command over the relevant literature. 

Qualifying Exams 

The third year is dedicated to the qualifying exams. The Qualifying Exam Committee will be composed of three ES core and graduate faculty and should be formed by Spring quarter of their second year.  The Qualifying Exam is a year-long process and, by the end of their third year, students will have completed the following: 

  • Exam #1: Subfield Research Area, e.g., “environmental justice” (written exam, 25-30 pages). This is a major examination of the genealogies, debates, and interventions in the students primary research area. 
  • Exam #2: Specialized Field, e.g., “decolonial environmental organizing strategies” (syllabus and 15 page analysis). Students construct a syllabus and a fifteen page analysis of their syllabus, analyzing their chosen materials and pedagogical strategies to teach their specialized field.  
  • Exam #3 [Winter Term]: Prospectus Draft (10-15 pages). The prospectus draft allows students to begin their dissertation planning and proposal. The prospectus should outline their research questions, a substantive introduction to the relevant literature, their methodological plans, and the interventions they hope to make through their research. 

Upon passing the Qualifying Exam and Advancing to Candidacy (ABD, all but dissertation), students will be awarded a Master’s Degree.

Once students are advanced to candidacy, they will formalize their dissertation committee consisting of at least three IRES core and graduate faculty members, including one who is an approved chair, and an outside member (institutional representative), for a total of four members. Students then will revise their dissertation proposals based upon feedback from their Qualifying exam committee.  All Ph.D. Candidates must prepare and defend their dissertation proposal by the end of the Spring term of their 3rd Year. 


Years 4 & 5 are devoted to dissertation research and writing. A dissertation chapter must be submitted to the committee by January of the 4th year, and presented at the ES Colloquium by Spring of Year 4. The dissertation must be successfully defended at a public Oral Examination no later than seven calendar years from the student’s first term of enrollment. All members of the dissertation committee must have a final draft of the dissertation in hand at least three weeks prior to the formal defense. The dissertation chair will supervise the revision process after the oral examination and facilitate the final committee member signatures once the revisions are satisfactorily completed. 

PLEASE NOTE: Successfully defended dissertations must adhere to University requirements for Graduate School submission, as specified in the current University of Oregon Catalog and the University of Oregon Style and Policy Manual for Theses and Dissertations (Graduate School: Thesis and Dissertation).  

For any questions or inquiries about the PhD in IRES, please email




UO Graduate School