Designated Emphasis

Graduate students in certain Ph.D. programs may participate in a Designated Emphasis (DE), a specialization that might include a new method of inquiry or an important field of application which is related to two or more existing PhD programs.

The DE is awarded in conjunction with the Ph.D. degree and is signified by a transcript notation; for example, “Ph.D. in Literature with a Designated Emphasis in Native American Studies.”  Students may pursue Designated Emphases in any of the following interdisciplinary areas:

African and African American Studies

African American & African Studies is an interdisciplinary field of study in the humanities, arts, and social sciences that investigates the history of African descent peoples and explores the ways in which social, political and economic factors have shaped African and African descent communities.  It offers a program of study that studies the Black experience in the United States, the broader African diasporic experience in the world, and the experiences of societies in Africa.

The Designated Emphasis in African American and African Studies serves the students who identify African American and/or African Studies subject matter as the focus of their proposed dissertations by helping them increase their understanding of the breadth of past and present research in African American and African Studies

Program Chair: Bettina Ng'weno

Classics & Classical Receptions

Classics and Classical Receptions provides graduate students with an overview of the history, theory, and methods of Classical scholarship, and familiarizes them with the primary and secondary sources needed to evaluate those aspects of Greek and Roman antiquity connected with their own research.  It equips students with the tools, including advanced study in Greek and Latin language, needed to conduct research on the reception of Greek and Roman culture in their own fields of study.

Classics is the study of ancient Greece and Rome from a variety of disciplines including literature, history, philosophy, art, archaeology, and medicine among others. Classical Receptions is the study of the images and memories of ancient Greece and Rome as they have been transmitted, adapted, and exploited in later cultures. Scholars of Classical Receptions have studied the representations of Greece and Rome in areas ranging from the Caribbean to Japan, and from Nigerian theater to Hollywood.

DE Director: Anna Uhlig   Department Contacts: Seeta Chaganti, Fran Dolan, Matthew VernonClaire Waters

Critical Theory

Critical Theory is the ongoing engagement with texts, institutions, the polis, and the world and the interrogation of fundamental axioms and principles of social, political and cultural practice.  It affords graduate students the opportunity to engage the rich tradition of critical thought, both ancient and modern, including but not limited to texts by Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Husserl, Heidegger, Bloch, Adorno, Benjamin, Arendt, Lacan, Foucault, Lyotard, Lacoue-Labarthe, Nancy, and Derrida.

The Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory at UC Davis provides doctoral students a double opportunity: to participate in interdisciplinary seminars focusing on a wide variety of historical periods and theoretical approaches; and to add a formal credential in critical theory to their degrees.

Program Chair: Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli       Department contact: Scott Shershow

Feminist Theory and Research

Feminist Theory and Research examines the complex ways in which gender always forged in relation to race, class, sexual, and national identities has organized language, identities, traditions of knowledge, methodologies, social relations, organizations, economic systems, and every facet of culture.  In making gender a central category of analysis, feminist scholarship engages such questions as the relationship between language and institutions, the nature of social power and historical agency, heteronormativity, the relationship between gender and nation, alternative sexualities, and gender and representation.

The Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research offers graduate students courses of study in the foundations of feminist theory as well as interdisciplinary approaches to feminist scholarship and research that enhance student research.  It affords students the opportunity to network with students and faculty across the UC Davis campus.

Program Chair: Rana Marie Jaleel        Department contacts: Lucy Corin, Kathleen Frederickson, Elizabeth Freeman, Desirée Martín

Human Rights

Human Rights is a new field, but one that allows us as students and scholars to examine enduring and important questions about suffering, revolution and social change, the destruction of culture, injustice, and power and powerlessness in ways that transcend established disciplines.  New forms of knowledge, artistic expression and social criticism are being constituted around Human Rights in ways that are attracting a great deal of scholarly attention. 

Furthermore, the study of Human Rights has important implications for confirming the relevance of the university to society.  The study of Human Rights has achieved the markers of an established field through the formation of dedicated scholarly organizations and academic journals. Endowed chairs, centers and programs in Human Rights have been created at many American and foreign universities.

Program Chair: Marian Schlotterbeck    Department Contact: Desirée Martín

Native American Studies

Native American Studies focuses hemispherically upon the indigenous peoples of the Americans, that is, upon the peoples, nations, tribes, and communities whose ancestors have lived in North, Central and South America from earliest times.  This unique hemispheric approach includes attention to the increasing dislocation and diaspora of indigenous people throughout the Americas, and calls upon the authority of Native intelligence (Native voices, Native texts) in all its forms and manifestations to address the issues that concern Native peoples, including the creative strategies for continuance they have developed over the centuries.

The Designated Emphasis in NAS offers graduate students analytic tools drawn from history, anthropology, linguistics, history, and literature, among others, in order to develop and enhance their scholarly approach to the world of American Indian peoples, offering a comprehensive and comparative perspective.

Program Chair: Jessica Bissett Perea    Department Contacts: Mark Jerng, Desirée Martín, Michael Ziser

Science & Technology Studies

Science and Technology Studies is the analysis and synthesis of science, technology, and medicine in a way that actively creates connections between the varieties of perspectives and concerns in the humanities and the sciences.  It takes science, technology, medicine, and their social, political, economic, and cultural contexts as its objects of study.  It draws on methodologies from history of science, anthropology, environmental science, philosophy, critical theory, media studies, and cultural studies, among others.

The Designated Emphasis in Science & Technology Studies offers graduate students in PhD programs the opportunity to augment their studies with an understanding of the ways in which the practices of scientists and engineers and the travel of facts and technologies are intricately social and themselves an inseparable part of the "impacts" of science and technology.

Program Chair: Colin Milburn     Department contact: Kathleen Frederickson

Studies in Performance and Practice

Studies in Performance and Practice consists of a critical way of thinking about practices of communication, from film and stage performance, to sports, religion, and everyday behavior, among many other areas.  Its roots lie in critical philosophy that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century, and which responded to increasingly disembodied ways of thinking about human behavior.  By focusing on process, situated learning, embodied knowledge, and the interaction and interplay of theory and practice, performance studies has defined ways of looking at, interpreting and interacting with actual human agents and their mediation.  The field developed in interaction with anthropology and ethnography, rhetoric and the history of language, communication and the media, philosophy and critical theory, cultural and technocultural studies, film studies, environmental studies and many other areas.

The Designated Emphasis provides graduate students with a set of strategies for thinking about how performance theory and practice can interact and trains students to analyze and evaluate craft and production that is in process and may or may not produce identifiable and conventionally duplicatable end products.

Faculty Contact: Cristiana Giordano    Department contacts: Seeta ChagantiGina Bloom

Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies

Writing, Rhetoric and Composition Studies provides doctoral students with both a theoretical and practical knowledge of writing instruction, program administration, and research.  The study of how social, technological, and cognitive factors impact writers’composing processes is vital for improving instructional techniques.  PhD graduates in affiliated programs will find that a designated emphasis in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies opens up positions at universities, colleges and community colleges, research foundations, and international corporations that are looking for researchers, faculty, and administrators with an expertise in writing and the teaching of writing.

Rhetoric is a traditional field of study that has been revitalized by contemporary scholars who investigate its relevance across all disciplines and with new globalizing technologies.  Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), Writing in the Disciplines (WID),and Professional and Technical Writing draw on methods and expertise from composition studies, cultural studies, design, education, linguistics, literary studies, media studies, and psychology.

Program Chair: Carl Whithaus

Benefits of a Designated Emphasis Program

Students who participate in a Designated Emphasis program benefit in several ways:

  • Coursework for the Designated Emphasis provides analytical tools that enhance their research.
  • Interdisciplinary study accords graduate students the opportunity to network with students and faculty at UC Davis, thereby providing a larger audience for their research and work, and increasing access to information about career opportunities.
  • Students have a larger pool of professors to draw from when forming their qualifying examination and dissertation committees.
  • Because of their additional training, DE students are competitive for teaching assistant and associate-in positions in their chosen emphasis.
  • Students with a wide breadth of knowledge make for competitive candidates in the academic job market.


Please complete the Designated Emphasis Application once you have ascertained that it is offered in your chosen program. You will need the support of a faculty member in the chosen DE.  Please note students must have one qualifying exam committee member, and one dissertation committee member affiliated with their chosen emphasis.  You are strongly encouraged to contact the Designated Emphasis Chair for more information.