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Curriculum and Degree Information

Students entering the Ph.D. Program in Earth and Environmental Sciences select either the specialization in Environmental and Geological Sciences or the specialization in Geography, but are encouraged to consider courses across the program.  Although there is a common structure to both specializations, the curricular requirements differ slightly.

Environmental and Geological Sciences provides an opportunity to pursue doctoral studies in one of the world’s largest and most dynamic metropolitan coastal locations with a diverse faculty at the City University of New York, whose interdisciplinary focus is Environmental Sciences, classical Geology, Earth Systems, Planetary Science, among other specializations. 

Geography provides an opportunity to pursue doctoral studies in one of the world’s largest and most dynamic metropolitan locations with a diverse faculty at the City University of New York, whose interdisciplinary focus is Human and Physical Geography, Geographic Information Sciences, and Urban Studies, among other specializations.

Degree Requirements

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is awarded for the successful completion of the following requirements:  60 course credits, including core courses and transfer credits if applicable; passing of the First and Second Examinations and Advancement to Candidacy; and defense of the dissertation. 

Credits

At least 60 credits of approved graduate work, including the course requirements in the field of specialization, are required for the degree. Specific credit requirements vary and should be discussed with the administration of the EES Doctoral Program in consoltation with a student’s academic advisor. Of the 60 credits, a maximum of 30 acceptable graduate credits taken prior to admission to the doctoral program may be applied toward the degree provided the courses were completed with a grade of B or higher within an appropriate period preceding the time of application and are equivalent to comparable courses at the City University. An evaluation of previously earned credits will be made before a student moves from Level 1 to Level 2 following his or her passing of the First Examination.

Dissertation

Students must complete a dissertation that embodies original research. The dissertation must be defended at an oral final examination (Third Examination) and be deposited in the Graduate Center’s Mina Rees Library before the degree is granted. The Mina Rees Library will archive the dissertation electronically with the candidate’s permission. Instructions for preparing the dissertation appear on Library’s website.

The dissertation committee is composed of at least four members, of which three are members of the CUNY doctoral faculty. The Chair of the committee must be a member of the EES doctoral faculty and serve as the principal academic advisor of the candidate. The fourth committee member will be an outside reader who is appointed by the academic advisor in consultation with the candidate.

Human Subjects Certification

The Graduate Center has an ethical and legal commitment to protect human subjects in research. All such research, whether for the dissertation or for other purposes, must be reviewed and approved by the CUNY Human Research Protection Program, prior to its initiation. (Note there are exceptions, see the Human Research Protection Program's exempt categories.) Please see the Bulletin of The Graduate Center for details.

Time Limit for the Doctoral Degree

All requirements for the degree must be completed no later than eight years after matriculation. A student who matriculates after transferring 30 credits form a prior graduate degree must complete all requirements within seven years. See Sample Paths to Degree

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Students must be making satisfactory progress toward the degree in order to maintain status at The Graduate Center and to be eligible for any CUNY financial assistance. A student is deemed not to be making satisfactory progress if he or she has a grade point average below 3.00, has accumulated more than two open grades (INC, INP, NGR, ABS and ABP), has completed 45 credits without having passed the First Examination, has completed 10 semesters without having passed the Second Examination, has received two “NRP” grades in succession, or has exceeded the time limit for the degree. The Graduate Center reviews each student’s record every semester. If formal standards have not been met, a student may register (and receive financial aid, if otherwise eligible) only upon petition of the student’s Executive Officer to the Vice President for Student Affairs. Students whose petitions are approved are then considered to be making satisfactory progress toward the degree, they may register and are eligible to receive financial aid.

Waiver of Requirements

To waive any specific requirement for the degree, a student may petition the Associate Provost and Dean for Academic Affairs after consulting with his or her advisor and the EO or DEO.

Requirements for Program Specializations

Student outcomes within the Program are assessed though the passing of three exams and completion of coursework as discussed below.

Advancement to Level II

With the completion of all required courses and successful passing of the First Examination, a student with a total of 45 credits (including up to 30 transfer credits) will be eligible to move from Level 1 to Level 2, which is done automatically by the registrar.

First Examination in Environmental and Geological Sciences

In order for students in the Environmental and Geological Sciences specialization to be eligible to take the First Examination all of the following is required: (1) Completion of required courses with a grade of a B or better—Earth Systems I (EES 71600), Earth System II (EES 71700), and The Nature of Scientific Research (EES 70400) and (2) The accumulation of at least 15 credits of course work with an overall average of 3.0 or better. The Earth Systems courses (EES 71600 and 71700) will cover four areas in the Earth Sciences: solid earth, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere.
 
Exam format: The First Examination within the Environmental and Geological Sciences specialization has two parts, written and oral. The written exam is composed of questions from the professors who teach EES 71600 and 71700. Students are required to answer 4 questions from each of EES 71600 and EES 71700. The primary academic advisor of a student taking the exam also provides 2 questions. The exam is take home format.  Students are given a 4-day period to complete the exam.
 
An oral exam is held within two weeks of completion of the written exam. In this exam, individual students meet with the professors that taught EES 71600 and 71700 along with the EO or DEO for a minimum of one hour of questions and answers between the student and the examiners. The student’s advisor is also invited to attend.  The purpose of the oral exam is to provide an environment in which personal interactions help to clarify any ambiguities in a student’s answers to questions in the written exam. A student should be prepared to answer additional follow-up questions during this discussion. In addition, part of the oral exam is devoted to a student explaining his/her research to the committee. The oral exam is an important component that allows the examination committee to (1) assess the student’s ability to pose a research question, (2) think through an appropriate method to attempt an answer, and (3) to assess how well a student understands their own research and how well they can ground their project/topic within their discipline and Earth Sciences at large.
 
First Examination: Exit Interview
 
Upon completion of the First Examination, all students in the EES program are required to attend, either in person or via some electronic communication method such as Skype, an exit interview. In the interview, the EO or DEO will review the outcomes of the exam with the student. At this time, a formal review of the student’s progress through the Program is also reviewed.
 
Upon successfully completing the first exam and 45 credits (including up to 30 transfer credits) students advance to Level II.
 
If a student did not pass their exam, during the interview they will be informed of their path forward. They may be required to re-take all or part of the exam (no more than 12 months after the original examination date), perform additional course work, or follow other recommendations from the examining committee.
 

First Examination in Geography

The goal of the First Examination in Geography is to demonstrate competence in the field of geography and familiarity with a topic in the field that is germane to your future research. Passing the first exam is key to the broader learning goals of the program: 

  • Intellectual immersion in the discipline of Geography
  • Competence in the fields of study that are key to each student’s research and future teaching
  • Writing for publication

Students are eligible to take the First Examination after meeting the following requirements: (1) Completion of Geographic Thought and Theory (EES 709) and The Nature of Scientific Research (EES 704) with a grade of B or better, (2) Completion of 18 credits of course work with an overall average of 3.0 or better, and (3) Completion of at least one methodology course within their specific area of research.

Exam Format

The First Examination in Geography in the Earth and Environmental Sciences program consists of three components:

  • Part 1: Journal Debates
  • Part 2: Reading Lists; A) Main Subfield – syllabus and annotated bibliography; B) Specialized Subfield – Literature Review
  • Part 3: Oral Exam


Part 1

Select a geography journal and in a 3000-word essay (including references) detail the key trends, debates, and tensions in the past 10 years as discussed in that journal.  The concerns addressed can relate to your research concerns, but not exclusively so. The idea is to be able to ‘place’ your work and research interests within larger and broader debates occurring in the field so that you engage with some of the arcs of theories, concepts, and methodologies in contemporary Geography, and begin to think about what your contribution may be.


Part 2

Drawing on what you have learned in Geographic Thought and Theory (EES 709) and the Nature of Scientific Research (EES 704), as well as your other courses and independent research, create two topical reading lists—one that encompasses theory and methodology in a general subfield of Geography, and the other focused on a more specialized area of the field related to your research concerns. Examples of more general topics include Urban Geography, Social Geography, Nature-Society, Health Geography, GIS, Postcolonial Geography, Political Geography; examples of the more specialized topics might be Feminist Geography, Environmental Justice, Qualitative Methods, Uneven Development, Geographies of Racial Capitalism, Carceral Geographies, Gentrification, Critical GIS. Each reading list should include approximately 25-30 texts and should be approved no later than June 30th by at least 1 member of the Geography First Exam Committee and your advisor. If you do not yet have an advisor, then the lists should be approved by 2 members of the First Exam Committee.  If your topic falls outside the subject areas of members of the Committee, you will be asked to have an appropriate member of the EES faculty review the list. Once the 2 lists are assembled, your task is to produce an annotated bibliography and syllabus for an undergraduate course on the topic of your general list.  For the more specific topical list, your assignment is to write a 2500-word literature review. Part 1 and Part 2 of the exam are due by the end of August (exact date TBA.


Part 3

The oral exam will be scheduled early in September, prior to the deadline for advancing levels (usually after the third week of the semester), based on availability of the student and the First Exam in Geography committee. The oral exams will take approximately 30 minutes for each student and focus on the work submitted for Part 1 and Part 2.

In part, the purpose of the oral exam is to provide an environment in which personal interactions help to clarify any ambiguities in a student’s answers to questions in the written exam. A student should be prepared to answer additional follow-up questions during this discussion. Students will receive an assessment of their exam upon the conclusion of the oral. If a student does not pass any portion of their exam, they will be informed of their path forward. They may be required to re-take all or part of the exam, to complete additional course work, to work intensively with a designated faculty member, or to follow other recommendations from the examining committee.

Advancement to Level III

Upon successful completion of the dissertation proposal Second Examination, and 60 credits of course work (including transfer credits) the student will be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree and moved to Level 3. Working with his or her Committee the student will conduct research for the doctoral dissertation and write the dissertation.

In order for students to be eligible to take the Second Examination the following is required: (1) Passing of Dissertation Proposal Workshop (EES 802) with a B or better, (2) Establishing a dissertation committee in consultation with the student’s advisor, (3) Submission of a draft dissertation proposal to the student’s committee, and (4) Written approval of the advisor to the EES program office that the student is ready to take the exam. It is expected that the student will take additional coursework required to prepare for the dissertation project and meet regularly with his or her advisor and committee members to complete the dissertation proposal and prepare for the Second Exam.

Exam Format

The Dissertation Committee must receive the proposal at least two weeks prior to the scheduled Second Examination.   The Second Examination is an oral examination conducted by the Dissertation Committee during which the student describes and defends all aspects of his or her proposal.  The student must be able to explain his or her research in the context of the historical development of the research discipline; relate his or her project to ongoing research in his or her field, and must demonstrate a thorough command of the literature relevant to the research. Normally, the Second Examination takes place upon completion of 60 credits but may occur earlier in a student’s progress.
 
The exam must occur at The Graduate Center and is limited to two hours, with a maximum of one hour devoted to an oral presentation by the student candidate. The Chair of the Committee shall be the student’s dissertation advisor and must be a member of the EES doctoral faculty. The EES program will be notified of the exam at least two weeks in advance and the notice must contain the following information: Student name, date, time, and room number of the exam, name of the members of the Committee, and the title of the exam/dissertation. Following the exam, the Committee may require revisions to the proposal to be completed within 12 months of the exam. A student, at the decision of the Committee, may also be required to re-take the oral exam within 12 months of the original exam date. 

Program Completion

Upon approval of the dissertation by the dissertation Committee, the EES Program Office will schedule the Third Examination otherwise known as the dissertation defense.

Dissertation Defense Format

The exam must occur at The Graduate Center and is limited to two hours with a maximum of one hour devoted to an oral presentation by the candidate. The Chair of the committee shall be the student’s dissertation advisor and shall orchestrate the examination. The oral presentation must be open to the public and questions from the floor may be entertained at the discretion of the Chair. After closing questioning from the public, the Chair will convene a closed session of the Committee for questioning the candidate.

It is the responsibility of the Chair of the committee to contact the Program Assistant and the Executive Officer of the EES program at least five weeks in advance to schedule the defense. The notice must contain the following information: Student name, proposed date and time, the Committee members’ names (including their campus affiliation and e-mail addresses), and lastly the complete title of the dissertation. The Provost’s office will then notify the Committee and invite the public to the defense.