PhD Degree Requirements

Graduate students in the Department of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies join a diverse and dynamic community of scholars dedicated to pursuing transformative knowledge through original research and community engagement. We train scholars in transdisciplinary, intersectional, and creative scholarship. Students receive a comprehensive course of study grounded in the lives of Indigenous communities and people of color.

Graduate students work closely with faculty mentors to customize a program of study that enables a comprehensive breadth and depth within core fields of ethnic studies, and that prepares students for their post-PhD careers. Doctoral areas of specialization include: women of color and Indigenous feminisms, queer race studies, Latinx and Chicanx studies, media and sports studies, literary and cultural studies, carceral studies, environmental justice, Indigenous and racial formations, comparative race relations, and social justice activism.

The Indigenous, race, and ethnic studies PhD program accepts a new cohort every other year. Applications have been received for our next cohort that begins classes during fall of 2023.

Want to know more about what we offer? Take a look at our commonly taught graduate seminars.

PhD Program Structure

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.

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

Course Requirements

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)

Note: 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 IRES 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.

To browse seminars commonly taught at the 500 and 600 level by graduate faculty, explore our list of commonly taught seminars.

Other Program Details

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 qualifying exams, they may earn a terminal master's degree. If they are to leave the program with a MA, the filing deadline is in the spring quarter of their second year. If they do not pass the terminal master's degree on their first attempt, they can retry one time by the following fall quarter university deadline.

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.
  • Develop a paper based off of a paper written for an ES course that demonstrates 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 the 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 student's 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 PhD candidates must prepare and defend their dissertation proposal by the end of the spring term of their third year.


The fourth and fifth year are devoted to dissertation research and writing. A dissertation chapter must be submitted to the committee by January of the fourth year and presented at the ES Colloquium by that spring.

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.

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

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Can you describe what “fully funded” actually covers?

Our program guarantees support for five years. This includes:

  • Tuition and fees
  • A paid graduate employee position

There are also opportunities to apply for various campus fellowships.

How does funding work if I am an out-of-state student?

Our program is an in-residence program, meaning that, now that Oregon's COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, the vast majority of our classes are once again in person. This means that graduate students will need to live here to attend classes and to fulfill their graduate employee duties, if this applies.

How many students will be accepted into the next cohort?

Our program accepts five students every other year, beginning with the arrival of the first cohort in fall 2021. The next cohort will arrive to campus in fall 2023, and so on.

Your brochure says, “all incoming students receive financial support for five years, including salary, tuition and fees.” Does this mean that tuition is free?

Tuition and costs for UO grad students are based on residency and the number of credits for which you are enrolled. You can find a cost estimate tool on the Division of Graduate Studies web page.

Your brochure mentions that financial support comes in the form of salary. Can you give me a ballpark of what a monthly salary might look like?

See our brochure of Graduate Employee (GE) Salary and Benefits.

Will I have to work during the summer?

We do not provide summer funding. However, for students who have advanced to candidacy (the ABD level), there are sometimes opportunities for summer teaching. We encourage you to explore work opportunities off campus as well as fellowships and scholarships that the UO Division of Graduate Studies offers. The division also hosts a summer tuition waiver program.

 I have applied to the IRES PhD program and uploaded my unofficial transcripts. Do I need to get official transcripts sent and if so, what address do they need to go to?

Our program accepts unofficial transcripts. But official transcripts must be sent to the Division of Graduate Studies. Learn more about UO requirements for transcripts.

How is housing arranged? Does the program provide this for students?

The Department of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies DOES NOT include housing in its packages, nor does the university. However, the graduate school’s web site lists some local resources to help incoming students with housing searches.

Are GMATs required for this program?


How does your graduate employee process work?

When you submit your materials through the application portal, you will have the opportunity to complete the various application questions and upload your documents. As part of the funding aspect of our program, accepted candidates will be assigned as either graders, discussion leaders, or research assistants for our courses and professors. graduate employee positions are unionized campus jobs. Please refer to the following links: Graduate Employment and Funding and Research Support.

Can I submit writing samples from past undergraduate projects?

Yes! Submit 8-10 pages (plus your references) of your best writing.

Do the 8-10 pages of writing include the references/bibliography?

No. Our expectation is 8-10 pages of content. The references/bibliography are in addition to that.

Is it possible to do a stand-alone certificate in your program?

The IRES graduate certificate is not a stand-alone certificate. If you are NOT enrolled in the UO’s graduate program, you will not be able to enroll in the IRES graduate certificate arm of our program.

I’m still working on my undergraduate degree, but I will have received it by the time the next term of acceptance begins. Can I still apply?


Since you are not accepting students seeking master of arts degrees, does that mean that a student does not need to have a master's to be admitted into your PhD program?

You do not need a master's degree to be admitted to the PhD program. You do need to have a BA.

Our program is intended for students who have already completed a bachelor's or master's degree, and who have significant experience studying race, ethnicity, and indigeneity.

My GPA isn’t completely indicative of my student record. What things are considered when the committee reviews applicants?

We do not have a minimum GPA. Our committee considers each person’s entire application packet. If you feel you have "irregularities" in your history, (e.g., a low GPA, time gaps, etc.), let us know in the section of the online application that reads, “Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you (e.g., gaps in education, non-traditional educational path, work history, academic record, personal experiences?)”.

Is it possible to enroll into the IRES doctoral program concurrently with another program for a dual degree?

Unfortunately, no. We have not yet set up a dual degree program.

Can I participate in your program remotely?

Unfortunately, no. Ours is an in-person program.

 When are applicants notified about acceptance into the program?

COVID-19 circumstances have shuffled longstanding university deadlines and timelines. At this point, we expect to send out notifications by the end of winter term.

Can a student complete this program in less than five years?

Depending on any individual student’s work and life conditions, it is possible to finish our program with a PhD in less than five years.

Who can provide references for me?

References should come from people who can speak to your body of work, your strengths and weaknesses as a student, and your level of preparedness to pursue a PhD in Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies.

Are reference letters required to be submitted separately or with the application?

Our application platform requires the names and email addresses of those providing references for you. Our application will then send out automated requests and instructions.

There is a professor at the UO that I’d like to work with. Is there a process I should follow?

You are welcome to send direct inquiries to any IRES core or graduate faculty with whom you would like to communicate.

I don't see my question listed here. What's your email address?

Are there any other universities in the PNW that offer PhD programs in Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies?

To the best of our knowledge, as of Spring 2021, the University of Oregon is the only university in the Pacific Northwest offering a PhD in Indigenous, race, and ethnic studies! (Go Ducks!!)

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*The application portal will re-open in Fall 2024 for Fall 2025 admission.

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