We’re doing something no one else has done—we’ve radically reconceived the PhD degree based on the premise that creative thinking lies at the heart of innovation in all fields.

The PhD in Creativity is a low-residency degree for advanced interdisciplinary research in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences. This first-of-its-kind PhD offers unique features not found elsewhere: intensive immersion in creative thinking, cross-disciplinary workshops for dissertation development, and professionally accomplished advisors from outside the university whose selection is tailored to best serve each unique dissertation.

Graphic Text - The PhD in Creativity at The University of the Arts thanks Independence Blue Cross, who is commited to innovation in our community and is proud to sponsor this exciting initiative.

 

All PhD programs require a dissertation that makes “an original contribution to knowledge.” Yet after steeping the candidate in the existing literature and methods, they offer no guidance on how to move beyond them. So as George Bernard Shaw famously wrote “progress depends on the unreasonable man”1 who changes rather than accepts established practices. At the University of the Arts, our PhD is about fundamentally changing the way our students think. We intend to use a deep immersion in the intuitive practices of the arts to seed a more creative working practice in students who come already prepared with the conventional methods and knowledge of whatever fields they work in. We seek students who have already achieved a professional mastery in some discipline and we prepare them to go to another level. We show them how to be open to finding that moment when ideas that didn’t seem to have anything to do with one another suddenly come together to ask or answer a question, create a solution to a problem, produce a new invention. The complexity of problem solving in the arts, in their deliberate embrace of intuition, differs from scientific methods. Yet the statistical odds of a scientist winning a Nobel Prize triple if he or she has an avocational practice in the arts.2 Business entrepreneurs need to “think out of the box”; musicians need to do more than master the score. This immersion in the arts can teach a practitioner in any field—in science, in medicine, in business, engineering, health care, the social sciences, innovators in the non-profit world, and even in the arts—to think more creatively.

Although the PhD is increasingly the gateway for high level careers outside academia, most universities require it for full academic rank. We intend to prepare our graduates for a more creative approach to whatever path they take and expect industries as well as the academy to set a premium on our degree. By redefining the underlying approach to their practice, our graduates return to the work world equipped with deep expertise in an area they will help to define and in which they are strongly invested. As our graduates succeed in public life, this University of the Arts degree will also further a broader understanding of the centrality of the arts in all education, at every level.

We offer two connected but separable programs: the PhD in Creativity and the Immersion in Creative Thinking. The Immersion in Creative Thinking is a requirement to go on to the PhD. But we strongly encourage students enrolled in PhD programs elsewhere to apply for the two-week Creativity Immersion without leaving their current PhD programs. These students can fill out the same application as the PhD applicants and use the proposal from their current program instead of creating a separate proposal for our program. 

Some six-year PhD programs give students a thorough training in the methods and base knowledge in a field and then administer a qualifying examination to pass the student on to the dissertation stage of their work. Most offer an MA or MS degree at this stage. Many of those students go to work in their field at this point without going on to write a PhD dissertation. Others go straight into the dissertation. Our program looks at that MA or other training received from another institution, together with an applicant’s work experience and their dissertation proposal like a qualifying examination in evaluating them to enter our dissertation-only PhD.

 

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The artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude had the idea to build the The Mastaba (Project for the United Arab Emirates) in 1977. When completed, it will be the largest sculpture in the world, made from 410,000 oil barrels drawing on expertise from civil engineering, art, the history of Islamic architecture, social, political and financial practices, drawing broad swaths of the local and global population into the making of a work of art. Photo: copyright Christo

The arts offer the most consciously developed disciplines of non-linear and integrative thinking. But all transformative work—even in technology, science, and social science—depends upon intuition and non-linear thought. Contemporary work in neuroscience demonstrates that “cold logic,” devoid of a dynamic engagement with the emotional centers in the brain, doesn’t work.3  We need the rigors of the scientific method and the data base of knowledge in the relevant disciplines. Yet to take innovation to another level we also need to transcend the hierarchies of conventional training. The new PhD at the University of the Arts begins with creativity itself; creative thinking is in the DNA of our faculty and no university is better equipped to teach it. This program commences in mid-June each year with a two-week residency. Students will be immersed in a curated sequence of arts experiences for an intense course in creativity. These experiences differ from simply spectating as a consumer of the arts by engaging the student as a participant in each activity. Each cohort of approximately 10 students will present their proposal for a group critique to their fellow students and the instructors, then they will reframe it repeatedly through a wide variety of creative lenses every day. Informed by daily experiences in different creative practices, the students will revise their proposals into working drafts that they will take away at the end of the two weeks, and around these revised proposals they will begin to build a dissertation committee in consultation with the program director and the chair they select for their committee.

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Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, found a way to express complex phenomena in quantum physics in simple visual forms that helped other physicists to grasp the dynamics of difficult concepts. This Feynman diagram shows the scattering of fermions and below is the mathematical notation it illustrates. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.


The methods seminars are integral to the arts immersion. The often baffling encounters with creative problem-solving in the arts coincides with feedback from the students’ peers and three faculty instructors in the reframing of the students’ dissertations. Since each cohort will come from a range of disciplines, candidates are forced to jettison disciplinary jargon to make their projects comprehensible to one another. If space is available, PhD candidates in programs at other universities may also take this two-week immersion course as a standalone, for a fee. They will complete the PhD application, indicating that they intend to take only the two-week Creativity Immersion. 

 

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A team of civic-minded New Yorkers came to the architect and designer Elizabeth Diller with the idea of using a rusting elevated track from the industrial age for something new. She imagined a way to turn this abandoned relic into one of the most popular public recreation sites in the city. Photo: Diane Cook & Len Jenshel for National Geographic.

The PhD in Creativity at the University of the Arts is a research-based PhD. Each cohort of students will meet to workshop their dissertations during the first summer residency, as they frame the concept of their research. They meet again over a long weekend the following January, when they have substantial research behind them. Finally, they confer again the following summer as they enter the final stages of research and begin writing in the second year. We strongly encourage completion within three years.

On the Oxford model, we only accept students into the program who have a high degree of professional proficiency and are ready to proceed to the dissertation writing stage of a PhD.  We focus on the production of a creative, interdisciplinary dissertation or other PhD project. The preliminary studies required to qualify establish a base of disciplinary mastery in advance, as signified by the MD, MA, MBA, MFA, LLB and MPhil degrees, for example, or by equivalent experience in social services or non-profits or other background that prepares a student to begin at a dissertation level. The PhD project is typically a written dissertation, however it may also take other forms of equivalent depth so long as the final work may be publicly shared and the dissertation committee is satisfied by the depth of research and thought. The public presentation in some form is a final requirement. The thesis, if written, would normally be between 30,000 and 50,000 words or the equivalent as approved by the individual’s committee; research projects in science, economics, or other disciplines in which a book length dissertation is not normal, will conform to the standards in those fields, which may be an online article or articles of sufficient merit to earn the degree. Students will present their work on a monthly basis to their committee and defend their theses in June of their third year, unless an extension is approved by their committee.

The dissertation committee will annually review the student’s progress on the dissertation and will determine if the progress warrants continuing in the program;  we reserve the right to terminate a student in the program if there is insufficient progress.

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Theaster Gates – the Chicago artist, urban planner, performance artist (to mention only a few of his fields of work) – had the idea of renaming a derelict crack house on the South Side of Chicago as an art project. Renaming it literally redefined it and engaged the people of the neighborhood in renovating it together into a vibrant community art center; this in turn seeded the transformation of the neighborhood. Theaster Gates 2012 Dorchester Projects, Chicago. Photo: copyright Theaster Gates.

 

Most academic PhD programs in the United States take half a dozen years or more to complete. Usually, the foundational preparation that might be completed in an MA or MPhil program is absorbed into the PhD, often dispensing with the master’s degree. The PhD at the University of the Arts assumes that M.A.-level work and experience in the field is already reached by our applicants before applying to our program, which is a dissertation-level program only. In nearly all PhD programs candidates at this level focus on their dissertations, often while doing research independently for extended periods; the most profound teaching takes place in all PhD programs in the individual interaction of the student with the PhD advisor. Our program allows a student to continue working in a job so long as they can set aside time to work on their PhD project; it does not require residency over most of the research and writing time. This is not unusual. But in our program we have several advisors for each dissertation, they are more specifically suited to the project, and they are more actively involved than in most residential programs, which is what makes it possible to complete the degree in three years. In addition, we have monthly meetings online with the entire cohort, since we have found that the students build momentum for one another in their projects and provide helpful comments along the way. These monthly sessions also include reading and writing assignments that reinforce the interdisciplinary creativity of the students' ongoing dissertation projects.

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The French artist Jean Dubuffet asked himself how his brain worked in apprehending reality and then attempted to find a form in which to communicate what he discovered. This painting, Fluence (Fluidity), of November 19, 1984 shows the complex sequencing and layering of his thoughts embodied in form. Photo: Ellen Page Wilson, courtesy Pace Gallery, ©2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York,/ADAGP, Paris.

In mid-June of the first year, students will come to the University of the Arts for a two-week intensive residency. They will need to prepare a list of readings before they arrive. When their cohort reconvenes in January and then again in the second summer of the program, there will also be challenging short term seminars in interdisciplinary topics designed specifically for them to reinforce their creative work.

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February 1982, United Arab Emirates: Christo and Jeanne-Claude looking for a possible site for The Mastaba. Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 1982 Christo
— Christo, Artist, N.Y. Member of the PhD Advisory Council

Out of the intensive immersion courses, the group project workshops, and the reconnecting with the entering cohort and the cohorts above and below along the way, students will become part of a close knit family of graduates with whom we expect enduring professional relationships to grow. The connections between the exceptionally talented students and graduates of this program will be one of the particularly rich, immediate and long term benefits of the program and the University will continue to cultivate these relationships by  reconvening our graduates every year to mingle with one another and with current students.

David Yager and Jonathan Fineberg met in 2015 at a conference on cross-disciplinary thinking in art and science sponsored by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (part of the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative). Well known for his pathfinding work in medicine and art, the academies had asked David Yager to serve on the steering committee. The organizers asked Jonathan Fineberg to speak about his new book Modern Art at the Border of Mind and Brain which crosses psychoanalysis and neuroscience with art criticism for a fresh perspective on creative thinking. At this conference, Jonathan and David began a conversation that led to their collaboration in creating this radically reconceived PhD On the premise that creative thinking lay at the heart of innovation in all fields, it seemed appropriate to offer this first ever PhD in Creativity—irrespective of the field of inquiry—in an art school and to begin with an intensive focus on creative thinking in the arts.

Jonathan Fineberg and David Yager talking
Jonathan Fineberg, Director of the PhD Program and David Yager, President and CEO

To explore the full curriculum, click here.

Notes:

  1. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”  George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists, in Man and Superman (1903), (Baltimore MD: Penguin Books, 1952), 267.
  2. See Adam Grant, Originals (N.Y.: Viking, 2016); based on the study by Robert Root-Bernstein et al, Journal of Psychology of Science and Technology, volume 1, number 2, 2008.  Springer Publishing Co., DOI: 10.1891/1939-7054.1.2.51.
  3. Antonio Damasio’s book Descartes’s Error is one of many scientific contributions that point to this conclusion.  See also Semir Zeki, Splendors and Miseries of the Brain, and Jonathan Fineberg, Modern Art at the Border of Mind and Brain
  4. Christo, conversation with the author, 1983, cited in Jonathan Fineberg, "Meaning and Being in Christo's Surrounded Islands," in Christo: Surrounded Islands (Harry N. Abrams Inc.: N.Y., 1986), 27.

Applications to the PhD in Creativity for the 2021–2022 academic year are closed.

The PhD in Creativity is known for providing a tailored, personalized experience for each of its students and their unique, interdisciplinary dissertations. In service of this goal, the PhD in Creativity operates via a single-cohort model, accepting a new cohort every three years as the previous group finishes.

We will open for applications in summer 2021 for the cohort beginning in June 2022. Read more about our application process below.

Standard Application Timeline

  • Mid-November: Phase I application materials are due.
  • End of December: Phase I decisions are issued. Finalists are invited to submit Phase II application materials and interview with the Director.
  • End of January: Phase II application materials are due.
  • Mid-February: Final decisions are issued.

Application Requirements

We seek students who have already achieved proficiency in an intellectual pursuit—it could be in any field—such that the candidate is prepared for the dissertation stage of a rigorous but out-of-the-box PhD. Our students will typically have found themselves wanting to transcend the disciplinary limits of their training with an interdisciplinary project. We will be looking for projects that may not easily fit into programs elsewhere. We actively encourage students currently enrolled in PhD programs elsewhere to enroll in the two-week Creativity Immersion to frame or re-frame their dissertations; leaving their current program is not required.

The application process for the PhD in Creativity is conducted in two phases.

Phase I of the application process is free. Prospective applicants must email their research proposal, personal statement, and resume/CV directly to the department at phdprogram@uarts.edu prior to the Phase I deadline. Please include "PHD APPLICATION" in all-caps in your subject line. Please submit the following as .pdf, .doc, or .docx attachments:

  • A research proposal of about 1,000 words, outlining the dissertation you wish to pursue in the PhD of Creativity. This document should state the central question your research proposes to address. It should also discuss the need for your project, both personal and on the broader scale of scholarship; your project's relationship to previous scholarship in the field; the methodology you propose to use; and a selection of works you consider central to your project.
  • A personal statement of about 1,000 words, telling us why you’re interested in the PhD in Creativity. Topics you may wish to consider when writing this document: What led to your interest in pursuing a PhD of this kind? How has your prior training or work experience prepared you to undertake the writing of your dissertation? What other works or paths – books, articles, bodies of work, or other influences – do you want to explore during your time in the program? With what kinds of advisors would you ideally like to work? What do you envision yourself doing with this degree? Please note that these are only suggestions, and the personal statement is not intended to be a comprehensive document. Overall, it should give us a sense of your interests and who you are.
  • Your resume or CV.

Additionally, in the body of your email, please state your legal name, the name by which you wish to be called (if different from your legal name), your email address, phone number, and mailing address, and your date of birth.

All Phase I applications will be pre-screened by the Admissions Committee. Applicants will be notified 4-6 weeks after the Phase I deadline whether they are invited to complete Phase II of the application process.

Phase II applicants for admission to the PhD in Creativity at the University of the Arts must submit:

  • Application Form: Phase II applicants will be sent a link to complete the online application form. The nonrefundable application fee of $50.00 can be paid by credit card, check, or money order. The fee must be payable in U.S. currency and all checks must be drawn on U.S. banks. University of the Arts graduates are exempt from the fee.
  • Official Transcripts: From each graduate and undergraduate school attended. Transcripts should be sent directly from the Registrar’s Office at the college(s) or school(s) previously attended. All transcripts from outside the United States must be in English and must be official. In some cases, a transcript evaluation from a third-party credential evaluation service (such as WES or ECE) may be required to assess international credentials.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation: Two of these recommendations must come from professors or professionals in your field who are familiar with your capabilities and credentials.
  • English Proficiency: International applicants must demonstrate fluency in spoken and written English as a requirement for this program. English proficiency will be assessed through writing samples and in some cases, applicants may be asked to complete an interview and/or submit test results from the TOEFL, IELTS, or DuoLingo English Test.
  • Standardized Test Scores: GRE scores are optional and not required. If you submit GRE scores, official test scores must be sent by ETS to the University. The correct institution code to use when requesting scores is 2664. You do not need a departmental code.
  • Applicants are encouraged to submit a copy of their dissertation, thesis, or capstone project for their previous degree.
  • Financial Aid: Domestic students may submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. Submit the FAFSA to the Federal Student Aid Program by February 15 for priority consideration. FAFSA applications are available October 1. List the University of the Arts as the institution to receive your information. The Title IV Code for the University of the Arts is 003350. For additional information, see the Financial Aid section of the university’s website.

If accepted, a nonrefundable deposit of $600 (to be applied to the first-year tuition) will be required to hold a space in the program. In exceptional cases, this fee may be waived.

The PhD in Creativity is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Tuition

The annual tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year is $44,800. This covers the cost of hiring top experts from around the world for dissertation committees and of administering the summer Creativity Immersion as well as the winter and second summer seminars. This fee does not include meals or housing.

For students enrolling in the summer Creativity Immersion course only, the tuition is $6,700. Students who complete the Creativity Immersion are eligible to participate in the subsequent January and June Research Paradigms weekend courses for a tuition fee of $1,000 each.

For more information on tuition, click here.

All applications to the PhD in Creativity are reviewed by the Admissions Committee and applicants may receive some fellowship funding from the University. Students who have been accepted to the program will be notified of whether or not they have received a fellowship before the deposit deadline. University fellowships can help cover a portion of tuition costs, but full tuition fellowships are not available at this time. If eligible, students who complete the FAFSA may receive an offer of $20,500 in Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans. You can apply to borrow additional funds to cover your costs in the form of a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS loan or private educational loans. All students are strongly encouraged to seek fellowships from external sources in the forms of scholarships, grants, and fellowships from foundations and corporations. The Office of Student Financial Services at the University of the Arts can assist you in starting your funding search.

Please notify us if you have an outside company or agency that will be assisting with funding your degree. This will not disqualify you from being considered for University funds but will allow us to facilitate payment processing. As the majority of work is done remotely in this program, students are not eligible for university health insurance.

Questions?

Contact the program online.

Contact Us

Housing Options While in Residence

We encourage students to find housing within walking distance of the University of the Arts at nearby hotels or AirBnB residences. Students seeking assistance with housing options should contact our office by email: phdprogram@uarts.edu

The 2020 Calendar

A two-week residency is held during the first summer of the program for each cohort of PhD students. This intensive Creativity Immersion course includes ongoing seminars on methods and the revision of the dissertation proposals.

Due to the international response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the summer 2020 residency has been postponed until summer 2021.

 

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The University of the Arts, Hamilton Hall, Philadelphia

The Advisory Council is comprised of distinguished professionals across diverse disciplines whose knowledge and expertise has contributed to the formation of this program. They will assist in the recommendation and selection of outside advisors to serve each dissertation.

David Yager
President, University of the Arts, ex officio

David Campbell
Professor of Physics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering and former Provost, Boston University

Roy Campbell
Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Professor of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

John Carlin
Author, television producer, and record producer. Founder of Funny Garbage, one of the first digital design companies in New York, and The Red Hot Organization, one of the first major AIDS charities. He teaches entertainment law at Columbia Law School.

Anjan Chatterjee
Professor of Neurology, Psychology, and Architecture, University of Pennsylvania. Director of Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics and author of The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art

Christo
Artist, NY. Creator, with Jeanne-Claude, of such temporary art projects as The Gates (NYC), Running Fence, Wrapped Reichstag, and the forthcoming The Mastaba, Abu Dhabi. (*Though Christo is now deceased, he continues to provide a model for the PhD in Creativity.)

Fang Lijun
Artist and entrepreneur, Beijing. Associated with Cynical Realism in the 1990s, Fang is a leading vanguard artist. He is also a founder of the National Archives of Contemporary Art.

Jack Flam
President of the Dedalus Foundation and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Kathleen A. Foster
The Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art, and Director, Center for American Art. Curator and art historian, she has published on nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists such as Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, and Andrew Wyeth; most recently, she organized the exhibition and catalogue American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University; recipient of the MacArthur “genius” award as well as an Emmy and a Peabody Award for his television series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

Kevin Hamilton
Dean of the College of Fine + Applied Arts and Professor of New Media, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; co-author of Lookout America!: The Secret Hollywood Studio at the Heart of the Cold War

Hannah B Higgins
A Professor and founding Director of the interdisciplinary BA in IDEAS at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her books include Fluxus Experience (University of California Press, 2002), The Grid Book (MIT Press, 2009) and the co-edited anthology Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of Digital Art (University of California Press, 2012).

Emilia Kabakov
Artist, NY. A pioneer, with Ilya Kabakov, of installation art, with recent retrospectives at the Guggenhiem Museum in NY, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, and the Tate Modern in London

William Kinderman
Leon M. Klein and Elaine Krown Klein Chair of Performance Studies in the Herb Alpert School of Music, University of California, Los Angeles. A leading authority on Beethoven and internationally known pianist, scholar and recording artist, he has received a lifetime achievement award from the Humboldt Foundation. He has published a dozen books, including Beethoven, The Creative Process in Music from Mozart to Kurtag, and studies of Mozart and Wagner.

Bon Ku
Bon Ku, MD, MPP is the Assistant Dean for Health & Design at Thomas Jefferson University. An emergency medicine physician, he also directs the Health Design Lab which has featured in The New York Times, CNBC, and Architectural Digest. His book, Health Design Thinking, co-written by Ellen Lupton, was published in 2019.

Cynthia Oliver
Professor of Dance, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; choreographer of Virago-Man, in the 2017 BAM Next Wave Series and currently touring.

Larry Silver
Larry Silver is Farquhar Professor of Art History, emeritus, at the University of Pennsylvania and past President of the College Art Association.  He specializes in Northern Old Master painting and graphics and his books include Peasant Scenes and Landscapes (Penn 2006), Marketing Maximilian (Princeton, 2008), and Jewish Art: A Modern History (2011, with Samantha Baskind).

Fred Tomaselli
Artist, NY; best known for detailed paintings of birds, plants, and transparent human forms in a combination of unorthodox materials, and for his fantastical reimaginings of the pictures on the front page of the New York Times; represented by James Cohan Gallery and White Cube in London, with solo exhibitions in New York at the Whitney Museum and the Brooklyn Museum

Deborah Willis
UArts BFA '75 (Photography); Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University; she is an artist, photographer, curator, photo historian, and author. Willis is also a recipient of the MacArthur “genius” award, among many other accolades.

Jerry (Yoram) Wind
Lauder Professor of Marketing Emeritus at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Internationally known for pioneering research on organizational buying behavior, market segmentation, conjoint analysis and marketing strategy.

Zhang Xiaogang
Artist, Beijing; one of the leading painters of the first generation of artists to emerge in China after the Cultural Revolution and an artist of global influence

Semir Zeki
Professor of Neurobiology and Neuroesthetics at University College London and FMedSci Fellow of the Royal Society

 

The Faculty Advisory Committee consists of Jonathan Fineberg (chair), Quinn Bauriedel, Donna Faye Burchfield, Marc Dicciani, Christa DiMarco, Katie Donovan, Erin Elman, Joe Rapone, and Mara Scrupe.

The Admissions Committee remains anonymous. It includes a research physician, a professor of physics and engineering, a former Research 1 university administrator, a studio artist and administrator, an art historian specializing in American and African American art, a museum curator with degrees in anthropology, and the director of the Ph.D. at University of the Arts, as chair.

Click on the photos below to learn more about the program's Director, faculty, and PhD candidates. 

Director and Faculty

A headshot of Ph.D. Program Director Jonathan Fineberg.
Jonathan Fineberg

Program Director, PhD in Creativity
A headshot of Zach Savich, director of the Creative Writing program.
Zach Savich

Visiting Faculty, Creativity Immersion
A headshot of Buzz Spector, visiting Ph.D. faculty
Buzz Spector

Visiting Faculty, Creativity Immersion

Meet the First PhD Cohort

A headshot of Ph.D. candidate Rose Benson
Rose Benson

PhD

Nurse anesthetist and researcher
A headshot of Ph.D. candidate Susannah Eig.
Susannah Eig

PhD

Theater director, producer and actor
A headshot of Ph.D. candidate Susan Gordon.
Susan Gordon

PhD

WSET-certified wine writer
A headshot of Ph.D. candidate Eugene Hughes.
Eugene Hughes

PhD

Psychotherapist, Artgym founder and filmmaker
A headshot of Ph.D. candidate Jessica Hunter-Larsen.
Jessica Hunter-Larsen

PhD

Associate director of innovation, Colorado College
A headshot of Ph.D. candidate Frank Machos.
Frank Machos

PhD

Executive director, Office of the Arts & Creative Learning, School District of Philadelphia
A headshot of Ph.D. candidate Patricia Salkin.
Patricia Salkin

PhD

Provost, Graduate and Professional Divisions, Touro College
A headshot of Ph.D. candidate Abel Tilahun.
Abel Tilahun

PhD

Filmmaker and artist
A headshot of Ph.D. candidate Cindy Veloric.
Cynthia Haveson Veloric

PhD

Art historian, environmentalist and researcher in American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art

November 30, 2020

Congratulations to PhD faculty member Buzz Spector on his exhibit "Buzz Spector: Alterations" at the Saint Louis Art Museum! The exhibit, which opened on November 20, spans more than 40 years of the artist’s works on paper.

Read about it in ArtDaily: "Saint Louis Art Museum presents 'Buzz Spector: Alterations'"

An accordion-fold book seen from above
Credit: Buzz Spector

October 22, 2020

Congratulations to PhD candidate Susannah Eig-Gonzalez for her poetry publication in the September 2020 issue of Beyond Words Magazine!

Read it here: "Crossing Lines, Playing Roles"

A magazine cover, depicting a rusted iron fence separating the ocean from the beach.

September 22, 2020

Save the date for the upcoming Critical & Creative Thinking Conference, hosted by the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg! PhD candidate Jessica Hunter-Larsen, whose dissertation work involves the scaling of creative process pedagogies across undergraduate education, will present on Colorado College’s Creativity & Innovation program.

The conference will take place virtually from Wednesday, September 30 through Friday, October 2, 11am-3pm EST each day. Hunter-Larsen's panel takes place on October 2. She is also featured on the closing plenary panel.

Read more about the conference and the panels here: Critical & Creative Thinking Conference

An abstract image of a human brain

August 26, 2020

Save the date for PhD candidate Cindy Veloric's upcoming lecture at PAFA! "Although artists have been addressing climate change for nearly two decades, the pandemic of 2020 has reframed it as a parallel public health issue. This lecture will present a variety of multimedia and multimodal approaches that contemporary artists use to raise awareness and change our perceptions of human induced environmental damage."

The free lecture will take place virtually on September 23, at 12:00 PM Eastern time. Read more and register on PAFA's website: "Art at Noon: Art and the Climate Crisis"

An artistic image of a glacier melting over time

August 12, 2020

Congratulations to PhD candidate Cindy Veloric on her upcoming session at the College Art Association's annual conference! Veloric will chair "From Wheatfields to Ecosophy: A Consideration of Women Artists in the History of Climate Change." Veloric's proposal was selected out of roughly eight hundred proposals.

CAA 2021 will take place February 10-13, 2021.

Read more about the session on CAA's website.

August 5, 2020

Congratulations to PhD candidate Patricia Salkin for today's publication in JURIST! In this op-ed, Salkin commends the American Bar Association for their recent Resolution 10-G, which urges jurisdictions to cancel in-person bar examinations and adopt flexible emergency measures.

Read it here: "ABA Does the Right Thing and Stands with Law School Graduates in the Midst of the Pandemic"

A close-up on a pair of hands taking a test

July 30, 2020

We are pleased to announce the PhD in Creativity’s first-ever virtual info session, which will take place Tuesday, August 18, 2020, from 2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. EDT. The event will consist of a 30-minute panel, followed by 15 minutes of Q&A. Program Director Dr. Jonathan Fineberg and PhD candidates Susan Gordon and Susannah Eig-Gonzalez will discuss the genesis and philosophy of the PhD in Creativity, how the program serves its candidates, and more. We hope to see you there!

Register for the virtual info session on Eventbrite.

A picture of Hamilton Hall, a UArts building

July 20, 2020

Congratulations to Visiting Faculty Buzz Spector on his upcoming solo exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum! Per the Museum's press release, "Buzz Spector: Alterations spans the artist’s career from the 1970s to the present and includes drawings, altered books, postcard assemblages, collages, and more."

Read more on the Saint Louis Art Museum's website.

A collage of cut-out dust jackets and ink on paper
Credit: Buzz Spector

July 8, 2020

Program Director Dr. Jonathan Fineberg was recently featured in the New York Times, discussing the future of the artist Christo's work. In addition to his work as the Program Director of the PhD in Creativity, Fineberg is a renowned scholar of Christo's life and oeuvre.

The article also includes mention of the University of the Arts.

Read the article here: "It's Christo's Final Show. But Is It the Last We'll See of Him?"

An image of a package wrapped in brown paper and string - one of the artist Christo's works

July 7, 2020

Congratulations to PhD candidate Patricia Salkin, for her recent publication in Bloomberg Law! Here, Salkin explains why a university campus's general counsel can be a prime candidate for the university presidency.

Read it here: "INSIGHT: Your Next College President May Be the GC Next Door"

June 23, 2020

Congratulations to PhD candidate Susannah Eig, whose essay "'But in this changing, what is your intent?' A Conversation with Sarah Enloe" was just published with the Shakespeare Association of America! Eig's dissertation work examines the ways in which American culture successfully uses Shakespeare as a teaching tool – particularly to teach emotional traits, like empathy and self-awareness. Here, she investigates those questions via a conversation with Sarah Enloe, Director of Education at the American Shakespeare Center.

Read the essay here: "'But in this changing, what is your intent?' A Conversation with Sarah Enloe"

A photo of the text of Macbeth

June 20, 2020

Congratulations to PhD candidate Abel Tilahun, whose exhibition "Inner and Outer Space: Lalibela on the Moon" opens today in Lalibela, Ethiopia! The exhibition is part of an event for the Ethiopian Space Science Society, celebrating the Annular Eclipse, which will take place there on June 21. For those who cannot make the in-person show, Tilahun has set up a virtual exhibition, which you can see for yourself here.

The exhibition also echoes the themes of Tilahun's dissertation, a documentary film examining the mutual influence of art and space science – with particular focus on the burgeoning space industry of Ethiopia, the country where stargazing originated.

The virtual exhibition will be available until August 20, 2020.

A digital image of an ancient Ethiopian structure on the moon.
Credit: Abel Tilahun

June 18, 2020

PhD candidate Patricia Salkin, whose work examines the exploding phenomenon of lawyers serving as university presidents, was recently interviewed on Gold/Fox: Non-Billable, a podcast from the New York State Bar Association. Congratulations to her – and congratulations to the PhD in Creativity, mentioned at 4:18!

Listen to the podcast here: "How Billy Joel Explains the Suburbanization of New York with Patricia Salkin"

Logo for the Gold/Fox podcast - a pair of gold headphones on a blue background

June 4, 2020

Program Director Dr. Jonathan Fineberg has published a new piece, "Remembering Christo's Profound Humanism," in The Wall Street Journal. This piece honors and memorializes Fineberg's dear friend Christo, who also served on the advisory board of the PhD in Creativity and continues to serve as a model for our program.

Read the piece here at The Wall Street Journal, or here on Dr. Fineberg's website.

The artist Christo at a book signing in Paris

May 31, 2020

We at the PhD in Creativity are greatly saddened to note the passing of Christo, whose life and creative spirit – as well as that of his wife Jeanne-Claude, who passed away in 2009 – serve as models to which our program aspires. Christo, a dear friend, served as a member on our advisory board. We will greatly miss him.

An image of the artist Christo in profile
Photo credit: Wolfgang Volz

May 29, 2020

Congratulations to PhD candidate Susan Gordon for her essay in issue 20.2 of Gastronomica! This essay follows Gordon's search for language to encompass the way taste is tied to site in Italy. It also serves as a wonderful microcosm of Gordon's PhD work, which explores the relationship between linguistics, history, and place in Italy's Prosecco DOCG regions.

Read it here: "What a Little Hilltop in Abruzzo Can Tell Us About Words for Place"

An Italian vineyard
Photo credit: Susan Gordon

May 21, 2020

Congratulations to PhD candidate Cindy Veloric for her second essay in Ocean Archive, published today! This essay examines the oeuvre of American artist-activist Diane Burko, particularly her work capturing the beauty of the world's dying coral reefs.

Ocean Archive is an enterprise of the Thyssen Bornemisza Academy in Vienna.

Read the essay here: "Science, Sensibility and Metaphor in the Coral Reef Artwork of Diane Burko"

An abstract blue painting of a coral reef

May 19, 2020

Program Director Dr. Jonathan Fineberg's latest essay, "Memory in the Year of Covid," which examines the work of the artist Zhang Xiaogang, has been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel. Like the work of Zhang himself, this essay explores the meaning of humanity, tragedy, and trauma – and the importance of art in processing and representing that.

A painting of a man sitting on a brown couch with a bell jar over his head

May 6, 2020

Program Director Dr. Jonathan Fineberg was featured on NPR's "Here and Now," talking about the importance of maintaining creativity during the coronavirus pandemic. Here, Fineberg explores the social and physical elements of creativity, as well as the role of creativity in self-expression. He also explains how creativity drives human adaptability – which, as we can all imagine, is more important now than ever.

Listen to the interview or read about it here: "How Coronavirus Is Impacting the Art World"

A man standing on a great orange sheet, which is floating in a lake

April 30, 2020

Congratulations to PhD candidate Patricia Salkin, who yesterday was featured on a panel hosted by the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. On the panel, Salkin, alongside the Dean of Georgetown Law and the Senior Associate Dean of Harvard Business Online, discussed the implications of COVID-19 on universities nationwide and the steps that schools have taken to adapt.

Read more here: "COVID-19: Testing the Limits of Universities Nationwide"

April 17, 2020

Congratulations to PhD candidate Cindy Veloric for her recent essay in Ocean Archive! Veloric's research explores how combinations of aesthetics in art can affect the public’s perceptions of environmental issues. In service of that aim, this essay reviews and explores Joan Jonas’s multi-media work Moving Off the Land II.

Ocean Archive is an enterprise of the Thyssen Bornemisza Academy in Vienna.

Read the essay here: "Joan Jonas, Moving Off the Land II: A consideration of 'strange strangers'"

An overhead shot of a canoe on green water, overlaid with the words "ocean archive"

April 7, 2020

Congratulations to UArts PhD candidate Patricia Salkin on two recent publications! Salkin co-authored the paper "The Bar Exam and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Need for Immediate Action," as well as the Harvard Law Review Blog essay "Licensing Lawyers in a Pandemic: Proving Competence." These timely pieces examine the importance of licensing new lawyers, given the multitude of legal issues raised by the novel coronavirus – and they seize the opportunity to consider new ways we might license lawyers in the future.

A close-up on a white man with pen and paper, taking an exam

March 24, 2020

Due to the international response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we regret to announce that the second cohort of PhD candidates has been deferred for one year. The 2020 summer residency will take place in summer 2021. We look forward to meeting our new students at that time.

February 14, 2020

Congratulations to UArts PhD candidate Patricia Salkin for her recent publication in the American Bar Association's Syllabus newsletter! This piece builds on Salkin's Washington Post article about the rise of lawyer candidates in higher education leadership, which is also the subject of her PhD dissertation.

Read it now: "From the Classroom to the Presidency: Legal Educators Tapped to Run the Campus"

A gavel

February 6, 2020

PhD candidate Eugene Hughes, whose research examines how a relationship between nature and the creative self can be a potent tool for the analysis and restoration of the self, had the opportunity to work with Hamish Fulton, a walking artist whose work can be found in such museums as the Tate Britain and MoMA.

Two white men standing in front of a framed poster.

January 20, 2020

Congratulations to UArts PhD candidate Jessica Hunter-Larsen, whose work integrating creativity into the Colorado College undergraduate curriculum was profiled in a special brief from the Chronicle of Higher Education!

See the issue here: The Creativity Challenge

A magazine cover, showing a cardboard box with an open door on the side.

January 15, 2020

Congratulations to UArts PhD candidate Patricia Salkin for her recent publication in the Washington Post! Salkin's PhD research – and this article – examines the rise of lawyer candidates in higher education leadership.

Read it now: "Lawyers are leading U.S. colleges and universities more than ever before. Is that good or bad for higher education?"

A gavel on top of a binder labeled "LAW".

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Here are some frequently asked questions about University of the Arts’ PhD in Creativity, the first of its kind in the nation.

How is UArts handling the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?

Public health officials suggest that this situation will probably last for several months at its current level of severity, and that we can anticipate another year or more before it is fully behind us. Therefore, much to our disappointment, we have decided to postpone this year’s PhD program for a full year. We have deferred the new cohort’s admission to 2021, and we intend to hold the next summer Creativity Immersion Session in summer 2021. Learn more about UArts’ response to COVID-19.

Is the program accredited?

Yes. The program is fully accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

What are the courses and who are the faculty?

For a look at the full curriculum, visit our catalog. 

Read more about the program’s director and faculty on the "People" tab. Guest artists and lecturers for the 2019 Creativity Immersion included professionals working in culinary arts, design, museum curation, social justice, and visual and performing arts.

I’m an artist. Is this program right for me?

This is not a studio-based degree; rather, it is research-based. 

We seek students who have already achieved proficiency in an intellectual pursuit—it could be in any field—such that the candidate is prepared for the dissertation stage of a rigorous but out-of-the-box PhD. Our students will typically have found themselves wanting to transcend the disciplinary limits of their training with an interdisciplinary project. We look for projects that may not easily fit into programs elsewhere. We actively encourage students currently enrolled in PhD programs elsewhere to enroll in the two-week Creativity Immersion for a fee; leaving their current program is not required.

What are some examples of dissertation topics? 

You can read more about the first PhD cohort's dissertation topics by viewing their profiles on the "People" tab.

What can I do with this degree? / What is the post-program employment potential?

We intend to prepare our graduates for a more creative approach to whatever path they take, and expect industries, as well as the academy, to set a premium on our degree. 

By redefining the underlying approach to their practice, our graduates return to the work world equipped with deep expertise in an area they will help to define and in which they are strongly invested. 

Is there fellowship money?

The University does not offer assistantships, and fellowship funding from the University is limited. If eligible, students who complete the FAFSA may receive an offer of $20,500 in Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans. You can apply to borrow additional funds to cover your costs in the form of a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS loan or private educational loans. 

How do I apply for a fellowship? 

All students are strongly encouraged to seek fellowships from external sources in the forms of scholarships, grants and fellowships from foundations and corporations. University of the Arts’ Office of Student Financial Services at can assist you in starting your funding search.

Please notify us if you have an outside company or agency that will be assisting with funding your degree. This will not disqualify you from being considered for University funds but will allow us to facilitate payment processing. 

Can I have a TA position during the program for fellowship money?

The University does not offer assistantships, and fellowship funding from the University is limited. If eligible, students who complete the FAFSA may receive an offer of $20,500 in Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans. You can apply to borrow additional funds to cover your costs in the form of a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS loan or private educational loans. 

Do I have to live in Philadelphia?

No. 

How often do I need to be on campus?

In mid-June of the first year, students will come to University of the Arts for a two-week intensive residency. The cohort reconvenes in January for approximately four days, and then again in the second summer of the program for four days. There are also challenging, short-term seminars in interdisciplinary topics designed specifically for them to reinforce their creative work.

Who will be my advisors?

Our program has several advisors for each dissertation, they are more specifically suited to the project, and they are more actively involved than in most residential programs, which is what makes it possible to complete the degree in three years.

It is a good idea to have an idea of the specific advisors you would like to work with when you apply to the program. The director will take this into account as he builds your committee.

Your committee need not be UArts faculty and will be tailored for you.

Do you have a mailing list?

Yes! Sign up for news and updates here.