Launching the First-Ever Ph.D. in Creativity

July 25, 2018

Creativity is at the center of innovation in every field.


University of the Arts President David Yager has announced the planning for a new Doctoral program in Creativity — the first Ph.D. offering for the University. The UArts Ph.D. program is unique, in that, as conceived, it will offer an individually tailored, low-residency degree for advanced interdisciplinary research in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences. The program is designed to begin with a deep immersion in the intuitive practices of the arts, to seed more creative working practices in students who come already prepared with conventional methods, knowledge, training and proficiency in their fields.

“Creativity is at the center of innovation in every field,” Yager says. “By training these professionals how to think differently, they’ll be able to use that knowledge to become the next generation of revolutionaries in their respective fields. I’m delighted to collaborate with Professor Jonathan Fineberg and the Ph.D. Council of Advisors as UArts continues to be at the forefront of forward-thinking innovation in higher education.”

“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,” says Fineberg, University Professor and chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee for the Ph.D. program. Fineberg worked closely with President Yager to develop the program.  “We will seek students who have already achieved a professional mastery in some discipline and we prepare them to go to another level. We intend to prepare our graduates for a more creative approach to whatever their path is, and return to the work world equipped with deep expertise in an area they helped to define.”

The candidates will typically have found themselves wanting to transcend the limits of their training with an interdisciplinary project that may not easily fit into programs elsewhere. The “out of the box” approach of the program is to infuse any discipline with protocols of creative work and further a broader understanding of the centrality of the arts in all education, at every level.

The Program
As envisioned, students begin with a multi-day seminar in interdisciplinary methods of research in different fields.  This is embedded in a two week-long immersion – a kind of creativity “boot camp” -- in artistic modes of thinking. Next, students build the framework for their thesis projects, aiming for a truly interdisciplinary perspective, more radical than what would normally emerge from existing Ph.D. programs.  On the Oxford model, the Program will admit students with a high degree of professional proficiency into the program and focus on the production of a creative, interdisciplinary dissertation or other Ph.D. project. A committee of respected advisors in the various relevant fields specifically selected for the individual’s project would oversee the thesis work; a public presentation in some form is the final requirement.

The Ph.D. Advisory Council includes luminaries in a wide variety of fields, including:

  • Christo, the artist, partner of Jeanne-Claude, in such temporary art projects as The Gates (NYC), Running Fence, Wrapped Reichstag, and The Mastaba, Abu Dhabi (currently in process);
  • Henry Lewis 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;
  • David Campbell, Professor of Physics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering and former Provost, Boston University;
  • 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.
  • 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 re-imaginings 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, University of the Arts 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. She is also a recipient of the MacArthur “genius” award, among many other accolades.
  • Emilia Kabakov, artist, and pioneer, with Ilya Kabakov, of installation art, with recent retrospectives at the Guggenheim Museum in N.Y., The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, and the Tate Modern in London; and
  • Semir Zeki, professor of Neurobiology and Neuroesthetics at University College London and FMedSci Fellow of the Royal Society, among others.

The PhD in the News
"You can now get a PhD in creativity" Quartz at Work 
"On Neuroaesthetics, or the Productive Exercise of Looking at Art" Hyperallergic

Learn More & Apply

Please note: Accreditation of The Ph.D. program is pending approval by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The University has begun accepting applicants for the program slated to begin in 2019.

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