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Ad Hoc Program

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PhD candidates who find that their scholarship extends beyond a single academic program may apply to create an ad hoc PhD program by working with Harvard Griffin GSAS to develop and submit an application dossier to the Administrative Board for approval. While applications are reviewed throughout the year, they must be received well in advance of the term for which the student wishes to be admitted to the newly created program. The review process takes two to four weeks depending on the time of year. Official decisions are sent from the dean for admissions and financial aid.

  • A student must have completed a full year of graduate study and achieved an outstanding academic record in an established PhD degree program in order to apply to transfer to an ad hoc PhD program.
  • Ordinarily, when a student transfers to an ad hoc degree program, the original department retains financial responsibility for the student. In order to invoke any guaranteed teaching offered at the time of admission, students must meet all program-specific teaching criteria established by the department. Students are encouraged to contact Harvard Griffin GSAS to explore additional funding opportunities.
  • Master’s degrees are not awarded in ad hoc subjects.

Preparing an Application Dossier

Students must first contact Shelby Johnson, Associate Director of Academic Programs, for guidance on preparing an application dossier that includes:

  • Application for Creation of an Ad Hoc PhD program
  • Ad Hoc Program of Study Form
  • a current CV
  • a current FAS transcript
  • letters of recommendation.

Application for Creation of an Ad Hoc PhD program

The Application for Creation of an Ad Hoc PhD program should outline the student’s motivation in creating an ad hoc program, including:

  • an explanation of the focal subject area, its academic context or relation to an existing body of knowledge, including citations, and their present interest in the subject matter;
  • the history, including examples, of their research and scholarship to date in the focal subject area;
  • the anticipated direction of their research upon creation of the program and the research questions they will seek to address in the program;
  • a description of the interdisciplinary nature of the subject area and explanation as to why the proposed research and program would be impossible to accomplish in an existing Harvard Griffin GSAS academic program.

The applicant should also include:

  • the general timeline to completion of the degree;
  • a brief description of the role of each of the faculty committee members relative to the applicant and the proposed research (see Choosing an Ad Hoc Degree Committee below);
  • a description of how they intend to fund their program of study during the years remaining until degree;
  • if known, whether they intend to conduct fieldwork, including any years that may be spent as a non-resident traveling scholar in the field;
  • a bibliography of any cited works.

Choosing an Ad Hoc Degree Committee and Proposing a Program of Study

The applicant must first invite faculty members to serve as advisors on their ad hoc degree committee. The committee should include a full-time, in-residence FAS faculty member who serves as chair and primary advisor and, ordinarily, four additional members, three of whom must be based in the FAS from at least two academic programs.

After organizing the committee, the student should formally propose an Ad Hoc PhD Program of Study and Degree Requirements, which should include (but is not limited to):

  • course requirements (all Harvard Griffin GSAS PhD candidates must meet the common requirements), noting those completed to date (including academic term of enrollment and grade earned) and those to be taken (including anticipated term of enrollment)
  • language requirement(s) (if required)
  • teaching requirement (if required)
  • any additional special requirements (if required)
  • general or qualifying examination (or equivalent)
  • dissertation topic (if known), timeline, format, and defense process
  • prospectus timeline, format, and defense/oral presentation process
  • PhD dissertation format
  • proposed ad hoc faculty committee members.

The Ad Hoc PhD Program of Study and Degree Requirements should be reviewed by the members of the faculty committee.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation from members of the proposed ad hoc committee should include:

  • the viability of the proposal and the research goals outlined therein;
  • their approval of the Ad Hoc PhD Program of Study and Degree Requirements;
  • the interdisciplinarity of the project and how the proposal relates to an existing body of knowledge or, if applicable, their own personal research;
  • their role on the ad hoc committee relative to the applicant/student and the proposed research.


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