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Spanish Graduate Program

We consider it a great privilege to have the opportunity to educate the next generation of teachers, scholars, and leaders. Our PhD students collaborate with faculty to define new research directions in Spanish, Latin American, and Latinx literary and cultural studies, and to translate thier excitement for knowledge production into diverse careers. Our recent graduates have gone on to research, write, and teach for large companies in the finance and technology sectors, non-profit organizations in Latin America, and all levels of education, from research universities to small liberal arts colleges, K-12 schools and private educational consulting firms. You can read some of their stories here. Faculty who are accepting graduate students for the 2024 entering cohort are: Sam Amago (advisor), Allison Bigelow (advisor), Kelly Moore (committee member), Fernando Operé (advisor), Ricardo Padrón (advisor), Fernando Riva (advisor), and Fernando Valverde (committee member). We are not able to accept students in contemporary Latin America for the 2024-5 or 2025-6 cycles.

Our program encourages interdisciplinary training that can be formalized in graduate certificates across the humanities and social sciences, including Africana Studies, American Studies, Digital Humanities, Environmental Humanities, Gender & Sexuality, Historic Preservation, Leadership and Public PolicyPremodern Cultures & Communities, and Urban Design. Additional on-campus training is available through internships, working groups, labs, and workshops in the Scholars’ Lab, Institute for Humanities and Global Cultures, Karsh Institute of Democracy's Democracy Initiative, Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation, Center for Teaching Excellence, and PhD Plus. Students can also take advantage of professional opportunities in the wider DC area, from research fellowships to museum internships. Support within the department includes pedagogical training from faculty in linguistics, course coordination and mentorship from teaching track faculty, and a community of research mentors who work with students on conference presentations, article publications, and fellowships to support pre-dissertation and dissertation work. You and your mentor can search for support for conference travel, research trips, and language learning using resources compiled by the Graduate School and the department. Students who are historically underrepresented in higher education can find additional mentorship support from the Mentoring Institute in the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs.

PhD students participate in every aspect of department and university life, from taking and teaching classes to serving on committees and organizing events. In your first year, you will be released from teaching obligations so that you can focus on coursework, finding a research community, and getting your bearings. Beginning in your second year, you will teach language classes that are supervised by experienced teaching track faculty members (called Academic General Faculty at UVA). In subsequent years, PhD students teach at all levels of the undergraduate curriculum in order to graduate with diverse teaching portfolios.

Our 20 current graduate students are diverse, talented, and deeply engaged in the department and greater community. Some students enter the program with a Master’s degree from another institution, whereas others arrive with a BA. All students who progress satisfactorily through the program receive the MA en route to the PhD, usually after the second year. Please see the sections below for more information on progress through the program.

Our competitive fellowship package supports students for 6 years, which includes: 

  • an annual stipend of $30,000 ($24,000 during the academic year and $6,000 of summer funding)
  • two years of teaching release (typically taken in years 1 and 5)
  • a teaching load of 1 course per semester (1-1 for the year)
  • full payment of tuition and fees ($75,000-$114,000 at 2023 rates)
  • full payment of single-person health insurance

How to Apply

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Graduate Admissions

To apply for graduate study in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, you must submit your application and materials online to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). The Graduate School will no longer accept hard copy applications. The department does not require any materials in addition to those required by GSAS. For admissions information, including important deadlines, please visit the Graduate School's website. The evaluation rubric used by the department committee is available in the "Supporting Documents" of our governance page.

Students applying to and accepted into the graduate program must hold a BA in Spanish (or a closely related discipline) or the equivalent foreign degree. The process is the same for students who also hold an MA degree or its equivalent.

Students will follow the course of study outlined in the Graduate Record. Students with a BA will earn an MA in Spanish as they progress towards the PhD. The option of a terminal MA degree is Spanish is only open to self-funded students.

The admissions deadline for 2024-2025 is January 15, 2024.

Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Spanish

Required materials:

  • Complete Online Application
  • Unofficial transcripts from all past schools, submitted electronically (Important: Please DO NOT mail your official transcripts to the Graduate School unless you have received an offer of admission and have decided to attend the University of Virginia.)
  • Two (2) Letters of Recommendation from previous educational institutions, submitted electronically
  • Two (2) academic writing samples, one in English and one in Spanish

International Students

In addition to the materials listed above, the Department of Spanish, Italian & Portuguese requires that you also submit the following:

  • Official TOEFL Scores (Official scores must be sent directly to the University of Virginia by the Educational Testing Service.)
  • Final Official Transcript (Transcripts from schools located in non-English-speaking countries must have the original language record and a direct translation into English)

The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences requires a few additional items from international students. Please carefully read the guidelines for international students and the application process on the Graduate School Admissions page. Additional guidance for international students can be found here. If you have additional questions after reviewing these materials, please contact us at

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Overview of PhD

PhD Program in Spanish

Please note: Per university policy, "The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at"

Program Requirements

The PhD in Spanish is divided into three phases: 1) coursework; 2) comprehensive examinations; and 3) dissertation. There is also a foreign language requirement that must be met before entering the dissertation phase, known as “doctoral candidacy.” Throughout the three phases, students receive guidance from a faculty mentor chosen with the student’s stated research interests in mind. The official account of program requirements appears in the University’s Graduate Record. A full description of the program’s operation can be found in the department’s Graduate Handbook.

Coursework is ordinarily completed during the first two years of the program. Students are required to take eight graded, three-credit courses during the first year, and six graded, three-credit courses during the second year. The courses must include SPAN 7220 (History of the Language) and SPAN 8210 (Teaching Foreign Languages). They must also include a course on media, two on theoretical approaches in the humanities or the social sciences, and at least two courses offered outside the department. The department maintains a list of approved courses for this purpose, and a single course may satisfy more than one of these requirements. Students are also expected to complete two additional, one-credit courses: 1) GHSS 6050 (Introduction to Graduate Studies); and 2) GHSS 7050 (Professional Life After Graduate School). These courses can count toward any of the graduate certificates offered in the College of Arts & SciencesSchool of Architecture, Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and related programs.

At the end of the first year, students submit a Statement of Research Interests, in which they chart their progress in the program and develop a plan for the second year that will lead to a fruitful experience in the comprehensive exams and a dissertation afterwards. At the end of the second year, students revise this statement and include it in their Second Year Portfolio, which also includes samples of their writing. After a positive assessment of the portfolio by the faculty, the student proceeds to the comprehensive exams.

The comprehensive exams normally take place during the third year.  Students register for 12 credits of SPAN 8900 (Comprehensive Exams) and use the time to develop a comprehensive exam portfolio, which includes three reading lists, two field papers, a statement of teaching philosophy, and a course syllabus. The contents of the lists, the subject matter of the papers, and the nature of the course are determined by the student, in consultation with their comprehensive exam committee. The structure of the exams allows for participation by faculty from other departments, and for significant training in another field or discipline. The student’s mastery of the portfolio materials is assessed through an oral examination, normally held at the end of the Fall semester.

The dissertation phase begins during the second semester of the third year, after successful completion of the oral exam. Students register for 12 credits of SPAN 8901 (Dissertation Proposal) and use the time to develop a proposal for the project that will occupy them during their final two years. They defend the proposal before their dissertation committee before the end of the semester. At that time, students are also expected to have fulfilled the departmental language requirement by demonstrating mastery of one language other than Spanish or proficiency in two languages other than Spanish.

The final two years of the program are devoted to developing and defending the dissertation, an original contribution to scholarship in the student’s field roughly the length of a standard academic monograph. The dissertation is developed in consultation with a committee that must include a member from outside the department and may in some cases include faculty from other universities. It may be written in either English or Spanish. It is usually defended at the end of the fifth year of study.


The department believes that learning to teach is an integral part of any graduate program, and that students need time, space, and mentorship to develop as teachers. All graduate students are required to teach one three-credit course per semester during the second, third, and fourth years of the program. They do not teach in their first and fifth years so that they can focus on coursework (including learning how to teach) and their dissertation research. Every effort is made to give students the opportunity to teach at various levels of instruction and in diverse subject areas in years 2, 3, 4, and 6. All students are carefully trained and supervised by the Director of the Language Program in Spanish, as well as other members of the department. Support for teaching is available through formal programs and workshops offered through the Center for Teaching Excellence and PhD Plus, as well as informal mentorship from experienced members of the teaching track and research track faculty.

Although the program is designed for students to take their teaching release in year 5, some students may prefer to take it in year 6. Please see the Graduate Handbook to learn more about the policy and timeline.


All entering graduate students are granted financial support in the form of Fellowships and Teaching Assistantships. Students who progress satisfactorially through the program receive 6 guaranteed years of support. Our financial package includes a stipend of $24,000 (annual stipend of $24,000, plus $6,000 of summer support), two years of teaching release, full tuition remission ($75,000-$114,000 at 2023 rates), and health insurance coverage for themselves. Students who need to enroll a partner and/or dependents should consult the rates listed by Aetna, here. Students can enroll partners or dependents during open enrollment (insurance verification) or within 30 days of a qualifying event, such as birth, adoption, or marriage. More details on student health, wellness, and insurance coverage are available here.

In addition to department funding, graduate students are frequently employed in Summer School courses in Charlottesville or in the Department’s summer undergraduate programs in Spain and Latin America. There are also a variety of opportunities to fund conference travel, language study, and dissertation research and writing. We encourage students to work with their advisors and committees to find field-specific funding sources.

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Department Handbook

The Graduate Handbook serves as a guide to policies and procedures governing graduate education in the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia. To view the handboook, please click here.

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Graduate Guide

For more information on career development and diversity affairs, please see the College of Arts & Sciences Graduate Guide.

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Course Descriptions & Sequences

For updates or a complete description of courses offered by the Department please visit the course description page. You may also consult the Student Information System and the Graduate Record.

For information on course sequences, current students should consult the Graduate Guide for the present academic year. Admitted students may request a copy by writing to the Director of Graduate Admissions or their intended faculty advisors.

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Student Research & Support

Original, innovative research is the hallmark of graduate study; as we uncover new texts in archives, develop alternative ways of reading the classics, and collaborate with colleagues in other fields and around the world, we find new ways of thinking and new works to teach.

Part of graduate student development involves teaching undergraduate courses; such teaching is complemented by classwork and research projects.

The Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese is pleased to support all Ph.D. students for five years of graduate study, including a year-long fellowship for dissertation research and writing. We encourage you to work with your faculty advisor, subject liasons in the UVa Library, and colleagues in your field to develop research questions, identify relevant archives, and share your findings in presentations and articles. To get started with archival research, we suggest looking through something like the "Fresh from the Archives" series on Dissertation Reviews. Graduate students from around the world have helpfully described archival protocols and research topics in Latin American and Caribbean studies, including the AGI (Sevilla), Archivo Nacional (Madrid), and Archivo Histórico del Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica (Antigua, Guatemala). Don't be afraid to reach out to other graduate students! They've been in your shoes and will be eager to share what they've learned. To generate ideas at the pre-dissertation stage and get a sense of what a finished project will look like, you should review summaries of recently finished dissertations in your area. You can find examples of such projects in the Latin American and Caribbean Studies section of Dissertation Reviews and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Follow this link from UVa Library, click "ProQuest," and then click "ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global" from the list of databases. If you're off campus, sign in through NetBadge.)

Already finished with the dissertation? As you apply to fellowships and jobs, the University is here to help with your CV and application materials. Please contact Sonali Majumdar, Associate Director of Professional Development in the Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Affairs, to arrange an appointment. Fourth- and fifth-year graduate students are encouraged to participate in OGPA's Research Communication Training Program, a six-week workshop series that trains students across Grounds to present their work to a variety of non-specialists. Participants can also present their work the Three Minute Thesis competition, which provides excellent practice for interviews on the academic, public sector, and corporate job markets. Job seekers can find sample materials (CV, cover letter, teaching statement) on SIP Jobs (a joinable collab site) and in the University-recommended Academic Job Search Handbook, by Julia Miller Vick, Jennifer S. Furlong, and Rosanne Lurie. Follow the link in Virgo for an electronic edition of the text. For a list of resources dedicated to digital studies at UVa, please visit DH@UVa and consult the department list of all things digital.

Below please find additional sources of support for your work, from foundational language training to pre-dissertation research and dissertation completion fellowships.

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Current Graduate Students

To learn more about current students and their research projects, please visit their profile pages.

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Recent Graduate Spotlights (PhD)

Our graduate students work on diverse topics from the medieval, early modern, revolutionary/Enlightenment, and modern/contemporary periods in Spain and Latin America, with a variety of methodological approaches and theoretical orientations. They go on to work in academica, industry, non-profit organizations, and public service. To learn more about our alumni, please click here.

To learn more about current students and their research projects, please visit their profile pages.

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Doctoral Language Exams

The Doctoral Language Exams in Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, also known as Proficiency and Mastery exams, are offered twice per semester through the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. The exams are available to currently enrolled graduate students who are required to demonstrate foreign language "proficiency" or "mastery" in order to satisfy certain degree requirements. The precise dates of the exams are set early in the semester, although they are generally offered in October, November, February and March.

To learn more about the exams, and to register for an exam, please visit our doctoral language exam page.