Spanish Graduate Program

The University of Virginia’s Spanish graduate program has long been a highly-ranked leader in the field, and our faculty actively works at the forefront of contemporary research directions. Our core mission is to cultivate excellence in scholarship and pedagogy in all areas of Spanish-language literary and cultural studies. Our students go on to careers based in research, writing, teaching, and international engagement. We invite prospective students to peruse our faculty web pages to get a sense of our research interests and publications. In our increasingly interconnected world, interdisciplinary research is a central feature of our program, and we encourage prospective students to explore the centers and institutes featured below. 

The Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese confers a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Spanish. Some students enter the Ph.D. program with an M.A. from another institution, and all who progress satisfactorily through the program receive an M.A. en route to the Ph.D. 

We offer extremely competitive fellowship packages. Admitted students may be selected for the Interdisciplinary Fellowship, and the Bridge to the Doctorate program. In recent years, our students have been awarded the prestigious American Council of Learned Societies fellowships and departmental fellowships that support research and learning in Spain and Latin America. Graduate students collaborate closely with faculty members, and have opportunities for mentorship both within and beyond the department. Our approximately 25 graduate students are diverse, talented, and deeply engaged. Roughly half of them are native speakers of Spanish. The department seeks to recruit a diverse pool of graduate applicants and to create an equitable and inclusive climate in the program and in the University of Virginia community. The Department’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion serves as a support, advocate, and resource on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, referring students to resources within and outside the department.

Accepted students who progress satisfactorily through the program receive:

· Full payment of tuition and fees

· Annual living support of $30,000 for a minimum of six years (an annual stipend of $24,000, plus $6,000 of summer support)

· Full payment of single-person coverage under the University’s student health insurance plan

· Full fellowship support in years one and six with no teaching responsibilities, with a teaching expectation of two courses in each of years two, three, four and five

· Training in language pedagogy under the direction of our language program director that provides opportunities for teaching language at all levels and courses focusing on literature and culture


    How to Apply

    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.

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

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

    The admissions deadline for 2021-2022 is January 15, 2023.

    Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Spanish

    Required materials:

    · Complete Online Application

    · Upload unofficial transcripts from all past schools (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 (Both should be from your past educational institutions. Letters of recommendation must be submitted electronically.)

    · Applicants should upload two academic writing samples, one in English and another 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 both the original language record plus an English direct translation.)

    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 after reviewing the application requirements on the Graduate School website you have additional questions, please contact us at

    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). If they so choose, students may use the courses they take to complete any of the University’s various certificate 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. All graduate students are required to teach one three-credit course per semester during the second, third, and fourth years of the program. Every effort is made to give students the opportunity to teach at various levels of instruction. All students are carefully trained and supervised by Professor Emily Scida as well as other members of the department.


    All entering graduate students are granted financial support in the form of Fellowships and Teaching Assistantships. The package includes full tuition remission, health insurance coverage and a stipend of $24,000 (annual stipend of $20,000, plus $4,000 of summer support). This support is renewable through the fifth year, as long as the student remains in good academic standing and performs adequately as a classroom instructor. Students teach only during years two, three, and four, and enjoy fellowship years free of teaching obligations in years one and five. In addition, 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.

    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.

    Graduate Guide

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

    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.

    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.

    Current Graduate Students

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

    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.

    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.