Program Curriculum

Detailed Program Timeline: Year 1

Autumn Quarter


Prior to the start of the quarter, you will be notified of the faculty person who has been designated as your Portfolio Advisor (PA).

You should initiate a meeting with your new PA at the very beginning of the quarter, to establish a shared sense of your goals and expectations.

Your PA can help you set a trajectory for the first year, and possible directions for your research and relationship development. You should certainly consult your PA about cultural studies electives for your first year.


The orientation provides an introduction to the culture and expectations of graduate studies more generally, 

BCULST 500: Formations of Cultural Studies (5 credits)

This is core course maps the field of cultural studies and introduces key research practices. The course also attends to historical and contemporary forms of cultural studies inquiry, with an emphasis on the local and global questions, problems and conversations that shape that inquiry. Furthermore, the course:​

  • introduces the program objectives, the capstone, and the portfolio process;
  • stresses critical reading and communication practices;
  • discusses and explicates the value of the Cultural Studies portfolio and portfolio review process;
  • introduces students to campus and regional resources (Academic Services, the Library, Media Center production facilities, faculty and staff, community partners)

Cultural Studies Electives (5 credits)

You will have an opportunity to take at least one elective course in each quarter of your first year of full-time study.  In your first quarter, you must select one of the Cultural Studies (BCULST) elective course offerings.  Please see Current Courses for descriptions of elective offerings.  Feel free to consult your Portfolio Advisor, the program director(s), or the IAS Graduate Office for advice on your elective choice.  

To complete your MA in Cultural Studies degree, you are required to take a minimum of 10 credits in BCULST electives (i.e. two classes).

After your first quarter you may seek the approval of your Portfolio Advisor to take University of Washington courses outside of the Cultural Studies program.  Courses must be at the 500- or 400-level and your Portfolio Advisor will need to approve their relevance and suitability for your course of study and the Cultural Studies degree. 

Submit a Petition for Outside Coursework (UWNetID and login required)

Winter Quarter

BCULST 502: Cultural Studies Research Practices (5 credits)

This core course focuses on the intersections of ethnographic, textual, and performance-based research methods, with special attention to participatory action research strategies. The course combines theory and practice through experiential learning in ways that will help you:

  • formulate research question(s) and the scale/scope of research projects;
  • develop a literature review and join into a research conversation;
  • address what a cultural studies research process looks like;
  • engage questions of presentation, communication and documentation;
  • address ethical forms of research and representation, including (but certainly not limited to) IRB processes and concerns
  • formulate, review, and refine your capstone pre-proposal

Cultural Studies Elective (5 Credits) 

See Current Courses for quarterly BCULST elective offerings. 

Spring Quarter

BCULST 502: Cultural Studies Research Practices (5 credits)

This core course focuses on divers theories and practices of collaboration, with an emphasis on ethical, political, and practical considerations.  In addition, the course:

  • engages with questions of agency and self as relevant to questions of relationship, action, production, and consumption, identity and representation;
  • articulates and examines links between academic collaboration and community-based participatory research design.

Cultural Studies Elective (5 Credits) 

See Current Courses for quarterly BCULST elective offerings. 


There are several important formal advising deadlines and meetings beginning early in this quarter

Portfolio Review

Schedule a meeting to discuss the first portfolio soon after it has been submitted to your PA. This is an opportunity to evaluate your work so far in relation to program goals, the field of cultural studies, and your own personal and professional goals.

Your portfolio framing essay should provide an interpretive framework for reading the contents of your portfolio.  It should help your reader understand the relationship among your work samples and of the relationship of the portfolio as a whole to the field, the program, and your own goals and aspirations.

This meeting is an opportunity for your PA to listen, to ask questions, and provide feedback (i.e., be an audience).  Your PA can assist you in developing plans in relation to the program and your broader goals (including your capstone advisor nominations, and your elective options for Year 2).

Your PA may ask for revisions to either or both the portfolio and the framing essay before signing off on the review form.

Your PA will be asked to review your portfolio and approve it before you can obtain the add code necessary to register for BCULST 510 Engaging Cultural Studies – the first core course in Year 2.

Capstone Pre-proposal and Advisor Nomination

You should consult with your PA to help identify and rank your nominations for a Capstone Advisor (CA).  It often helps (but is not required) if you have also been in contact with any potential CAs.

You will submit your capstone pre-proposal and capstone advisor nominations according to the dates and deadlines and petitions that are prescribed.  This petition will be reviewed by the Cultural Studies faculty coordinator who will assign you a CA based on faculty availability and goodness of fit.

Students will be notified as soon as possible who their CA is. At that time, and before the end of the quarter, set up a meeting with your new CA to outline your next steps.  This may include work to be completed over the summer.

Summer Quarter

Summer credit may be available for students to work on their proposals, prepare for their community-based project work, do pilot work, prepare/submit IRB proposals, or do an internship.

Aside from for-credit work, summer is also an opportunity for independent and/or guided reading and writing, to continue developing the capstone proposal, to establish or strengthen relationships with community-based partners or potential partners, and to refine/consolidate work of the previous year.

Students are strongly encouraged to make an appointment with their librarian to discuss finding, obtaining, and evaluating resources for their capstone project (at whatever stage of development it may be). Some students may be trying to identify or obtain resources that are fairly specialized; if so, it will be important to start this process sooner rather than later.