Customized Field

Customized fields are appropriate when none of the existing fields allow students to explore topics that are critical to their research interests. Students must justify the need for a customized field by demonstrating its relevance and its comparable breadth and scope to existing fields, and by clearly differentiating it from the existing fields.

Customized fields are developed under the supervision of a Wagner faculty member who serves as the primary reader of the field exam. Other faculty from Wagner or other schools at NYU serve as additional readers and advisors of the exam.

Students interested in a customized field must indicate their interest to the Assistant Director and to their advisor during their first year. Before the start of the second year, the advisor will help the student identify the relevant Wagner faculty who will supervise the customized comp. This timing is to ensure that the customized comp supervisor can offer direction on second year coursework.

For final approval, students must obtain:

  • The signatures of three faculty members who have approved the customized field and will act as writers and readers of the exam;
  • The approval of the Doctoral Board.

Therefore, requests for a customized field must be made at least one semester before the student plans to take this alternate field examination.

Developing a Customized Field

Here is a suggested set of steps to go through when considering a customized field:

1. Ask yourself several important questions, including:

  • ​​​Why is this important for your line of study?
  • How does this proposed field relate to and differ from our existing fields?
  • How would you define/characterize the field? What are the critical issues? Main areas? Big questions?
  • What preparatory coursework have you done in the field?

2. Circulate among several faculty members a (roughly) one page synopsis of your anticipated customized field.  They can then assess whether your proposed idea appears to be comparable in breadth and scope with our established fields and is significantly different enough from them to continue.  Please note that a customized field is not just a literature search for your dissertation topic.

3. Once it has been established that there are sufficient grounds for a customized field, write a draft of a full proposal which should include (but is not necessarily limited to):

  • A paragraph summarizing why this new field is more relevant to your plan of study than the existing fields.
  • A description of the field, mapping out the critical issues and big questions. Your proposal should include evidence that there is a coherent body of literature and a group of scholars who view themselves as part of the field (i.e.: include what you consider the classics, journals, associations, etc.).
  • A list and description of the coursework that you have undertaken to prepare for the field.
  • A reading list that is organized by some coherent structure that mirrors the critical issues and/or big areas.
  • Circulate this draft to at least three faculty members and make revisions as required.
  • Obtain three faculty signatures. These signatures certify that this new field is comparable in breadth and scope to our existing fields. They also confirm that these faculty assume the responsibility of coordinating the writing and grading of the comprehensive examination.

Examples of customized fields include: Science and Technology, and Child Policy.

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