Combined Doctoral Degree in Anthropology

Admissions Information

History and Purpose

The combined School of Environment (YSE)/Anthropology Ph.D. Program was first created by former Yale Provost Alison Richard to meet the needs of doctoral students in biological anthropology who wanted to draw more fully on the resources of both the Anthropology Department and YSE.   Initial interest in the combined degree has mainly come from students working in the allied fields of ecological anthropology, social ecology, and political ecology.  We envisage this program, however, as open to all sub-disciplines in Anthropology – including biological anthropology and archaeological studies – and students across environmental fields who wish to combine their studies with Anthropology. The purpose and attraction of the degree is three-fold: (1) it combines the disciplinary identity and strengths of the Anthropology Department with the inter-disciplinary character and possibilities of YSE, especially in terms of bridging the social and natural sciences; (2) it combines the strengths in ecological and environmental studies of YSE with the social science strengths of the Anthropology Department; and (3) it combines the Anthropology Department’s strengths in theory with the emphasis within YSE on linking theory with policy and practice.  The combined doctoral degree offers its graduates great flexibility when entering the marketplace: they can represent themselves as anthropologists and/or environmental scientists, as theoreticians and/or practitioners.  They have the credentials to apply for policy-oriented positions with international institutions as well as academic positions in teaching and research.  The academic program of each student in the combined degree program is to some extent tailored specifically to his or her particular history, interests, and needs, but there are general guidelines that combined students can be expected to follow, and they are laid out here.

Eligibility and Master’s Degrees

In general, eligibility for entry into the combined degree program will be the same as for entering either the YSE or the Anthropology doctoral program (which is detailed in their respective bulletins).  Prior award of a Master’s degree is generally preferred for entry into the YSE doctoral program but not the Anthropology doctoral program.  Therefore, the desirability of a prior master’s degree will be weighed on a case-by-case basis among applicants.  Combined degree students will receive (upon petition) an M. Phil. degree from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) after passing their comprehensive exams.


Prospective combined degree students must initially apply either to Anthropology or to YSE but not to both at the same time.  They should, however, as per the current Yale Graduate School application process, indicate their interest in the combined degree by marking the application form appropriately. Once accepted in the initially chosen doctoral program, the student’s file will be considered in the second program and a recommendation made on the combined degree application that will be communicated by the Graduate School.  Admitted students will be allocated to the initially chosen program as their primary administrative home but will enter Yale as members of the combined degree program. Being turned down for entry into the combined degree program at this point does not preclude re-application after arriving at Yale in the following Fall Semester. 
It is possible for a student who has entered Yale through either Anthropology or YSE as a Ph.D. student to then submit a petition to enter the combined degree program. A student interested in the combined degree may apply to the second program, after first securing the support of his/her prospective principal advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for either YSE or Anthropology, as appropriate.  In order to meet the demands of the combined degree in a timely manner, it is best if this second application is made as soon as possible in the student’s doctoral program and ideally no later than the last week in October during the first semester of graduate study at Yale and in no case later than the end of the first semester.  To help make this possible, such applications to the combined program will be reviewed on an ad hoc basis as they are submitted, without being held to the normal annual calendar for doctoral applications.  However, applications to the combined program should in content and all other respects follow the norms of the regular doctoral application (the sole difference being that the applicant should specifically address in the statement-of-purpose why he/she is interested in the combined program). The YSE doctoral admissions committee and the Anthropology faculty would review the application. In the latter case, the Departmental Graduate Registrar must receive the application at least one week before a regularly scheduled faculty meeting.  If admitted, the applicant will then submit the proposal (counter-signed by both DGSs) to, and meet with, the Associate Dean of the Graduate School (currently Richard Sleight), who will make the final decision regarding admission.  A positive decision by the Dean will constitute formal admission into the combined degree program.

Guidelines for Combined Ph.D. Program in Anthropology and the Environment

Combined degree students specializing in sociocultural anthropology are required to take the following courses in their first three semesters in the program.
  • The one-semester doctoral seminar at YSE (taken in year one).
  • YSE 520 (Society & Environment: Introduction to Theory and Method), YSE 535 (Social Science of Development & Conservation), and YSE 764 (Environment, Culture, Morality and Politics).
  • At least four courses from the five core courses including the four first-year theory courses and the second-year research design and methods courses (as specified in the Handbook for Graduate Students) in Anthropology. This selection should include at least three courses from the first-year course sequences and should be made in consultation with the program coordinators and the DGSs for YSE and Anthropology.
Combined degree students specializing in biological anthropology or archaeological studies are required to take the following courses in their first three semesters in the program.
  • The one-semester doctoral seminar at YSE (taken in year one)
  • Three (3) other appropriate YSE courses chosen by the student’s committee and approved by the co-coordinators of the combined program.
  • The prescribed core courses for biological anthropology and archaeological studies. The total number of such courses may be limited to four (4) with the approval of the student’s committee and the co-coordinators of the combined program
Students would be free to take more core Anthropology courses as electives if they so wished, or might have to do so if their committees thought they would benefit from additional core Anthropology training. Such elective work can be completed in the fourth and, in exceptional cases, in the fifth semester. Students entering the combined program with a prior Master’s degree may petition for course reductions (up to three courses for degrees received outside of Yale). In cases where equivalent graduate course work in theory or research design and methods can be demonstrated the corresponding requirement in Anthropology may be waived upon recommendation of the student’s advisory committee.

Requirements of the Combined Degree

The requirements of the combined doctoral degree are the same as those of the doctoral degrees of YSE and Anthropology (which are detailed in the bulletins of the respective institutions), with the following exceptions or clarifications.  First, the combined students are required, upon acceptance into the combined degree program, to draw up a program of coursework. The combined degree program requires doctoral students to take 12 units/courses which will be apportioned between Anthropology and YSE, and other university departments, based on consultations with the student’s committee. The 12 courses include one exam-oriented independent study, students are encouraged to take additional independent study courses (beyond the 12 courses) as needed and in consultation with committee/Co-Chairs. During their first three semesters in the program, combined degree students must take a) the one-semester doctoral seminar at YSE (taken in year one), and b) required coursework in Anthropology as outlined by each subfield for combined degree students. Please see above for coursework requirements for combined degree students.

The teaching fellow requirements of the combined program vary depending upon whether the combined student first entered into Anthropology or YSE.  Combined students receiving their stipends from Anthropology are expected to serve as Teaching Fellows (TFs) during their 3rd and 4th years of study and may also be TFs in the 6th year of study, contingent on availability of funds from the School and demand for TFs.  Some teaching may be deferred for student needing to perform fieldwork in their 3rd and/or 4th years.  They would also be eligible for a year of University Fellowship in support of writing, which may be held during the 5th or 6th year of study. All Anthropology students are, thereby, eligible for six years of funding. Those receiving their stipends from YSE are expected to serve as TFs for 2 semesters and research project/assistant(R.F.) for 2 semesters for a 4-year YSE stipend, and to serve as TFs for an additional 2-4 semesters (one of which must be at a level of 20 hours/week as opposed to the normal 10 hours/week) if they wish to receive a 5th and 6th year of stipend support for writing-up, contingent on availability of funds from the School and demand for TFs.  YSE does not guarantee a 6th year of support.  Winning external stipend and tuition support reduces these requirements commensurately. 

Doctoral Committee

Combined students will be assigned an advisor in both YSE and Anthropology upon admission to the combined program.  As soon as possible thereafter, but in no case later than the end of the 2nd semester, each student must constitute a formal doctoral committee.  The student’s principal advisors in YSE and Anthropology will serve as co-chairs of the committee.  The committee also should have one additional member drawn from each department. Further committee members, beyond the four specified here may be drawn from the rest of the university, or from beyond the university according to the student’s needs. If the student invites to his/her committee a member of the faculty jointly appointed between Anthropology and YSE, the student in consultation with co-Chairs can determine which department that faculty member would count for, so as to select a fourth committee member from the other department to maintain the committee composition specified.

Exams, Prospectus, Dissertation

The combined degree students will take their comprehensive exams during their 4th semester. This will be a written examination comprised of two parts. The first part of the examination will be taken over four or five hours on a single day. It will be based entirely on the core sequence of seminars taken in YSE and Anthropology. The second part of the examination will also be taken over four or five hours on the next day or within a week of the first part. It will be based on elective courses and bibliographies of anthropological and inter-disciplinary environmental studies research pertaining to the world area (for example sub-Saharan Africa, or Southeast Asia, or Latin America) that the student has chosen for conduct of dissertation field research. Both parts of the written examination will be taken starting in the last week of March and the examination will be written by the student’s committee which will include, only for the duration of the examinations, a representative of the Anthropology Department’s examination committee (which draws upon faculty teaching the core curriculum in that year). Both parts of the written examination will consist of 6-8 questions, of which 3-4 questions will have to be answered. These exams, if permitted by the student’s committee, may also be answered as a take home and submitted a week later. The entire committee will sit in an oral examination of the entire written exams within two weeks of the completion of all written examinations.  Remote participation by telephone conference call is permitted where necessary (i.e. for outside committee members who cannot attend in person).  The exam will consist of a brief presentation/overview by the student, followed by questioning by the committee.  There are only two possible exam outcomes: Pass, or Fail.  If a student fails, he/she is dismissed from the Graduate School.

All combined students must prepare a comprehensive dissertation prospectus, and field paper, in close consultation with their committee, and following current Anthropology and YSE guidelines.  The prospectus document is typically 1500-2000 words in length, and the field paper is 8,000-10,000 words long. These documents also form the basis for dissertation research grant proposals for Yale sources and external competitions. The student must defend this prospectus in a formal oral defense before the entire committee (and other interested faculty members).  The oral defense is held within the department that serves as the student’s administrative home. There are several possible outcomes to the defense: unconditional Pass, Pass conditional upon specified revisions to the prospectus, or Fail.  If the student fails the examination, the committee and DGSs will together prescribe the remedy, which may include scheduling a second defense.  If the student fails a second time they will be dismissed from the Graduate School.  A successful defense of this prospectus/field paper satisfies the oral defense required by YSE and the Department of Anthropology, and is required for admission to candidacy. A final version of this prospectus must be filed with the DGS by March 15th, and the student’s advisory committee’s endorsement of this document must be brought before the entire Anthropology faculty in its next meeting in April. Depending on their progress and readiness, combined degree students may complete these prospectus/field paper requirements in their fourth, fifth, or sixth semester of study. If it seems advisable this requirement may be fulfilled in the fifth semester and in that case the final prospectus would need to be filed with the DGS by November 15th.

The completed dissertation must be defended, following YSE guidelines, before a meeting of the entire committee (and other interested faculty members).  The defense will consist of a presentation/overview by the student, followed by questioning by the committee. There are three possible outcomes to the defense: unconditional Pass, Pass conditional upon specified revisions to the dissertation, or Fail.  In the event of failure, the committee and DGSs will together prescribe the remedy, which may include scheduling a second defense.  If the student fails a second time they will be dismissed from the Graduate School but may petition to be awarded a terminal Master’s degree.  Following a successful defense, three formal reader’s reports must then be prepared for presentation to the DGSs of Anthropology and YSE.  At least two of these must come from tenured Yale faculty, and at least one must come from the YSE faculty and at least one from the Anthropology faculty.  The readers must be recommended by the appropriate DGS and approved by the GSAS. 


Combined students will preferably schedule their comprehensive exams and prospectus defenses during the fourth and fifth semesters (and no later than the sixth), respectively.  Most students find it preferable to schedule the prospectus defense after the comprehensive exam.  Combined students should also write funding proposals during the 4th or 5th semesters (and intervening summer) so that they can depart for fieldwork after completing their exams and defenses.  Combined students typically employ the summers after the 2nd and 4th semesters for pre-dissertation fieldwork and/or language study (and/or, in the case of the second summer, proposal writing).  The principal period of fieldwork averages perhaps 18 months, but varies from 12 to 30.  Combined students receiving their stipends from YSE generally leave for the field after the 4th or 5th semesters, and those receiving their stipends from Anthropology after the 5th or 6th semesters.


The Ph.D. program to which the combined student first applied is entirely responsible for his or her stipend and tuition. Funding for summer fieldwork, language study, and attendance at professional meetings, and funding for the principal period of fieldwork, are available from a variety of sources.  Combined students are eligible for in-house grants from both Anthropology and YSE.  In the case of YSE, these include research grants from the Tropical Resource Institute, and conference travel grants from the Doctoral Program.  In the case of Anthropology, these include the Williams and Albers Funds for research and the Schwartz Fund for conference travel.  Combined students are also eligible for a wide range of intra-Yale grants for research and language study, including the Enders grant, and awards from the MacMillan Center, the various area studies councils, and a number of other topic-specific grants.  Five or six years of twelve-month support are available from the Graduate School or YSE to combined students, and fixed summer support grants  are available from YSE (for a maximum of two years) to those students who first applied to YSE and have not secured external support.

Combined students typically fund their summer pre-dissertation research and language study from Yale sources but fund most of their major period of fieldwork from sources outside Yale.  Combined students have been very successful winning awards for this purpose from Fulbright, Fulbright-Hays, and NSF, among other sources.  Students who first applied to YSE (but not Anthropology) and who win outside awards for their major period of fieldwork may (if they wish) go off stipend for the duration of the outside award and partly “bank” that stipend support for use as needed during the write-up period (see the YSE Doctoral Student handbook for further details).  Combined students who first applied to Anthropology are eligible for a stipend from the Graduate School to support them while writing up during the 5th year or 6th year.  Students who first applied to YSE are not eligible for this support from the Graduate School but are eligible for a 5th and 6th year of support from YSE on the condition of serving as T.F. (at some point during the 5 and 6th year) an additional 2-4 semesters, contingent on availability of funds from the School and demand for TFs.  Any additional work as a T.F. or R.F., done while the student is still on stipend and in order to supplement that stipend, is subject to Graduate School regulations.  Winning of outside awards that apply to stipend/living expenses also is subject to Graduate School regulations.

Combined Degree

The student who successfully completes the combined YSE/Anthropology program receives a combined doctoral degree in Anthropology and YSE, not two separate degrees. 

Further Information

Interested parties may contact the Program Coordinators, or the respective DGSs, as follows:

Michael R. Dove and K. Sivaramakrishnan
Coordinators, Combined YSE/Anthropology Ph.D. Program

Karen C. Seto
Director of Graduate Study, School of the Environment

David Watts

Director of Graduate Study, Anthropology Department

General Schedule

              To YSE OR Anthropology as primary home with Combined Degree option:          Year 0
               To other program (to which one did not initially apply), then
               To Associate Dean of the Graduate School:                                            Semester 1 of Year 1
       Form committee with co-chairs from Anthropology and YSE:                                   end of Year 1
       Comprehensive exam                                                                                                4th semester
       Prospectus writing, defense, and final submission                                           4th, 5th, or 6th semester
       Pre-dissertation fieldwork/language study:                                                summers after 1st & 2nd years
       Proposal writing for field funding:                                                         4th or 5th semesters & summers
       Anthropology: TF (unless in the field)                                                                           Years 3-4
       YSE: 2 semesters as TF and 2 semesters as RF                                                         Years 1-4
       YSE: 2-4 semesters as TF (for optional 5th-6th year funding)                                     Years 5-6
       Oral defense:                                                                                                               Years 5 or 6
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