New York University’s XE: Experimental Humanities & Social Engagement offers an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies in a program that strives to integrate theory and practice, art and activism, the local and the international, the analogue and the digital, the creative and the academic. We welcome students whose work might not neatly fit within conventional disciplinary boundaries. Our course of study is uniquely flexible in allowing students to take up to half their classes across other departments at NYU and, by so doing, design a curriculum that synthesizes their intellectual, creative, and professional interests.
Our classes are innovative, intersectional, and interdisciplinary, and span a wide range of subjects: gender and sexuality studies, digital art, feminist science studies, theories of the everyday, multi-species art and ethnography, science fiction, animal studies, and interdisciplinary histories of photography, art, and print culture. Our faculty draws on the resources of the university and the city, introducing students to archives, galleries, readings, and screenings both on and off campus. Conversely, we ask students to bring their own curiosities and creative pursuits into dialogue with their intellectual work. Many of our students develop exhibitions, produce films, write books, experiment with digital media and incubate collaborative projects, all while refining their academic research and writing skills.
XE is one of the longest-standing interdisciplinary programs in the United States. We have a strong track record of sending students into doctoral programs, as well as launching students’ careers as journalists, editors, educators, arts and non-profit professionals, human rights consultants, and policy analysts in both the government and the private sectors. Fully supported by our faculty and staff, students at XE are given the freedom to pursue the kind of work that they find most meaningful and compelling.
What is XE and what kind of student is the program looking for?
XE is an excellent fit for students whose research interests are best explored at the intersection of academic disciplines, creative practice, and social action. XE students design their own curriculum and master’s project with strong advisement and support from our faculty. Beginning in 1976 and taking different forms over the intervening years, XE, housed in NYU’s flagship Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, is one of the longest standing interdisciplinary master’s programs in the country.
What do students do once they finish the XE degree?
Many of our alumni have continued their education in competitive doctoral programs, at NYU, Columbia, Brown, University of Chicago, and elsewhere across the country in diverse fields such as history, political science, anthropology, sociology, art history, and ethnomusicology. Others have launched or advanced successful careers as writers, editors, and cultural critics; arts organizers and administrators; elementary, high school, and college teachers; civic activists and human rights consultants; and policy analysts in government and in the private sector. Recent alumni now work at: the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Historical Society, Random House, Memorial Sloane Kettering, Global Prep Academy, Saatchi & Saatchi, the NYC Department of Education, and the Museum of Natural History. An XE education provides graduates with the platform for a wide range of opportunities.
As one XE student remarked, “Most people are intrigued by the connection of Experimental Humanities and Social Engagement. For me this has opened more doors than an explicit degree as it has given me the chance to speak more about my knowledge, skills, and abilities, rather than being ‘pigeon-holed’ into a specific category.”
What is the XE curriculum?
XE offers courses that integrate innovative scholarship with creative practice and social engagement. Our one core required course is "Interdisciplinarity" and the rest of XE's courses consist of small seminars on topics such as: critical theory, histories and practices of art and media, science and technology studies, digital humanities, ecospheric studies, art and activism, gender and sexuality studies, creative writing, and international human rights.
Half of an XE student’s courses can be taken at programs and departments across New York University, allowing students to devise the course of study that best suits their interests and to build relationships with faculty across the university. Students may also pursue internships for credit that align with their research interests. Recent internships have included: The Open Society Foundation, the United Nations, Chromatic PR & Management, and Ugly Duckling Presse.
How flexible is the XE degree program?
XE offers unparalleled flexibility to students to construct their own degrees. Half of a XE student’s courses can be taken at programs and departments across New York University. We offer sustained mentorship and advisement to help students pursue their academic goals Students are also provided freedom in choosing the topic and form of their master’s project. They can choose to produce an academic research project or to develop books, films, digital projects, and other forms of scholarship.
Who teaches in XE?
XE faculty are leaders in their fields with a deep commitment to scholarship, social engagement, and public intellectual work. Faculty work closely with students to help them articulate areas of interest, to improve research, communication, and presentation skills, and guide them through coursework and their final project. You can view all current faculty biographies here.
How does advising work?
After students are admitted to the program, we meet with them to help set up their courses. After that initial meeting, students are assigned a faculty advisor from our core XE faculty who they will meet with in advance of each semester to discuss their course selection and any other academic concerns they may have. All faculty are open to meeting with students and discussing their research outside of advising. We also offer additional support for students applying to PhDs and internships. Students select their own Master’s Project advisor who may be from XE or elsewhere at NYU.
How many students are in a typical cohort?
We have approximately 35 students per cohort. We value self-directed students, who are passionate about a specific set of research questions and who want to actively participate in our community. We pride ourselves on having a diverse and engaged student population, whose profiles you can view here.
What is student life like at XE?
Students benefit from a small, vibrant community within a large research university located in New York City. XE hosts a roster of public programs every semester by guest lecturers and artists. Students host regular events as well as oversee a long-established, peer-reviewed student journal to showcase creative and critical work. The Master’s College offers additional social and professional support for students.
What's the most rewarding part of being a a student at XE?
One XE student, Patrick Bond, responded “The most rewarding part of being a student at XE is being able to form close relationships with professors. Within my own work inside (and outside) of the department, the relationships with other scholars have inspired my own interdisciplinary research in ways that I did not previously expect.” Another, Jayati Narain, says “For me the flexibility of the program is one of the best aspects, and being part of group of people who are all working on interdisciplinary projects with whom to discuss various methods and ideas.”
When may I start my studies?
Students are admitted to XE in the fall and spring. The deadline for fall admission is April 1 (priority) and June 1 (final; applications are accepted on a rolling basis until August 1); for spring admission, November 1 (applications are accepted on a rolling basis until December 1).
How long does it take to complete the XE master's degree?
Students may study full-time or part-time. The average time to degree is about two years, but the Graduate School allows up to five years from the first semester of enrollment. Students work closely with their advisors to determine their course load and the duration of study that best suits their schedules and projects.
Is there funding and how much does the XE master's degree cost?
The Graduate School offers XE Students a Draper Scholarship, which reduces tuition by 30 percent. It will be applied to coursework that meets the program's requirements and is taken within the first six semesters of enrollment, including summers. Please note that this financial aid award is for tuition points only; it does not include registration fees or health insurance.
XE's tuition is determined by the Graduate School of Arts & Science, and is based on the number of points a student takes each semester. Details of the GSAS tuition rate can be found here.
Is there financial aid? Are there teaching or research assistantships?
XE-specific aid is offered in the form of the tuition scholarship described above. Teaching and research assistantships are not available through the program, although students are welcome to pursue opportunities that arise throughout the university.
Students who obtain awards from recognized funding sources outside of NYU (e.g., foundations, private institutions, government agencies) can apply for additional awards toward tuition through the Graduate School's Tuition Incentive Program (TIP). Details about TIP eligibility criteria can be found here.