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Graduate Program

About Our Graduate Program

The graduate program of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese offers course work and research supervision in all areas of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian literature, with related courses in linguistics, film and cultural studies, and theory. The department has close ties to a number of departments, as well as the Center for Latin American Studies, the program in Women's and Gender Studies, the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, the Center for Second Language Studies, the Center for Teaching, and the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA). The graduate faculty has a strong tradition of scholarly research and was ranked as the most productive in the country in 2007 by the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index.

Graduate Certificate in Second Language Studies is available for students interested in second language acquisition and language pedagogy.

The program accepts only students intending to pursue a doctorate. Two Ph.D. degrees are offered: Spanish and a combined degree in Spanish and Portuguese. In the course of doctoral studies, all students will earn an M.A. from Vanderbilt, either in Spanish or in Spanish and Portuguese, regardless of other M.A. degrees earned elsewhere.

The Ph.D. in Spanish requires 63 hours of course work, which includes the 30 hours of the M.A. in Spanish and 9 hours for a minor, normally Portuguese, an M.A. thesis, a Comprehensive Examination, a Qualifying Examination, and a dissertation. An interdisciplinary certificate program in Latino and Latina Studies, Latin American Studies or another approved program of courses from one or more departments may be used in lieu of a traditional minor. Candidates must demonstrate knowledge of Portuguese by taking a graduate level class. (Another language may be approved by the DGS on a case-by-case basis.)

The combined Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese requires 66 hours of course work, which includes the 30 hours of the M.A. in Spanish and Portuguese, at least 15 further hours of course work in each of the two areas, an M.A. thesis, a Comprehensive Examination, a Qualifying Examination, and a dissertation. No minor is necessary. Near native proficiency in both Spanish and Portuguese is required of all students enrolled in the combined program. There is no additional language requirement.

Quick Facts about the Ph.D. Program

  • A better than 2:1 student-faculty ratio with a superb research faculty.
  • A flexible curriculum tailored to each student's interests and background.
  • Opportunities for interdisciplinary work, including Graduate Certificates in Latin American and Iberian Studies and in Gender Studies.
  • A comprehensive system of mentoring and advising from the first day through the search for academic employment.
  • A strong placement record.
  • The Department of Spanish and Portuguese sponsors guest speakers, conferences, colloquia, film series, and an e-journal. The faculty takes great pride in their efforts to create a rigorous and nurturing educational experience for their graduate students.

Financial Support

  • A full, five-year funding package for every Ph.D. student. Graduate students admitted with assistantships are granted tuition remission, health insurance benefits, and an annual stipend.
  • For 2019-20, the standard 12-month graduate student stipend will be $25,000.
  • A standard teaching load of one course per semester.
  • Exemption from teaching duties in the first year of study for students accepted with fewer than 18 credits of graduate work.
  • Numerous topping-up awards (supplements to standard annual stipend for the most highly qualified candidates):
    University Graduate Fellowships: up to $10,000
    Harold Stirling Vanderbilt Scholarships: up to $6,000
    Provost's Graduate Fellowships: up to $10,000
  • Robert Penn Warren Center Graduate Student Fellowship: A service-free fifth year with a stipend of $26,500 and a research budget of $2,000.
  • Center for Teaching Graduate Teaching Fellows: Work with the CFT in lieu of TAship. Stipend of $26,000. 
  • Summer and Travel Awards from the Center for Latin American Studies
    FLAS Summer Awards to study Portuguese, Quechua or other indigenous languages (tuition up to $5,000 and a $2,500 stipend)
    Simon Collier Travel Award for research in Latin America, especially Argentina and Chile ($500 to $2,000)
    Tinker Field Research Grant to support summer travel expenses related to field research in Latin America or Iberia ($2,000).
  • Arts and Science Summer Research Awards: Grants of up to $3,000.
  • Other awards from Centers on campus:
    HASTAC Scholarships: A $500 Digital Humanities stipend opportunity.
    Institute for Digital Learning Graduate Fellows program: Year-long stipend of $5,500.
    Library Fellows Program: 20 hours per week on library collection projects
    Center for Second Language Studies Graduate Student Affiliate: 6-7 hours per week
  • Generous conference travel funding: up to a total of three $500 grants for domestic or international travel.

NOTE for Travel Grants:

Travel form

After completing at least one academic year at Vanderbilt, students may apply for a travel grant from the Graduate School for up to $500 per budget year (July 1-June 30) for domestic or international travel. Students are allowed a total of three travel grants during their entire tenure at Vanderbilt. Complete details are on the application form: 2019-20 Application. This form must be completed and signed by the chair of the department and/or Director of Graduate Students and turned into the graduate school (117 Alumni Hall).


After the completion of the trip the student is responsible for processing the expenses report in the ORACLE Cloud which can be found on Vanderbilt's SkyVU website .  All original receipts must be converted to PDFs, saved to your personal files and uploaded into this expense report for the reimbursement.


*Please keep in mind that in order to purchase airline tickets, expected to reimbursed by Vanderbilt, it MUST be done through Concur only AFTER the application has been approved by the Graduate School. Concur can be found at the following page: SkyVU website . Otherwise you will not be reimbursed.