Program in Documentary Studies


Gerald Zahavi, Ph.D., Syracuse University. Professor (History, Documentary Studies)

Robert Gluck, M.H.L., M.S.W., M.F.A. (Music), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Daniel S. Goodwin, M.F.A. (Art), Hunter College

Associate Professors 
Sheila Curran Bernard, M.F.A., (History, Documentary Studies), Goddard College
Adam Frelin, M.F.A. (Art), University of California, San Diego 

Visiting Assistant Professor
William Husson, Ph.D. (Communication), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Faculty Adjuncts           
Paul A. Miller, M.A. (Senior Director of Advancement Communications at University at Albany)
Shira Segal, Ph.D., Indiana University (Director of Film Studies)
Katherine Van Acker, B.S. (Journalism), School of Film and Photography, Montana State University  


The Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a faculty-initiated concentration in Documentary Studies offers students an opportunity to explore diverse approaches to documentary work in video/film, radio, hypermedia/multimedia, photography, and nonfiction writing and print journalism. The curriculum combines a solid grounding in the academic and theoretical literature of documentary media with intensive research and fieldwork, arming students not only with production skills but also the ability to critically analyze media in terms of both content and craft. The minor in Documentary Studies permits interested students to combine a course of study in a traditional major in the sciences, social sciences, or humanities with a sub-concentration in documentary studies. The Honors curriculum allows students to take on a program that is especially intellectually rigorous and that yields a final project more substantial than that required of non-Honors students.

Careers for Majors

An understanding of documentary media in its many forms prepares students to more effectively engage in the media-infused global marketplace as citizens, consumers, educators, scholars, and practitioners. The Documentary Studies concentration prepares students for employment in fields that require research and writing skills, including historical and archival research; the ability to analyze, critique, and produce visual and aural communications, such as for entertainment, education, or advocacy; and a broad understanding of fact-based communication that can be applied in a range of corporate, educational, service, or government settings. The curriculum also prepares students for advanced study in journalism, history, media production, global studies, and education.

Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a faculty-initiated concentration in Documentary Studies

General Program B.A.: A minimum of 36 credits, distributed in the following way:

Required Core Course
A DOC 251 (= A HIS 251) Introduction to Documentary Studies (3 credits).

Core Theory & History Courses
Two courses, chosen from the following (6 credits). Most of the courses listed below are offered every year.
A DOC 224 (= A HIS 224) Nonfiction Media Storytelling
A DOC 335 (= A HIS 335)  History and Theory of the Documentary Film
A DOC 468 (= A JRL 468) Literary Journalism 
A ARH 265 History of Photography
A ARH 266 Photography 1970 to the Present
A ARH 368 The Documentary Film
A COM 370 Theories of Mass Media
A COM 374 Radio and the Public Imagination
A COM 386/386Z Persuasion and Film
A JRL 420 Media in the Digital Age

Documentary Studies Fieldwork Seminar
(4 credits. Honors students should also enroll in A DOC 451 for an extra credit.)
A DOC 450 Documentary Studies Seminar and Fieldwork Practicum
A DOC 451 Honors Section for Documentary Studies Seminar and Fieldwork Practicum

Skills Courses
(4 courses, a minimum of 12 credits.)
A ART 344 Intermediate Photography and Digital Imaging (A ART 244 is a prerequisite)
A ART 350  Intermediate Digital Imaging  (A ART 250 is a prerequisite)
A ART 444 Advanced Photography and Digital Imaging (A ART 344 is a prerequisite)
A ART 450 Advanced Digital Imaging (A ART 350 is a prerequisite)
A ART 447 Advanced Film Production (A ART 250 is a prerequisite)
A COM 430 Communication on the Internet
A DOC 308Z (= A JRL 308Z) Narrative Journalism 
A DOC 323 (= A HIS 334) Foundations of Documentary Filmmaking
A DOC 324 (= A JRL 324) Introduction to Documentary Photography
A DOC 330 (= A HIS 330) Foundations of Documentary Web/Hypermedia Production
A DOC 380 (= A JRL 380) Photojournalism
A DOC 394 (= A HIS 394) Workshop in Oral History
A DOC 404 (= A HIS 404)  Readings and Practicum in Aural History and Audio Documentary Production
A DOC 406 (= A HIS 406) Practicum in Historical Documentary Filmmaking
A DOC 407 (= A HIS 407)  Readings and Practicum in Digital History and Hypermedia
A DOC 412Z Readings and Practicum in Nonfiction Media Storytelling
A DOC 442 (= A JRL 442 & A WSS 442) Transmedia Storytelling
A JRL 385Y Broadcast Journalism
A JRL 390 Digital Media Workshop I: Web Publishing
A JRL 392 Digital Media Workshop II: Desk-Top Publishing
A JRL 490Z  Digital Publication
A MUS 426 (= A ART 426 & A THR 426) Music Composition in Electronic Media I (A MUS 100 is a prerequisite)
A MUS 428 (= A ART 428 & A THR 428) Sound Design and Multimedia (A MUS 426 is a prerequisite)

The remainder of the required 36 credits may be fulfilled by taking any of the below courses. Also, any course which appears above, under “Core Theory & History” or “Skills” courses, and is not be listed below, may also be taken as an elective if not used to fulfill any other of the Program’s major or minor requirements.

Topics Courses (when content is relevant and approved by the Director or Associate Director of the Documentary Studies Program)
A ART 446 Topics in Photography
A COM 378 Studies in Public Persuasion
A COM 465 Studies in Communication Theory
A DOC 390 Topics in Documentary Studies
A JRL 475/475Z Topics in Journalism

A ART 244 Beginning Photography and Digital Imaging
A ART 250 Introduction to Digital Imaging
A ART 281 (= A ARH 268) History and Practice of Video Art II
A ART 346 Introductory Film Production
A ART 348 Color Photography    

Art History:
A ARH 261 Independent Cinema 

A COM 238 Introduction to Mass Communication
A COM 370 Theories of Mass Media   

Documentary Studies/History:
A DOC 224 (= A HIS 224) Nonfiction Media Storytelling
A DOC 476 (A ANT 476) Anthropology through Documentary Film
A DOC 499 Special Projects and Internships in Documentary Studies

A DOC 225 (= A JRL 225) Media Law and Ethics
A DOC 308Z (= A JRL 308Z) Narrative Journalism
A DOC 363 (= A JRL 363) Visual Culture
A DOC 380 (= A JRL 380) Photojournalism
A DOC 468 (= A JRL 468) Literary Journalism
A JRL 230 The Mass Media and War in U.S. History
A JRL 340 Global Perspectives on the News
A JRL 385/385Y Broadcast Journalism
A JRL 390 Digital Media Workshop I: Web Publishing
A JRL 392 Digital Media Workshop II: Desk-Top Publishing
A JRL 490Z Digital Publication

A MUS 295 Audio Recording Fundamentals
A MUS 325 Analog and Digital: The Culture of Electronic Musical Composition

Additional courses offered intermittently may be very appropriate for documentary work and will be counted towards the major or minor if so determined by the Director or Associate Director of the Documentary Studies Program.

Supporting Topical Academic Courses

Students are strongly encouraged to select minors and supplementary courses supportive of their topical or subject areas of documentary interest. Those students who are attracted to international documentary work should consider history, foreign language, anthropology, globalization, political science, and sociology courses. Those interested in science and technology as a subject area of future documentary work should take science and technology courses supportive of this concentration. Those drawn to biography and humanities topics should look at the offerings of the English and History departments. All students should discuss their topical interests with their advisers and build a substantive base in one or more disciplines.

Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a faculty-initiated concentration in Documentary Studies - Honors Curriculum

The Honors Curriculum allows students to take on a program that is especially rigorous and that yields a final project more substantial than that required of non-Honors students. Special 1-credit supplementary sections provide students in the Honors Program with deeper, broader, and more challenging opportunities to probe the diverse approaches to documentary production—in this country and abroad. They encourage a high level of student-faculty interaction and the cultivation of an honors community.

Students in the Honors Program are required to complete a minimum of 40 credits, meeting the core 36-credit course distribution requirements of the major, plus an additional 4 credits satisfied in the following manner:

A DOC 451 (for 1 credit);

THREE (3) A DOC 400 1-credit tutorials (A DOC 400 may be repeated for credit). A DOC 400 is designed to supplement 300-level and above courses outlined under Documentary Studies “Core Theory & History” or “Electives” courses (listed earlier), and provides Honors students with opportunities for more advanced and challenging work in these courses. The tutorial will permit Honors students to work one-on-one with their instructors and will normally include extra reading, writing, and project assignments.

Maintenance of a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.25. For graduation with an “Honors in Documentary Studies,” students must also have achieved a grade point average of 3.50 or above in the major.

All students enrolled in the Honors Program will take (in addition to the required A DOC 251 and A DOC 450) A DOC 451, Honors Section for Documentary Studies Seminar and Fieldwork Practicum (1 credit). Students in the Honors Curriculum in Documentary Studies will be expected to produce a more substantial final project in A DOC 450 than non-Honors students enrolled in that course. A DOC 451, the supplementary 1-credit course paralleling A DOC 450, will provide them with the opportunity and guidance to expand their projects accordingly.

Honors students must present their final projects at a public seminar.

Honors Curriculum Admission
Majors should discuss admission to the Honors Curriculum with the Documentary Studies Director at any time during their first or second year or at the beginning of their third year. Transfer students should apply upon their admission to the University. The requirements for admission include:

Overall cumulative grade point average of 3.25;

Completion of at least 12 credits required for the Documentary Studies major;

A grade point average of 3.50 in courses required for the Documentary Studies major.

The Director of the major in Interdisciplinary Studies with a faculty-initiated concentration in Documentary Studies and of the Documentary Studies minor is the initial and primary adviser for enrolled students. The Director will help students identify faculty members in the participating departments closest to their documentary area(s) of interest for more intensive and focused advisement.