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Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (Ph.D.)

Campus:  Virginia Tech Blacksburg Campus, Instructions: Residential/On Campus

Program Overview

The Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought is often referred to as ASPECT. We are a scholarly alliance among various departments and programs and reside in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Our students and faculty work closely with other colleges, centers, and academic units at Virginia Tech. Faculty members from multiple fields of study and disciplines are ongoing participants in our curricular programs, day-to-day governance, intellectual life, and student mentoring. 


Why choose this program?

  • We foster critical engagement between domains of inquiry in the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts. Our focus is interdisciplinary theoretical research.
  • ASPECT is an innovative interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech. Through its curriculum, research programs, pedagogical endeavors, and scholarly events, ASPECT brings together theoretical and empirical cross-disciplinary methodologies, concepts, salient issues, and analytical perspectives generated by ethical thought, cultural studies, political economy, social and political theory, intellectual history, critical world order studies, and aesthetics, performance arts and visual studies.
  • You'll conduct doctoral-level scholarly research and participate in graduate seminars, workshops, conferences, and lectures focusing on new and exciting theoretical and practical problems situated at the intersections of political theory, ethical philosophy, cultural studies, and intellectual history. 
  • The Ph.D. curriculum concentrates on methodological and theoretical issues, as well as  domains where social, political, ethical, and cultural thought are put to work in understanding social and individual transformations in contemporary and historical contexts. 
  • All classes are taught in small seminars and offer personal interaction with faculty and peers. 

What You'll Study

Course requirements for the Ph.D. can ordinarily be completed during two years of residency and entail successful completion of 42 credit hours, leading to the defense of a Ph.D. dissertation proposal and preliminary exams during the fourth semester. Thereafter, dissertation research will be undertaken under the supervision of a multidisciplinary advisory committee and remaining credits may be earned either by taking additional classroom courses or research and dissertation credits.
Students pursuing the ASPECT Ph.D. select a major and a minor concentration chosen from among four areas: 1) social thought, 2) political thought, 3) ethical thought, and 4) cultural thought. Additional ASPECT courses requirements offer education in interdisciplinary theory, methodology, and professional development.

You will complete 12 credit hours of core studies in interdisciplinary courses offered by alliance for social, political, ethical, and cultural thought including interdisciplinary frameworks and approaches in social, political, and ethical thought, interdisciplinary perspectives in methodology, and interdisciplinary frameworks in professional development. 

You will also study 6 credit hours of theory. Informed reflection on methodological issues spanning the social and human sciences and the arts is central to ASPECT Ph.D. research. 

ASPECT degree students will have the choice to select among the below concentration options and will complete 12 credit hours in major field and 9 credit hours in minor field of concentrations. Each category includes courses appropriate to a particular concentration. The courses are drawn from a variety of departments and disciplines so that each concentration can reflect the interdisciplinarity that is a hallmark of the ASPECT degree.

Pre-matriculation: Master’s degree required in a relevant field of study.

  • Year 1:
    Admission into ASPECT doctoral program.
    First year of coursework (includes core requirements and electives).
    Begin engagement with literatures and theoretical materials pertinent to dissertation project.
    Start to develop dissertation project and doctoral dissertation committee.
  • Year 2:
    Completion of coursework.
    Prepare for preliminary examination.
    Finalize dissertation committee.
    Work on dissertation proposal.
  • Year 3:
    Complete preliminary exams and dissertation proposal.
    Conduct research for dissertation and write dissertation chapters.
  • Year 4:
    Complete and defend doctoral dissertation.

Application Information

  • A master's degree with minimum GPA 3.5 (4 Scale)
  • Overall GPA 3.3 (4 Scale) in undergraduate education
  • GRE Required - the GRE requirement has been waived for the Fall 2024 application cycle. Applicants may upload scores to their application if they wish.
  • TOEFL /IELTS Required  (If Applicable)

Learn more 

Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, And Cultural Thought has a limited number of graduate assistantships and fellowships available for students applying for full time study on the Blacksburg Campus. Entering students can apply for such funding as part of their admissions application.  No separate application required.

Find out what loans are available as a graduate student and other opportunities.

Domestic Application

  • *Fall: February 1

International Application

  • *Fall: February 1

*ASPECT accepts applications ONLY for Fall terms. We do not accept students in Spring, Summer I or Summer II terms.

Brian Britt, Director (ASPECT)
 Professor of Religion and Culture
202A Major Williams Hall


Christine Labuski, Associate Director (ASPECT)
Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Society
202A Major Williams Hall

Tamara Sutphin, Program Support Technician
202 Major Williams (0192)


Brian Britt, Director (ASPECT)
Professor of Religion and Culture
202A Major Williams Hall

Christine Labuski, Associate Director (ASPECT)
Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Society
202A Major Williams Hall

  • SPECTRA is an online, double blind reviewed, refereed scholarly journal established as part of the ASPECT (Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought) program at Virginia Tech. The journal features work of an interdisciplinary nature and is designed to provide an academic forum to showcase research, explore controversial topics, and take intellectual risks. SPECTRA welcomes submissions for publication by way of articles, book reviews, interviews, and other works that operate within a problem centered, theory driven framework.