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Undergraduate Major

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The Cornell Department of Performing and Media Arts does not interview, audition, nor review portfolios for prospective undergraduate students. However, department faculty and staff are happy to speak with you about our program. To contact our department, please call 607-254-2700.  To schedule a tour of the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, please contact the Events Coordinator.

For admissions inquiries, please contact:

Undergraduate Admissions Office, 410 Thurston Avenue, Ithaca, NY 14850-2488; (607) 255-5241; email:; or visit their website.

Learning Goals

Through their involvements in PMA, students will develop the following:

  • The capacity to engage aesthetic categories and develop language for critical discussion
  • Creative and critical skills in performance and media
  • Understanding by study and through experience the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of creative work
  • Understanding how creative work is made
  • A deepened historical knowledge of inter-cultural traditions on a global scale

Major Requirements

As a PMA major, you will take courses in four rubric areas: Creative Authorship, Design, Embodied Performance and History/Theory/Criticism (see further descriptions below).  You will also specialize by pursuing a sequence of courses in the rubric area of primary interest to you. Production laboratories provide practical experience building, running and managing theatre productions, dance concerts and film shoots. Across these courses and labs, our majors benefit from the synergies between the study and practice of dance and movement, live theatre and media arts.

To be admitted to the major, you must first complete one course in the department (or equivalent for transfer students), excluding first-year writing seminars and laboratory classes, and receive a grade of B or above.  This course will count toward the requirements for the major.

To complete the major, you must take:

  1. A two-semester sequence of courses in the history of live performance (PMA 3750 - Global Stages I-PMA 3751 - Global Stages II) , the history of media (PMA 3550 - Global Cinema I-PMA 3551 - Global Cinema II) or the history of movement-based practices (PMA 3226- Global Dance I, PMA 3227 – Global Dance II).  In close consultation with their departmental advisers, students may receive permission and approval to make a two-semester sequence across these three areas of historical investigation.
  2. Six courses, of three or four credits each, including three courses in a departmental sequence
  3. At least one course in each of the rubrics not covered in the departmental sequence above
  4. PMA 4000 - Senior Studio 
  5. A minimum of two out of four different production laboratories (PMA 1410, 1610, 2510, or 2610), one of which must be PMA 2610 – Production Crew Laboratory and totaling three credits, or at least three credits of PMA 2611.  Production labs cannot be used to fulfill requirements (2) or (6).
  6. One elective course of at least three credits

Students must pass all courses used to fulfill the performing and media arts major with a letter grade of at least a B-. No S-U grades accepted unless there is no letter grade option.

To summarize, a total of 10 performing and media arts (PMA) courses and 2 laboratory courses are required to complete the major.

We also welcome students interested in a double-major within the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Students interested in the major should consult with J. Ellen Gainor, Director of Undergraduate Studies, at

Please note that we are not able to process major declarations during the pre-enrollment periods.


History/Theory/Criticism: In these courses, students develop the critical skills integral to studying global histories of cinema, dance, dramatic literature, expressive behavior, theatre and related forms of live and mediated performance. While attending to these histories and engaging in aesthetic reflection, students also learn about various theories of performance and media and about recent methodological approaches to the study of performance and media.

Creative Authorship: In these courses, participants develop the creative and technical skills needed to produce time-based artwork. Areas of exploration include directing for stage and screen, choreography for stage and screen, cinematography in film and digital video, sound production, gallery installation work and dramatic writing for stage, screen and related media. Courses emphasize creative authorship as a powerful mode of individual expression and as a foundation for creative collaboration.

Design: In these courses, focusing on costume, lighting, scenery and sound, students develop the imaginative and technical skills needed to realize ideas in a particular, concrete medium. Students learn the ways in which design provides a means of organizing spatial, visual and auditory information into compositions that are artistically and conceptually rigorous.

Embodied Performance: In these courses, predominantly in the areas of acting, voice & speech, and dance technique, students develop skills and learn methods for stage and screen performance.  
Rubrics Key:  In the Courses of Study, PMA rubrics will be identified as follows:  History/Theory/Criticism = HTC, Creative Authorship = AU, Design = DE, Embodied Performance = EP, Production Laboratory = PL. Courses that satisfy the gateway requirement are indicated by GA.

Learning Outcomes

We define our overall learning objectives in the following way:

  • The capacity to engage aesthetic categories and develop language for critical discussion
  • A deepened historical knowledge of intercultural traditions on a global scale
  • Creative and performance skills in theatre, film/media, and dance
  • Understanding by study and through experience the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of creative work
  • Understanding how art is made

Senior Studio

In the fall of the senior year, all majors synthesize four years of study in an intellectual and artistic project developed with the faculty. In the creation of this project, conceived for presentation to the public in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, students integrate the major's four rubrics.  As a crucible for collaboration, the senior studio may emphasize an area of study, a period, a text or a theme.

PMA Honors

Individual honors projects are distinct from the Senior Studio. Students who have maintained a GPA of 3.5 in the major and an average of 3.0 in all courses may elect to work for honors.  Honors projects are possible across the spectrum of creative and analytical work. Projects in performance, film/media production and design also require a written analytical component related to the creative work. More information on PMA honors is here.

Double Majors

Many students choose to double major within the College of Arts and Sciences. They can fulfill their love of dance, media, film studies, creativity or movement while also studying majors such as government or biology! Our Performing and Media Arts major offers a flexible array of courses, so students can easily adapt them into their schedules.

For more information on ways to double major, contact Donna Miller, our PMA Undergraduate Coordinator.

Information for Prospective Students

Visit the Prospective Students section for helpful information as you explore Cornell for your undergraduate education. You can also browse our Frequently Asked Questions.

Information for Transfer Students about Majors

If you are a declared PMA major, or a matriculated Cornell student intending to declare the PMA major, we will consider granting credit for courses taken elsewhere (e.g., through summer study at a peer institution, through Study Abroad, through prior college enrollment, etc.) to fulfill PMA major requirements. PMA majors or prospective majors are strongly encouraged to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in PMA prior to Study Abroad or summer study elsewhere to discuss your program of study and the potential for courses to count toward PMA major requirements. Students should not assume that credit will automatically be granted toward the PMA major for work completed elsewhere, and requests for transfer credit are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

In order to consider granting transfer credit, we will need your transcript from the other institution and the full syllabus for the course(s) to be reviewed. Credit toward major requirements can only be granted for courses that are comparable (in content, scope, credit level, etc.) to PMA required classes. Please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies to arrange for the review of these materials.

Please note that no transfer credit will be granted toward PMA 2800: Introduction to Acting, or for the Production Laboratory requirement.

See more information for transfer students.