Course of Study

Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs Ph.D. Program

The program places a heavy emphasis upon theory, research methods and literature, effective professional communications to both expert and lay audiences, and an interdisciplinary approach that accounts for all of the significant dimensions of the issues and problems in the field of urban studies and public affairs. The student’s understanding is informed by political theory and philosophy, economics, statistical and mathematical model building, research methods, concentration in an important substantive domain of public concern, as well as real-world knowledge of specific circumstances, cases, and issues. 

Areas of Specialization:

  • Urban Policy and Development
  • Public Administration
Educational Experience

Your doctoral education serves as an “apprenticeship” to provide you with the knowledge and experience that will enable you to move easily and confidently into advanced positions in the fields of urban studies, public administration, economic development, environmental policy and administration, and/or housing and neighborhood development. You will have opportunities to develop professionally and academically through coursework and a variety of classroom and research experiences. You will progress from basic prerequisite courses on public affairs, statistics, economics, geography, and public policy, to core courses on theory, epistemology, statistics, and research methods, and into specialization courses. Along the way you will gain both scholarly and practical experiences inside and outside the University that will provide you with valuable knowledge and insight into the field.

As a student in the program, you will be evaluated in classes and at the end of your coursework through a comprehensive examination in your specialization. The comprehensive examination will assess your progress and readiness for advancement to candidacy. Advancement to candidacy is the next step in the journey toward professional competence as a researcher and scholar, and occurs when you have met all of the coursework requirements and have passed the comprehensive exam. The next step is the dissertation, an original contribution to the theory, methods, and substance of knowledge in the area of your specialization. It builds on the best of what has been discovered and understood by scholars who came before, and it provides a foundation for further inquiry and additional understanding. It is in many respects the central element of your doctoral experience.

Dissertation Process

Receiving the Ph.D. in Urban Studies and Public Affairs is a privilege, not a right. Satisfactory progress in the program is not simply a matter of doing well in coursework. Perhaps the largest difference you will notice between your doctoral program and your previous academic work is the amount of time and energy you are expected to devote to study that is not associated with formal assignments.

As a quality doctoral program, the faculty’s objective is to contribute to expanding the knowledge base in the field. Hence, the development of your knowledge, skills and abilities to conduct inquiry and do research are of primary importance. Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the research projects of program faculty, staff, and other students by attending colloquia, brown-bag-lunch presentations, and other informal research reviews.

As your research interests crystallize, you should ask to participate in projects in which you bring not only substantive knowledge of specific and related topics but also a set of methodologically relevant analytical skills, and the flexibility to learn new ones. By the end of the second year in the program, doctoral students are also expected to author or co-author a manuscript for an appropriate journal or professional conference. The faculty believes that peer-reviewed published research is an important indicator of the student’s capabilities. Professionally refereed publications are a central part of a scholar’s curriculum vitae presented for advanced professional employment. Working with faculty is an important route toward published work.

See dissertation topics from previous Ph.D. candidates.