Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs


Professors: Ronald Briggs, Euel Elliott, L. Douglas Kiel, Murray Leaf, Larry Redlinger, Richard Scotch, Larry Terry, Douglas J.Watson
Associate Professors: Pamela Brandwein, Marie Chevrier, Simon Fass, Susan McElroy
Assistant Professors: Roxanne Ezzet-Lofstrom, Scott Robinson


The Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs degree is an interdisciplinary doctoral program that prepares graduates to assume either positions in academe, research producing organizations or positions of administrative authority in public (government, public school districts), quasi-public (healthcare, insurance), and nonprofit (providers, foundations) organizations. The degree combines innovative and traditional methods of educational delivery and emphasizes the integration and application of theory to practice. The guiding philosophy of the degree is that “public affairs” involves more than mere functional administration, policy implementation or quantitative policy analysis. Rather, doctoral education in public affairs requires an interface between the traditions of public management, decision science, and policy analysis and processes with a practical appreciation for the challenges of maintaining and building institutions of governance and a civic culture in a complex, democratic society.

The Ph.D. degree is nontraditional in that it requires all students to conduct applied, field-based research as the foundation for the production of their dissertations. Students will be required to engage in a genuine effort in a public, quasi-public or non-profit organization to improve organizational performance. Organizational performance can be improved in many ways consistent with enhancing institutions and civic culture. Examples of such field-based research efforts may include efforts to improve outreach to clientele groups or to develop new methods of interorganizational/intersectoral functioning. These efforts, performed under the guidance of a Economic, Political and Policy Sciences faculty member, will be theory-driven, produce evaluative data and analysis, and expand the body of relevant knowledge.

The PhD program in Public Affairs is a cohort program. The program requires 45 hours plus relevant doctoral dissertation hours. Well-prepared students (for example, those with a master’s degree in public administration, public affairs, public policy, business administration, health administration, or education administration) may be able to complete the course requirements and the dissertation within 3 years from their initial enrollment. Students in each cohort take 6 hours of classes each fall, spring and summer semester. This allows students to complete the core courses, electives and 9 hours within the analysis/research tools area in 7 consecutive semesters of enrollment. Students will generally start the production of the dissertation during the seventh semester of enrollment. Entering cohorts begin each fall semester. This approach produces shared experiences and progress through the program that enrich student learning and student research. Students admitted to the program, but lacking some pre-requisites, may take those classes in the spring or summer semester prior to starting with a fall cohort.

A unique set of courses is also presented in this program as a means of expediting student learning and information sharing during the dissertation phase. The goals of these courses are to foster a research environment that is practical and focused on real problems, to enhance student learning via the sharing of learning experiences, and to allow students the opportunity to learn from the experiences of seasoned actors in the field of public affairs. Prior to the dissertation students must complete courses in evaluation research and advanced research techniques.

The PhD program in Public Affairs also requires that students select professional specializations in either public management or non-profit management. These professional specializations allow those interested in working in the academy to develop a specialty to guide their research and teaching interests. Students focused on the practice of public affairs will choose a specialization based on their career interest in either public management or the non-profit arena.


Students have access to the computing facilities in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences and the University’s Computing Center. The School has two computing laboratories which house over 30 computers that are network linked and equipped with major social science software packages, including E-Views, R, RATS, SPSS, and STATA. A computerized geographic information system, the Lexis Nexis Database, and WestLaw are also available for student use. The University’s Computing Center provides personal computers and UNIX workstations.

Admission Procedures and Policies

Application Deadlines: The PhD program in Public Affairs is a cohort program allowing new groups of students to start each fall semester. Cohorts only start during fall semesters. Students intending to start with a fall cohort must submit their applications by July 1 of that year. Prospective students who do not hold a master’s degree in public affairs, public administration, public policy or a related field should apply by November 1 of the year prior to enrollment. This allows those students admitted to the program to complete pre-requisite courses in the spring or summer prior to joining a fall cohort. Students admitted to the program, but who do not hold one of the master’s degrees noted above, will generally be required to take master’s level courses in public management, basic statistics, financial management, budgeting or economics.

Application/Admission Requirements: Prospective students must complete the University’s graduate application form and arrange to have GRE scores and transcripts of all college coursework sent to UTD. A graduate GPA of 3.0 or better and a minimum combined math and verbal GRE score of 1000 are expected. Three letters of recommendation are also required. Applicants must submit a written statement that should, at a minimum, include: (1) the nature of the student’s current work situation and responsibilities; (2) responsibilities for large scale/strategic issues in their work environment; (3) the nature and frequency of interactions with organizational stakeholders; (4) the student’s current span of control in their work environment; and (5) their career goals upon completion of the Ph.D. All applicants must also submit a complete professional resume.

Graduate Assistantships: Students admitted to the program may receive teaching/research scholarships and/or assistantships. Prospective students interested in receiving the scholarship/assistantships must have submitted all application materials including an application form for a scholarship/assistantship by April 1 of the year they intend to start the program. Applications for the scholarships/assistantships may be obtained from the office of programs in public affairs. Offers of teaching/research scholarships and assistantships will be made by May 1 of the year of fall enrollment.

Ph.D. in Public Affairs

The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 45 hours of course work beyond the master’s degree. Students not holding a master’s degree in public affairs, public administration, public policy or other related field will be expected to complete additional course work. These courses will be determined by the program director. The curriculum consists of 27 hours of core coursework, 12 hours of analytical /research tool classes, and 6 hours of electives within the professional specialization. Students must also complete the doctoral dissertation.


Prior to enrolling in core classes in the PhD program students must show evidence of completing graduate level course work in general public management, basic statistics, financial management and budgeting and economics or public finance. Students admitted to the Ph.D. program without these requirements may complete relevant courses in the Masters of Public Affairs program at UTD prior to taking Ph.D. level courses.

Required Core Courses (27 hours)

The Program will consist of course work in four substantive knowledge areas. These areas are the public affairs core which includes topics of Governance: Leadership, Change and Conflict Resolution. The three remaining substantive knowledge areas are: Social Policy and Development, Decision Analysis and Decision Tools, Organizational Management and Analysis.

Analytical/Research Tools (12 hours)

Students must also complete a four-course sequence in research tools. One of these courses will be a Master’s level basic statistics course completed at UTD or in another Master’s level program. Students must complete both POEC 6352 – Evaluation Research Methods in the Economic, Political and Policy Sciences and PA 7390 – Advanced Research Techniques in Public Affairs with a grade of “B” or better in each class prior to the dissertation stage. During the dissertation phase students will complete the following courses: PA 8340 – Capstone Seminar for Leadership in Public Affairs and PA 8370 - Public Affairs Research Practicum. These courses are designed to provide students a means for engaging in field-based research and for sharing lessons learned during their research. During the dissertation research students must be enrolled in PA 8V98 - Dissertation.

Professional Specializations Electives (6 hours)

Students choose either the public management specialization or the nonprofit management specialization. Students must complete 6 hours of elective courses from their chosen professional specialization. A list of those courses is provided below. Some of these courses may be found in other graduate programs in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.

Total Mix of Class Hours 27 Required Core Courses 12 Analytical/Research Tools  6 Professional Specialization Electives 45 TOTAL

Program Course Work

The interdisciplinary foundation of the PhD in Public Affairs requires that students complete courses across the disciplines within the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. Several courses in the curriculum thus are from the other disciplines in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences such as: Political Economy and Public Policy (POEC), Political Science (PSC), and Sociology (SOC). Students thus should review the offerings of these other graduate programs for a full list of relevant Public Affairs program courses.

Required Core Courses: 27 hours

POEC 6326 Decision Tools
SOC 6340 Domestic Social Policy
PA 7305 Leadership of Public and Non-Profit Organizations
PA 7311 Models and Tools of Change Management
PA 7322 Negotiations for Effective Management
PA 7325 Survey of Public Affairs

PA 7332 Legal Environment of Public Affairs

PA 7336 Seminar in Financial Management

PA 7338 Seminar in Human Resources
PA 7375 Non-Profit Organizations: Theory and Practice

Analytical/Research Tools: 12 hours

POEC 6352 Evaluation Research Methods in the Economic, Political and Policy Sciences
PA 7390 Advanced Research Techniques in Public Affairs
PA 8340 Capstone Seminar for Leadership in Public Affairs
PA 8360 Public Affairs Research Practicum

Elective Classes: 6 hours from either professional specializations
Public Management

PA - 6320 Organizational Theory
PA 6325 - Decision Theory
PSCI 6336 - Bureaucracy and Public Policy
POEC 6341 - Urban Development
PA 6365 - Local Economic Development
PA 7343 - Human Resources Management
PSCI 7370 Decision Making, Complexity and Risk

Non-Profit Management

SOC 5371 Non-Profit Organizations
PA 7315 Fundraising and Media Relations
PA 7V62 Workshop: Non-Profit Organizations

Dissertation – Students will complete field-based research (PA 8V98 – Dissertation) as a foundation for the production of a dissertation. A faculty mentor will be assigned to each student to guide the research activity. Students must successfully submit a dissertation proposal abstract to the entire Public Affairs faculty for approval of their chosen topic. Students may take up to 18 hours of dissertation enrollment.