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Graduate School of Public and International Affairs—Doctor of Philosophy in Public and International Affairs

The doctoral program in public and international affairs at GSPIA has been training outstanding students for more than fifty years. GSPIA ranks tied for second—behind only the Maxwell School at Syracuse University—in the number of NASPAA (National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration) dissertation awards won by its doctoral students, and a GSPIA student also recently won the APPAM (Association for Public Policy and Management) dissertation award. Senior alumni of the program hold leadership positions in academia, government and international organizations throughout the United States and around the world. Over the past five years our doctoral graduates have received appointments at universities from coast to coast within the United States, at universities abroad from Korea and Singapore to the Netherlands and Lebanon, in government service from the U.S. Department of Defense to the Office of the President of the Republic in Mali, and in non-profit organizations from Pennsylvania to Morocco.

Our Doctor of Philosophy degree in public and international affairs emphasizes interdisciplinary research and applied analysis of public policy issues. Students acquire the skills, tools, and knowledge necessary to conduct research in highly competitive environments such as leading universities, government agencies and nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations. Graduates are prepared to teach, conduct research, or work in a policy environment.

Requirements for the PhD

The PhD program requires the completion of 72 credits of course work and 6 credits for the dissertation for a total of 78 credits. The curriculum for doctoral students is outlined as follows:


Doctoral Core Courses (see detail below) 
15 credits
  PIA 3000 - Quantitative Methods
  PIA 3004 - Research Design and Methodse & Public Policy
  PIA 3015 - Systems Theory & Methods
  PIA 3050 - Qualitative Research and Methods
  PIA 2025 or 2202 -Microeconomics I, II or Game Theory
Integrative Field Seminars 9 credits
  PIA 3395 - International Development
  PIA 3392 - International Affairs
  PIA 3394 Public Policy & Management
Fields of Specialization 18 credits
  International Development: DPES, HS and NGOCS
  Interanational Affairs: HS, IPE and SIS
  Public Policy  & Management: PRA, PNM and URA
Dissertation credits (see detail below)
_6 credits
Minimum Required Credits
78 credits


Students must complete 72 credits of course work, excluding the 6 dissertation credits, with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Students must meet this requirement in order to qualify for final approval of their comprehensive examinations. Students must take at least 36 credits of course work at the University while enrolled in the Doctoral Studies Programs. Students are required to maintain full-time status while completing the 72 credits of coursework.

PhD Navigation Guide

Year One

First Semester (August to December)


Students select mentors and hold Plan of Study Meeting


Students must select a mentor in each of their two selected subfields of specialization (e.g., DPES and

NGOCS). No later than two months into their first term of full time study, the student must meet with

mentors representing each of these two subfields to plan a course of study for their Ph.D. program.

Additionally, at this meeting, course credits accepted from previous graduate studies is discussed.


Students must select six (6) courses in two (2) subfields of specialization, either within one

chosen field or across two fields. For example, a student majoring in International Development might

choose two ID subfields (e.g. HS and NGOCS) or two subfields from separate majors (e.g. DPES and URA).

Note that the requirement of doctoral students to take all three integrative field seminars will ensure

that they are familiar enough with all fields to cross over subfields.



Fields of Specialization:


Field of International Development (ID)

Subfields of ID

o Development Policy & Environmental Sustainability (DPES)

o Human Security (HS)

o NonGovernmental Organizations & Civil Society (NGOCS)


Field of International Affairs (IA)

Subfields of IA

o Human Security (HS)

o International Political Economy (IPE)

o Security & Intelligence Studies (SIS)


Field of Public Policy & Management (PPM)

Subfields of PPM

o Policy Research & Analysis (PRA)

o Public & NonProfit Management (PNM)

o Urban & Regional Affairs (URA)



Year One

Second Semester (January to May)


Students can complete additional core courses, integrative field seminars and fields of specialization courses (completing 24 credits in year one)

Midterm Review Memo to be distributed following the second term of study


A Midterm Review Committee composed of faculty who teach doctoral core courses plus other relevant faculty members will review the student’s overall performance at the end of the first year of study. A memorandum containing the committee’s findings and recommendations will be issued to the students and their mentors. Upon receipt of the memo, the student will meet with their academic advisor to review the memo and to agree upon any necessary adjustments to the student’s original Plan of Study.


Students are required to meet with their faculty mentors at least once per year to assess

progress on coursework and milestones at the Annual Review Meeting


Year One

Summer Semester (May to August)


Students engage in directed readings, prepare for comprehensive exams, and explore possible research interests for dissertation


Year Two

First Semester (August to December)


Students take courses, in accordance with their Plan of Study

Students are encouraged to continue refining their research interests in preparation for their Dissertation


Year Two

Second Semester (January – April)


Students are encouraged to continue refining their research interests in preparation for their Dissertation


Year Two

Summer Semester (May to August)


Students engage in intensive preparation for comprehensive exams and submit the

Comprehensive Examination Application to Student Services

Students refine and focus their research questions for dissertation research


Year Three

First Semester (August to December)


Students can register for FTDK

Students sit for comprehensive exams (two weeks in September)


An inhouse exam will be given in two parts, both of which must be completed within a twoweek span.  Students must demonstrate mastery of two domains of knowledge. The format will vary slightly by domain. The exam will be given in early September following the second year of fulltime study.


Students select dissertation committee


The student must select a dissertation committee and submit the Dissertation Committee Approval

form to Student Services.


Students must prepare their dissertation proposal no later than two months following

successful completion of their comprehensive exams


Students must submit the dissertation proposal to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for Approval


Submit prior to the Dissertation Proposal meeting. If the dissertation proposal involves human subjects IRB approval is required. Download “Request for Determination that Planned Activity Does Not Involve Human Subjects Research” from Note: The Chair of your committee must also be certified by the IRB if your research involves human subjects.


Students schedule meeting to obtain approval of Dissertation Proposal from Doctoral



The student will submit the Announcement of Dissertation Proposal Meeting Form, available from the Office of Student Services, to the Doctoral Program Coordinator ten days prior to the proposal meeting.

The announcement will be sent to the faculty and graduate student email lists. Proposal defense

meetings are open to all faculty and students.


Once approval is granted, you have advanced to the status of PhD candidate. Submit completed and

signed Dissertation Proposal Form to the Office of Student Services.


Year Three

Second Semester (January to April)


Students can register for FTDK

Students engage in dissertation research

Students register for six credits of PIA 3099 Dissertation Research or FTDK


Year Four

First Semester (August to December)


Students engage in dissertation research

Students register for six credits of PIA 3099 Dissertation Research or FTDK

Schedule meeting with Dissertation Committee to review and comment on Policy Issue Area Paper (does not apply to students entering in fall 2009 or later)

Students Present final copy of Policy Issue Area Paper to Dissertation Committee prior to

scheduling defense


Submit signed approval of Policy Issue Area Requirement form to the Office of Student Services.


Year Four

Second Semester


Students register for six credits of PIA 3099 Dissertation Research or FTDK

Students apply for graduation

Students schedule the dissertation defense with their committee, and submit the


Announcement of Dissertation Defense Meeting Form to Student Services at least 3 weeks

prior to defense


In order to finish your studies within the timeframe of your funding, the dissertation must be defended no later than April of Year Four. However, the University’s statute of limitations for successful defense of the dissertation is 8 years from the date of matriculation.

Students submit an Electronic Dissertation (ETD)






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