Effective Fall 2023, the Social Foundations of Education specialization has suspended admission. 

Specialization Overview

The PhD specialization in Social Foundations of Education provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the social forces that affect urban schools and communities. This program is designed for individuals who want to look deeply at the challenges facing urban areas in the 21st Century and are willing to explore creative solutions. Students in Social Foundations examine the sociological, historical, philosophical, anthropological, and political dimensions of schools and community change. Social foundations doctoral students may investigate issues and contexts grounded in the core disciplines of the social sciences.

Degree Overview

The School of Education offers an interdepartmental program of study leading to the PhD. Students must choose a specialization in either Adult, Continuing, and Higher Education Leadership, Art Education, Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Administration, Exceptional Education, Mathematics Education, Multicultural Studies, or Social Foundations of Education.

The program is designed to permit students to integrate their particular curricular areas of interest and specialization with a broader field of education, including urban education. Each specialization, with the exception of Multicultural Studies, is departmentally focused, and students must satisfy the admissions and curriculum requirements indicated for their particular specialization. Recognition of the specialization is acknowledged by official designation on the student’s transcript.

Each of the specializations offers the doctoral student an opportunity to pursue study in a specific program area. For example, Adult, Continuing, and Higher Education Leadership emphasizes governance and leadership issues within urban adult education organizations. Educational Administration explores governance and Leadership issues of urban schools. Curriculum and Instruction provides program emphasis in a content area (e.g., reading), education level (e.g., early childhood), a general area (e.g., curriculum theory) or special area (e.g., guiding instructional improvement). Exceptional Education provides program emphasis in departmental interest areas (e.g., handicapping condition), or a cross-disciplinary interest.

A separate PhD with specialization in Counseling Psychology, Learning and Development, Research Methodology, and School Psychology is offered through the Department of Educational Psychology. Multicultural Studies is a cross-department program allowing students to develop their own area of focus in collaboration with faculty in multicultural urban education. The Social Foundations of Education specialization provides students with the conceptual tools with which to examine the complex interrelationships between school and society, education and culture.

All graduates should have a broad understanding of the issues, problems and trends related to education, including urban education, and the application of these to their major.

The program requires each participant to develop research skills ranging from logic in inquiry to development of specific methodological skills in qualitative and quantitative methods. The PhD is a research degree and not only a professional preparation degree. Therefore research is an integral part of the program. Mastery of these skills is demonstrated through coursework, research projects and the dissertation. Graduates apply their skills, in institutions of higher education, public or private school settings, federal, state, or local governmental agencies, community organizations, and the private sector.

Cooperating Departments

  • Administrative Leadership
  • Educational Policy and Community Studies
  • Educational Psychology
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Information Studies (School of)

Admission Requirements 

Effective Fall 2023, the Social Foundations of Education specialization has suspended admission. 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


An applicant must meet Graduate School requirements plus the following program requirements to be considered for admission.

Graduate Record Examination

GRE scores are not required for admission to program.

Grade Point Average

Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 2.75. 

Check with specializations that might have additional requirements.

Writing Sample

Applicants must submit a writing sample completed within the last five years. The writing sample must be single authored, at least 1500 words, and must be selected from one of the following options:

  1. Master’s Thesis
  2. Undergraduate Senior Thesis
  3. Technical Report
  4. Term Paper
  5. Publication
  6. Written Description of a Project
  7. Action Research Project
  8. Writing sample or written response showing evidence of analytical and argumentative writing and reasoning. The response should address the following: How would you conceptualize and analyze issues in urban education? The response to this question must show evidence of appropriate references to a knowledge base.

The writing sample must be submitted with the application.

Reasons Statement

A Reasons Statement is used to determine the appropriateness of your educational and professional goals and serves as an example of your ability to express yourself in writing. In the statement:

  • Explain your reasons for pursuing graduate study.
  • Describe specific interests and your background in the field.
  • List any relevant skills or training you have acquired.
  • List relevant academic awards or honors you have received.

Curriculum Vitae/Resume

All UEDP applicants are required to submit a current Curriculum Vitae/Resume.


The program requires 3 letters of recommendation. These letters must be submitted through the application’s electronic recommendation feature by the recommenders themselves. Letters uploaded or sent by the applicant will not be accepted. If possible, please provide your recommenders with a summary of your application materials. Feel free to encourage your recommenders to provide illustrations linking your experiences and abilities with the aims of the doctoral specialization.  


Applicants are required to articulate their urban and research interests and goals in application materials. An intended concentration within the PhD must be specified at time of application.

  1. Applicants who fail to satisfy these admission requirements will not be recommended for admission. However, satisfying these minima does not guarantee admission.
  2. Applicants who are not recommended for admission will be provided an opportunity to request a reconsideration.

Individual specializations may expect prior coursework in that area. Applicants may contact the Director for specific information. Openings in the program are limited.

Students should apply by December 1st of the year prior to entry, or earlier, if they plan to apply for University-wide fellowships. Applications completed after the priority deadline will be reviewed on a rolling basis up until April 1st for Fall admission of that calendar year.

Application materials MUST be submitted by April 1st in order to be admitted for the fall semester. 

Credits and Courses

Minimum degree requirement is 54 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree (although students ordinarily take more than 54), at least 27 of which must be earned in residence at UWM (i.e., on the UWM campus).

A minimum grade of B or better is required for all courses counting toward the Urban Education doctoral degree.  Students earning a B- or lower must consult with their advisor to fulfill the requirement within one semester.

In consultation with the major professor, the student designs a program of studies that enables the student to gain the knowledge and skills appropriate to the student’s goals.

The program of studies includes the following:

The Doctoral Seminars

All doctoral students must take three 3-credit seminar courses devoted to content involving education in an urban environment. 

EDUC 701Critical Issues in Urban Education3
EDUC 801Seminar in Urban Education3
EDUC 901Advanced Seminar in Urban Education3

Research Requirement

Department specialization requirements may exceed those specified here.

Choose one: 3-4
Educational Statistical Methods II (prerequisite is ED PSY 624)
Techniques of Educational Research (prerequisite is ED PSY 624)
CURRINS/AD LDSP 729Qualitative Research and Field Studies in Educational Settings3
Additional advanced-level (600 or above) coursework from either a qualitative track or quantitative track6
Approved research design course3
Total Credits15-16

All students must demonstrate knowledge in this area by completing the specialization equivalent to the preliminary exam and successfully defending a dissertation.

Designated Specialization

Students indicate a specific area of specialization by applying for one of the transcript-designated specializations in either Adult, Continuing, and Higher Education Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction, Exceptional Education, Mathematics Education, Multicultural Studies, or Social Foundations of Education. Students may be required to meet the specific admissions and program requirements for their intended specialization in addition to meeting the PhD admissions and program requirements. (Please see the accompanying explanation and requirements for each specialization.)


Residence requirements cannot be met at the master’s level, and must be fulfilled before you can achieve dissertator status. There are two types of doctoral residency that must be met:

Academic Year Requirement

You must complete 8 to 12 graduate credits in each of two consecutive semesters, or 6 or more graduate credits in each of three consecutive semesters, including summer sessions. This requirement is intended to provide immersion in the chosen discipline and foster participation in the community of scholars.

50% Requirement

At least 50% of the graduate credits required for your PhD program must be completed at UWM in doctoral status.

Social Foundations of Education Specialization

  1. Students wishing to be admitted to the Urban Education Doctoral Program must indicate their intended area of specialization. Their applications will be reviewed by the Admissions committee of the Urban Education Doctoral Program as well as by the Department of Educational Policy and Community Studies. The general requirements maintained by the Graduate School at UWM will apply to these candidates;
  2. Subsequent to admission, the student must submit a program for study for a specialization in Social Foundations of Education, developed in conjunction with the student’s advisor and committee;
  3. If the student’s specialization in Social Foundations of Education is approved, the student must submit their program of study to the Office of Doctoral Studies for review and approval by the director;
  4. Students who have already had their programs approved prior to their decision to seek specialization in Social Foundations of Education must submit a program for concentration in Social Foundations of Education to the Departmental Graduate Committee for approval, and if changes are made, must seek approval of the new program of studies by the Office of Doctoral Studies.
Urban Educational Doctoral Program General Requirements
EDUC 701Critical Issues in Urban Education3
EDUC 801Seminar in Urban Education3
EDUC 901Advanced Seminar in Urban Education3
Research Methods
ED PSY 624Educational Statistical Methods I (or equivalent methods course) 13
ED PSY 724Educational Statistical Methods II4
CURRINS 729Qualitative Research and Field Studies in Educational Settings3
ED POL 837Emergent Methods in Qualitative Research for Social Foundations3
Advanced Research Course (Choose from Advanced Research list below)3
Specialization Requirements
ED POL 805Sociology of Education: Seminar 23
ED POL 822Global Educational Studies3
ED POL 840Seminar in Educational Theory3
ED POL 850Seminar in History of American Education 23
Electives in Specialization (Choose from Electives list below)9
Total Credits46

Students who meet this requirement will be asked to take another research methods class in consultation with student’s academic advisor.


If a student has taken these courses in a master’s program, comparable 800-level coursework will be selected in conjunction with the student’s academic advisor.

Students with a Cultural Foundations of Education Master of Science degree may transfer 9 credits numbered 609 or above in which they earned an A- or better. Students with other master’s degrees will be evaluated individually by the department to determine up to 9 credits that may be suitable to transfer as major elective courses. All courses selected must include research papers and be approved by the student’s academic advisor.

Advanced Research

Historical/Cultural Research
ANTHRO 705Advanced Topics in Ethnography:3
ANTHRO 768Topics in Advanced Research Design in Anthropology3
HIST 712Historiography and Theory of History3
HIST 713Historical Research Methods3
PHILOS 903Seminar in Epistemology:3
PHILOS 911Seminar in Logic:3
PHILOS 960Seminar in Metaphysics:3
Political Science
POL SCI 700Scope and Methods of Political Science3
POL SCI 701Techniques of Political Science Research3
POL SCI 702Advanced Techniques of Political Science Research3
Social Work
SOC WRK 793Evaluation of Practice2
SOC WRK 794Evaluation of Programs2
Urban Studies
URB STD 921Seminar: Research Methods in Urban Studies3
URB STD 979Qualitative Research Methods3
URB STD 982Advanced Quantitative Analysis3
Qualitative Research
CURRINS 829Advanced Qualitative Research Techniques for Education Settings3
CURRINS 839Practicum in Writing from Qualitative Research for Educational Settings3
Quantitative Research
ED PSY 821Psychometric Theory and Practice3
ED PSY 822Item Response Theory3
ED PSY 823Structural Equation Modeling3
ED PSY 824Advanced Experimental Design and Analysis3
ED PSY 825Multivariate Methods3
ED PSY 826Analysis of Cross-Classified Categorical Data3
ED PSY 827Survey Research Methods3
ED PSY 829Instrument Development3
ED PSY 922Seminar in Measurement and Evaluation:3
ED PSY 929Seminar in Statistics and Research Design3


Options include, but are not limited to:

ED POL 609Community Partnerships3
ED POL 610Reproduction of Minority Communities3
ED POL 611Community Policies and Urban Minority Youths3
ED POL 613Context and Foundations of Educational Policy3
ED POL 620History of the Education of African Americans3
ED POL 624Gender and Education3
ED POL 625Race Relations in Education3
ED POL 630Race, Ethnicity, and Public Policy in Urban America3
ED POL 633Community Development for Low-Income and Minority Communities3
ED POL 636Issues in African American Education3
ED POL 639Milwaukee Black Community3
ED POL 640The Rise and Fall of America's Southern Civil Rights Movement3
ED POL 650The Civil Rights Movement in Northern Cities3
ED POL 705Sociology of Education and Community Engagement3
ED POL 721Data Analysis for Educational Policy & Community Engagement3
ED POL 7253
ED POL 823Multicultural Education3
ED POL 850Seminar in History of American Education3

Additional Requirements

Major Professor

Upon admission to the doctoral program, the student is assigned an initial advisor from their intended specialization. This person is available to discuss initial course selection and provide general advice about the program and specialization. After beginning the program and before filing a Program of Studies, the student will seek a permanent major professor from their specialization who is eligible to serve in such a capacity. This permanent advisor may be the initial advisor if the student desires. The major professor is also chair of the student’s dissertation committee.

Selection of the major professor is by mutual consent between the student and the faculty member. The student must notify the UEDP in writing when the major professor has been selected.

Foreign Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement. However, individual students may be required to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language if such proficiency is determined to be necessary by a student’s committee.

Doctoral Preliminary Examination

The student must pass a doctoral preliminary examination to qualify for formal admission to candidacy for the degree. The examination covers the area of specialization, urban education, the minor, and research methods.


The candidate must present a dissertation reporting the results of an original research study appropriate to the student’s program. Prior to beginning the research, the candidate must present an acceptable dissertation proposal and defend it at an oral hearing.

Dissertation Defense

The candidate must, as the final step toward the degree, pass an oral examination in defense of the dissertation.

Time Limit

Students who do not complete all degree requirements within seven years from the date of admission to the doctoral program will be recommended for dismissal to the Graduate School.

Contribution to Scholarship

The department strongly recommends all students submit and present their original work at two academic conferences during the course of their studies. Conferences may be local, regional, national, or international in scope. Additionally, students are highly encouraged to contribute to papers submitted to peer-reviewed academic journals prior to graduation.

Optional Minor (9-12 credits)

Students may also choose to complete a minor outside the School of Education in an academic department, as negotiated with the student’s academic advisor. While not required, the optional minor, comprised of 9-12 credits in addition to the major requirements of the program, may provide students with another academic area of expertise (e.g., sociology, philosophy, history, etc.)

Other Requirements

All students must adhere to all other general requirements of the Urban Educational Doctoral Program pertaining to such issues as residency, preliminary examinations, dissertation proposals and defense, and time limits.

The preliminary qualifying exam will include a section covering the student’s Social Foundations of Education specialization.

A dissertation with the appropriate area of emphasis is required. The dissertation committee must be composed of a minimum of five members of the graduate faculty. The dissertation advisor will be an approved doctoral advisor and a member of the Department of Educational Policy and Community Studies. Two other members must be from the Department of Educational Policy and Community Studies, and one member must be from the minor area.

Exit Requirements

Contingent upon completion of program requirements, the preliminary qualifying examination, and the successful defense of the dissertation, the chair of the Department of Educational Policy and Community Studies must give final approval for the inclusion of Social Foundations of Education upon the student’s transcript.