Specialization Overview

Note that while Multicultural Studies is cross-disciplinary, for the purposes of initial advising and ongoing support the departmental home for a student in this specialization is Educational Policy and Community Studies. Students in this program will be supervised jointly by the Department of Educational Policy and Community Studies and by the Urban Education Doctoral Committee, who will assign an advisor for the particular focus area the student has chosen.

For course descriptions in this area, visit the Cultural Foundations of Education section of this catalog.

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 

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

Submission of scores on the General Test portion of the Graduate Record Examination is required. Scores that are more than five years old will not be considered valid.

Grade Point Average

Undergraduate GPA of 2.85 (applicants having less than 15 graduate hours must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.50.); graduate GPA of 3.5; or a combined (undergraduate and graduate) GPA of 6.5.

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. A 5-10 page response to the following question: How would you go about determining and evaluating critical 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.


An interview may be arranged with all applicants. In the case of applicants living too far away to attend a personal interview, a phone interview will be arranged.


An applicant must have a minimum of three appropriate persons write a recommendation and comment meaningfully and knowledgeably on the likelihood that the applicant can successfully complete an advanced scholarly program of studies for the PhD degree. It is helpful if the majority of references are written by college/university faculty. If an applicant is unable to secure academic references because of elapsed time, other references should be as current as possible. In any case, individuals preparing references should be selected who can comment with confidence on the applicant’s academic qualifications. Reference forms must be forwarded directly by the writers to the Office of Doctoral Studies. Complete information is provided in application materials available from the Office of Doctoral Studies.


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. Applicants should submit all application materials no later than January 1 for admission the following September. Applicants must contact the Office of Doctoral Studies for application information and forms.

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. One of these seminars is taken as part of the department specialization.

Research Requirement

Department specialization requirements may exceed those specified here.

ED PSY 724Educational Statistical Methods II (prerequisite is ED PSY 624)4
CURRINS/AD LDSP 729Qualitative Research and Field Studies in Educational Settings3
Additional advanced-level (800 or above) coursework from either a qualitative track or quantitative track6
Approved research design course3
Total Credits16

All students demonstrate knowledge in this area by writing a preliminary examination research question 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, Art Education, Exceptional 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.)


Some program specializations may require completion of a minor consisting of courses in a related discipline that supports the student’s program of studies. Students should consult requirements within their specialization. If pursuing a minor, the student may choose either Option A or Option B.

  1. Option A: A minimum of 8 credits in a single department outside the School of Education. A minor professor approves these courses, sits as a member of the student’s doctoral committee, and contributes to the student’s doctoral preliminary examination.
  2. Option B: A minimum of 12 credits in two or more departments, with a minimum of 6 credits outside of the School of Education. The remaining credits may be taken within the School of Education, but must be taken outside of the department of specialization.

Multicultural Specialization

  1. Students seeking admission to the doctoral program must indicate their intended area of specialization. The application will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee of the Urban Education Doctoral Program as well as the interdisciplinary graduate faculty of the Multicultural Studies Area.
  2. Students must write a brief statement explaining why they feel an interdisciplinary program is more relevant to their studies than one of the other discipline-specific specializations.
  3. Subsequent to admission, the student must submit a program of concentration in Multicultural Studies developed in conjunction with the student’s advisor.
  4. When the student’s course of studies in Multicultural Studies is approved by the Multicultural Studies interdisciplinary faculty, the student must submit a program of study to the Office of the Doctoral Studies for review and approval by the Director.
  5. Prior to admission, or within the first 30 graduate credits after admittance to the Multicultural Studies specialization, the student must complete a research project, e.g., thesis or publishable paper.
Urban Seminar Requirements9
Critical Issues in Urban Education
Seminar in Urban Education
Advanced Seminar in Urban Education
Major Concentration6
Sociology of Education: Seminar
Seminar in Educational Theory
Electives in Multicultural Specialization15
Select 15 graduate credits 1
Research Design and Methodology16
Educational Statistical Methods I (or equivalent statistical methods) 2
Educational Statistical Methods II
Qualitative Research and Field Studies in Educational Settings
Emergent Methods in Qualitative Research for Social Foundations
Select 3 elective credits3
Total Credits49

Additional Requirements

Students must be admitted first to the PhD Program in Urban Education, then specialize in Multicultural Studies. The course requirements for Multicultural Studies are outlined below.

  1. Students must meet all the requirements of the Urban Education Doctoral Program.
  2. Students not having a graduate degree in a field recognized by the specialization faculty may be required to take master’s level coursework as a prerequisite to admission

Recommended Conference Submissions/Participation

The specialization 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.

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.

Doctoral Preliminary Examination

The preliminary qualifying exam will include a section covering the student’s focus area as developed with an advisor or committee chair.


A dissertation with the appropriate area of emphasis is required. The dissertation committee must be composed of a minimum of four members of the graduate faculty. The dissertation advisor will be an approved doctoral advisor and a member of the School of Education. One other member must be from the School of Education, and one or two members must be from the student developed focus area.

Exit Requirements

Contingent upon the satisfactory completion of program requirements, including the passing of the prelim/proposal defense, and the successful oral defense of the dissertation, the Urban Education Doctoral Committee Chair will give final approval for the inclusion of “Urban Education: Multicultural Foundations” on your transcript.