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 

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.

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 his or her 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 Requirements9
Critical Issues in Urban Education
ED POL 801
Advanced Seminar in Urban Education
Research Methods16
Educational Statistical Methods I (or equivalent methods course) 1
Educational Statistical Methods II
Qualitative Research and Field Studies in Educational Settings
Emergent Methods in Qualitative Research for Social Foundations
Advanced Research Course (Choose from Advanced Research list below)3
Specialization Requirements12
Sociology of Education: Seminar 2
Global Educational Studies
Seminar in Educational Theory
Seminar in History of American Education 2
Electives in Specialization (Choose from Electives list below)9
Total Credits49
Advanced Research

  • Courses are 3 credits unless noted
Historical/Cultural Research
Advanced Topics in Ethnography:
Topics in Advanced Research Design in Anthropology
Historiography and Theory of History
Historical Research Methods
Seminar in Epistemology:
Seminar in Logic:
Seminar in Metaphysics:
Political Science
Scope and Methods of Political Science
Techniques of Political Science Research
Advanced Techniques of Political Science Research
Social Work (each course 2 credits)
Evaluation of Practice
Evaluation of Programs
Urban Studies
Seminar: Research Methods in Urban Studies
Qualitative Research Methods
Advanced Quantitative Analysis
Qualitative Research
Advanced Qualitative Research Techniques for Education Settings
Practicum in Writing from Qualitative Research for Educational Settings
Quantitative Research
Psychometric Theory and Practice
Item Response Theory
Structural Equation Modeling
Advanced Experimental Design and Analysis
Multivariate Methods
Analysis of Cross-Classified Categorical Data
Survey Research Methods in Education
Instrument Development
Seminar in Measurement and Evaluation:
Seminar in Statistics and Research Design
  • All courses are 3 credits

Options include, but are not limited to:

Community Partnerships
Reproduction of Minority Communities
Community Policies and Urban Minority Youths
Context and Foundations of Educational Policy
History of the Education of African Americans
Gender and Education
Race Relations in Education
Race, Ethnicity, and Public Policy in Urban America
Community Development for Low-Income and Minority Communities
Issues in African American Education
Milwaukee Black Community
The Rise and Fall of America's Southern Civil Rights Movement
The Civil Rights Movement in Northern Cities
Sociology of Education and Community Engagement
Data Analysis for Educational Policy & Community Engagement
Community Organizing in Low-Income and Minority Communities
Multicultural Education
Seminar in History of American Education

Additional Requirements

Major Professor

Upon admission to the doctoral program, the student is assigned an initial advisor from his or her 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 his/her 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.


The residency requirement is satisfied through the successful completion of 9 or more credits in each of two consecutive semesters, excluding summer, or by completing at least 6 graduate credits in each of three consecutive semesters, excluding summer.

It is the student’s responsibility to notify the Office of Doctoral Studies when residency requirements have been met. Such notification must be in writing and must include the semesters, year(s) and number of credits taken during each of the applicable semesters.

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.