Return to: 2150 Urban Studies Institute
The Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Studies is a multi-disciplinary, advanced degree designed to prepare graduate students for careers as applied researchers, policy makers and educators, providing leadership in facing the complex urban environments of the 21st century. The doctoral curriculum provides a rigorous grounding in urban theory and praxis and methodological training to analyze complex challenges emerging within urban environments and processes. The Urban Studies PhD program draws from the interdisciplinary expertise of core and affiliate faculty to enable students to build core analytical competencies and translational research skills needed to interpret, evaluate, and communicate across diverse urban domains. Students work with the support of faculty advisors to build a program of study tailored to their individual interests, objectives, and future goals. The PhD in Urban Studies emphasizes the development of fundamental research competence, flexibility in the design of special area of study, and encouragement of joint student/faculty research and teaching. Students will develop a sophisticated understanding of urbanization and the making of cities. They will demonstrate strong analytical skills designed to promote best practices for solving complex challenges of urban environments and synthesize this information at local, national, and international scales. Graduates will be prepared to pursue or advance careers in academia or as professional applied researchers, managers, and administrators at public, nonprofit and private organizations.
The program is a traditional face-to-face curriculum with classes held during the late afternoon/evenings. It requires a minimum of 57 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate degree, including an applied research experience (dissertation). Foundational competencies will be assessed through coursework, a comprehensive exam, and the final dissertation. It is anticipated that most students will complete the program in 4 years, with a maximum of six years allowed. To manage completion, dissertation advisors will work with individual students to set a timeline for the dissertation proposal, review, and defense. Coursework will be completed within two years, when the research proposal will also be developed and reviewed (end of year two). Funding will end after four years to ensure completion in a timely manner, with self-funding for part-time students or those that need to complete the Ph.D. beyond that point (with a maximum six in mind).
The PhD in urban studies will include core urban studies courses oriented towards theoretical and empirical knowledge acquisition, skills and analytic capabilities, and training in translational (policy oriented) research. Students will demonstrate competency in the following areas:
- Advanced knowledge in Urban Studies: Students will be able to identify and interpret historical, current, and emerging urban issues, opportunities, and challenges in the U.S. and globally, particularly with regard to themes of economic resilience, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability. Students will be able to examine and compare advanced urban theory in its various formulations and demonstration of the interdisciplinary nature of the field, in relation to geography, sociology, economics, and other disciplines.
- Methodological competencies: Students will acquire the skills to collect and assess data necessary to analyze urban structures, processes, and phenomenon via quantitative and/or qualitative methods (e.g. GIS, statistics, data visualization, interviewing, ethnography).
- Analysis and interpretation of evidence: Students will develop advanced analytical skills based in a range of social science methods and forms of research design. Students will demonstrate these skills to produce new urban knowledge through an original independent dissertation research project.
- Scholarly communication and professionalism: Students will communicate effectively both orally and in writing. Students will engage in ethical practices and demonstrate ethical principles that comports with equitable and equal urban societies. Students will be able to formulate the policy implications of urban research or analyses of urban policy impacts and communicate these to differing academic, policy, and/or community stakeholders.
To earn the Ph.D., a student must satisfactorily complete seven general requirements:
- Core master’s-level curriculum or its equivalent (including similar previous coursework) (12 Credit Hours)
- The doctoral core curriculum (12 Credit Hours)
- Three elective courses (9 Credit Hours)
- Full-time enrollment for one academic year
- Doctoral comprehensive examinations (6 Credit Hours)
- Defense of a dissertation proposal (3 Credit Hours)
- Defense of a dissertation (15 Credit Hours)
Core Master’s Program Curriculum (12 Credit Hours)
The core master’s program curriculum consists of four 3 credit hour courses. Students may document completion of the core curriculum through coursework taken elsewhere or may select from the courses listed in the current master’s program of the Urban Studies Institute. Alternative courses considered be taken with permission of the graduate programs director.
GIS Course (3 Credit Hours)
Choose one of the following:
Doctoral Core Curriculum (12 Credit Hours)
Building on skills developed at the master’s level, the doctoral core curriculum provides students with an indepth analysis of urban theory and contemporary debates; extended research methods experience; design and demonstration of empirical research; and a research design class to prepare for the dissertation. Core courses are generally offered once a year. Students must earn a grade of B or higher in all core courses to maintain their doctoral candidacy. Students are required to take two Advanced Urban Theory seminars (selecting from URB 9010 , URB 9011 and URB 9012 ) but may take a third as an elective.
Two Advanced Urban Theory Seminars
In addition to two Advanced Urban Theory seminars, doctoral students will take two core courses focused on research design and advanced methods training:
Elective Courses (9 Credit Hours)
Students will select three electives totaling at least 9 credit hours. Courses may be substituted with alternative courses or directed reading on a topic related to the field through a petition to the GPD Chair. Options include:
Full-time Residency Requirement
Before taking the final written qualifying examination, a student must complete one year (two consecutive semesters) of full-time residency. For this requirement, full-time enrollment is 12 credit hours per semester and must include three credit hours of research assistantship or directed research experience. In addition, throughout the period before completing the prescribed coursework, a student must take at least 12 credit hours in every twelve-month period.
Doctoral Comprehensive Examinations (6 Credit Hours)
Students must pass the Comprehensive Exam within nine months of completing the prescribed coursework. Students must also register for URB 9300 - Comprehensive Exam Development , to satisfy this requirement in consultation with the program director. The comprehensive examination will consist:
Written Qualifying Examination:
Students will take one written Comprehensive Exam covering their field of study. The Exam will consist of a take-home exam developed by the Examination Committee, under direction of the Chair. The substantive coverage of the exam will be described in a Field Description, developed by the student in conjunction with the Committee under direction of the Committee Chair. Students must be given a minimum of 3 months between the time of the approval of the Field Description and the administration of the Comprehensive Exam. Students should be given 48 hours to complete Comprehensive Exam. However, at the discretion of the Committee Chair, these hours can be broken up over a period of no more than one week.
The Examination Committee will consist of at least three tenure-track faculty members, two of which need to be GSU faculty and at least one of which must be a tenure-track faculty member whose primary appointment is in the Urban Studies Institute.
Oral Qualifying Examination
At the discretion of the Examining Committee, under direction of the Committee Chair, an oral examination may be required as part of the Comprehensive Exam process prior to a determination as to whether the written examination is satisfactory. The comprehensive examination will be graded by the examination committee and be graded: high pass, pass, pass with remediation, or fail. Students will be permitted a second attempt to pass any comprehensive examination they fail upon the recommendation, by majority vote, of the group of faculty members who graded the examination. A maximum of two attempts is permitted.
Dissertation Proposal and Oral Defense (3 Credit Hours)
In consultation with the Dissertation Committee and the Committee Chair, the student will develop a dissertation proposal. The proposal should not exceed 40-50 pages. Students must also register for URB 9400 - Dissertation Proposal and Research Design , to satisfy this requirement in consultation with the program director.
The student will present and defend the dissertation proposal in a public presentation of less than one hour, which will be open to faculty and graduate students from both schools and announced two weeks prior to the date it is scheduled. The Dissertation Committee will question the student in an oral examination, and then vote to determine if the student has a satisfactory research topic and design. A unanimous decision by the student’s Dissertation Committee is required.
The Dissertation (15 Credit Hours)
The dissertation allows the Ph.D. candidate to demonstrate his or her ability to conduct a research program leading to a significant contribution to the candidate’s discipline. Students must obtain approval of their dissertation proposal within one calendar year after completing their comprehensive exams. Dissertation guidelines are available at aysps.gsu.edu/oaa/dissertation-guidelines. Students must also register for URB 9500 - Dissertation Research , to satisfy this requirement in consultation with the program director.
At the time the electronic version of the student’s dissertation (ETD) is posted on the Georgia State University Library server, students must choose the availability option, “Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide,” unless they have received approval to restrict distribution from the AYSPS Associate Dean. A letter showing this approval, which will be granted only for a maximum of one year, must be on file in the Office of Academic Assistance prior to graduation.
The Dissertation Committee
After successfully completing the Comprehensive Exam, the student and his/her advisor/Chair form a Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee consists of a chair plus at least two additional members. Up to two additional members of the Committee may be chosen (for a total maximum of five members). At least one member of the Dissertation Committee must be a core, tenure-track faculty member of the Urban Studies Institute. Students will choose the remaining members of the Committee with the advice and approval of the Committee Chair. The Dissertation Committee Chair must be tenuretrack faculty member at GSU and the majority of members must be GSU representatives. Once the Committee is chosen, the student may change the membership of the Committee only with the advice and approval of the GPD. Students and Chairs are encouraged to choose USI affiliate faculty to serve on the Dissertation Committee.
The Final Dissertation Defense
When the candidate’s Dissertation Committee judges that the dissertation is complete, the student must defend it orally in a final dissertation defense, subject to rules governing Georgia State University graduate study. At least two weeks before the final dissertation defense, the student must submit an abstract of the dissertation to the program director, who will issue an announcement of the scheduling of the candidate’s dissertation defense. Any interested faculty member or graduate student may attend the examination and participate in the discussion. At the completion of the oral defense, members of the dissertation committee will vote on the dissertation’s approval or disapproval. Unanimous approval is required.
Graduate assistants are required to enroll for a minimum of 12 credit hours each semester. These credit hours consist of courses required for the prescribed 30 credit hours program of study, as well as additional hours of URB 8999 - Graduate Research in Urban Studies .
Regulations for the Degree
An Admissions and Coordinating (A & C) Committee, consisting of six tenure-track faculty has jurisdiction over and is chiefly responsible for policy relating to admissions, program curriculum, rules and regulations, and operations of the joint degree program. The faculties of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and Urban Studies Institute, in accordance with their procedures and bylaws, select members of the A & C Committee.
- Scholastic Warning and Termination.
The doctoral grade-point average (GPA) is defined as the GPA for all courses numbered 6000 or higher taken after admission to the doctoral program. Each student must maintain a 3.00 doctoral GPA (B average). For graduation, a student may have a cumulative GPA of 3.00 or above in all courses at Georgia State taken at the graduate level, regardless of the degree program.
- Standards of Performance.
To continue in the program, a student must make reasonable and timely progress toward the degree in terms of coursework completed and examinations. A determination that a student is not making satisfactory progress and should be terminated from the program may be made at several points in his or her program, including failure to achieve and maintain a doctoral GPA of at least 3.00, failure to pass 12 credit hours within a twelve-month period, failure of the comprehensive qualifying examination, or failure to successfully defend a dissertation proposal or dissertation. In all such cases, a recommendation of dismissal must be made to the Admissions and Coordinating Committee, which will review the case and issue a final decision regarding termination from the program.
All student appeals regarding grades and other faculty actions affecting students will be adjudicated through the appeals process governing the School where the action occurred. If the appeal concerns an A & C Committee action or other joint program action, the student must appeal the action first to the faculties of both schools (with approval from both required to overturn the action), then to the graduate committees of both institutions (with approval from both required to overturn the action).
- Time Limits for the Degree.
These time limits should be interpreted as the maximum amount of time students may take to complete each of the degree requirements. It is anticipated that most students will complete the requirements much earlier than the maximum time limits specified below:
- All required coursework and both written examinations must be completed within three years from the semester of entry into the doctoral program.
- Qualifying examinations must be successfully completed, the Dissertation Committee must be appointed, and the dissertation proposal must be defended and approved within one year after completion of coursework.
- All requirements for the degree, including the dissertation, must be completed within seven years from the semester of entry into the doctoral program.