► Graduate School Rules apply to this program
Program Director: Tanya Heikkila, PhD
The School of Public Affairs offers a program of advanced graduate study leading to the doctor of philosophy in public affairs. The program, based on the Denver campus, permits elective work to be taken on any campus of the university if it is part of the approved program of study or degree plan.
The doctoral program was developed to meet the need for people with mastery in the scholarly theory, concepts and research skills of public administration, public policy and public management, and who are able to use such skills in careers of research, teaching and analysis of public-sector challenges. The PhD is designed to prepare students for leadership responsibilities in academia, research and public policy analysis. Accordingly, the PhD stresses the development of theoretical, conceptual and methodological knowledge in public administration, policy and management.
Lloyd Burton, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Mary Dodge, PhD, University of California, Irvine
Angela Gover, PhD, University of Maryland
Mary Guy, PhD, University of South Carolina
Richard Stillman, PhD, Syracuse University
Paul Teske, PhD, Princeton University
Allan Wallis, PhD, City University Graduate Center
Christine Martell, PhD, Indiana University
Tanya Heikkila, PhD, University of Arizona
Lori Hughes, PhD, Washington State University
Callie Rennison, PhD, University of Houston
Danielle M. Varda, PhD, University of Colorado Denver
Chris Weible, PhD, University of California-Davis
Todd Ely, New York University
Lonnie Schaible, PhD, Washington State University
Benoy Jacob, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
John Ronquillo, PhD, University of Georgia
Stephen Block, PhD, University of Colorado
Malcolm Goggin, PhD, Stanford University
The doctoral program is primarily designed to serve (1) people who desire to further the field of public policy and public and nonprofit management through teaching and research; (2) scholar-practitioners working in government, private-sector organizations concerned with government and nonprofit organizations; and (3) policy analysts in government, private-sector organizations concerned with government and nonprofit organizations.
Time Required for PhD Degree
The PhD program requires an intense commitment. Most courses and seminars are offered during the late afternoon, in the evenings or on an intensive basis. (Some electives are offered online, but core courses are not.) Anyone starting the PhD program with a master’s degree in public administration can expect to take at least four to six years to complete all of the requirements for the PhD. Any student entering the program with no prior graduate work in public administration, public policy or management should expect additional course requirements.
PhD Admission Requirements
Admission to the program is based on the personal and professional qualifications of the applicant. It is desirable that an applicant have a master’s degree in public administration or a closely related field before undertaking doctoral work. Applicants should have a 3.5 GPA or above in master-level course work, as well as GRE scores that are, at a minimum, above the 50th percentile ranking in both the quantitative and verbal sections. Successful applicants will also show the potential for productive careers in scholarship, research and analysis.
Meeting the minimum thresholds listed above does not assure admission. In unusual cases, students who fail to meet the thresholds may be admitted if high academic skills are demonstrated in other ways.
PhD Application Process
Applicants must submit the following items to the SPA office before they can be formally considered for admission. The application deadline is February 1; admitted students will begin in the fall semester.
- application forms
- official transcripts (two copies) from all degree granting institutions
- GRE scores (no more than five years old)
- a resume or vita
- three letters of reference attesting to a candidate’s academic promise
- a well-articulated statement of purpose demonstrating an understanding of the research orientation of the degree and a strong motivation and determination to successfully complete the program
In addition, students may also submit samples of research reports or publications.
Applicants whose native language is not English are required to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. This requirement may be waived for applicants who have completed a baccalaureate or graduate-level degree program at an English-speaking college or university. In addition, applicants whose native language is not English are required to participate in an oral interview to demonstrate English language skills sufficient to succeed in a rigorous American doctoral program.
All application materials will be retained by SPA and will not be returned. A personal meeting with the PhD director or other faculty member is recommended.
For excellent candidates, SPA will fund a small number of doctoral research assistantships each year based on financial availability. Students selected will receive a full-tuition waiver as well as a stipend for the academic year. SPA’s goal is to provide such funding for students for at least three years.