PhD in Planning and Public Affairs

Degree Overview

The PhD program in Planning and Public Affairs in the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management (PPPM) trains students to conduct rigorous, original research to inform scholarship, policy, and practice. The doctoral degree program focuses on three, cutting-edge research groups that are strengths among the PPPM faculty. An overarching key theme is engaged and applied scholarship, which builds on our international reputation for integrating research, teaching, and service.

Key Aspects

Innovative: Focused around research groups working to address key societal issues that have a high potential for academic employment  
Interdisciplinary: Flexible structure allows students to access a range of disciplines across our school and the university  
Engaged: Draws upon the international reputation of our institutes to train future faculty in collaborative research with agencies, cities, organizations, and communities  
Inclusive: Builds on our school’s dedication to equity and inclusion, our diverse faculty, and Oregon’s increasing reputation for inclusive communities

Educational Objectives

Our primary goal is to train you to make a significant difference in your chosen endeavor and to develop:

  • Competency in a professional field
  • Skills in research methods appropriate to a field and research area
  • Teaching skills in a range of contexts
  • Professional skills for an academic and/or research career:
    • Engaging with communities and clients
    • Writing journal articles and grant proposals
    • Developing career strategies

Disciplinary Tracks (choose one)

The purpose of a disciplinary track is to demonstrate general competency in a professional discipline that will make graduates more competitive in the job market.

As a doctoral candidate, you must choose a primary disciplinary track that aligns with the teaching and research field you intend to engage. Tracks provide the core classes and training necessary for you to teach and conduct research for academic and research careers.

  1. Community and Regional Planning
  2. Nonprofit Management
  3. Public Administration/Public Policy

Research Concentrations

To be admitted to the program, you'll need to choose one research concentration or a dual concentration. They are based on faculty expertise and important emerging areas of need in the field.

The PhD research concentrations are structured around PPPM's faculty research groups, which are intended to create a community of students, PPPM faculty members, UO faculty members, and partner organizations interested in these topic areas.

  1. Access and Equity
  2. Nonprofit, Philanthropic, and Social Enterprise
  3. Sustainable Transportation and Cities
  4. Dual concentration


The curriculum for the PhD in Planning and Public Affairs is flexible and adaptable to students' backgrounds, areas of interest, and career goals. The primary goals of coursework in the program are to:

  • Provide you with the grounding in a disciplinary track
  • Help you develop expertise in a research concentration
  • Help you develop skills in methods to conduct research
  • Prepare you for a professional research and teaching career

The curriculum requirements fall into four broad categories:

Disciplinary Track and Concentration: 36 Credits  
Research Methods: 16 Credits  
Career Development: 3 Credits  
Dissertation: 18 Credits


Disciplinary Track Course Work

Students entering with a master's degree from an accredited planning, public administration, or nonprofit management program may not need to take coursework to fulfill this requirement. Instead, these students can focus their coursework on their research concentration.


Community and Regional Planning

  • PPPM 611 Introduction to Planning Practice
  • PPPM 612 Legal Issues in Planning
  • PPPM 613 Planning Analysis I
  • PPPM 616 Planning Theory and Ethics
  • PPPM 617 Human Settlements
  • PPPM 610 Land Use Policy
  • PPPM 646 Planning for Growth Management
  • PPPM 552 Public Participation in Diverse Communities
  • PPPM 510 Community Organizing

Nonprofit Management

  • PPPM 522 Grant Proposal Writing
  • PPPM 581 Fundraising for Nonprofit Organizations
  • PPPM 586 Philanthropy and Grant Making
  • PPPM 618 Public Sector Theory
  • PPPM 680 Managing Nonprofit Organizations
  • PPPM 681 Nonprofit Financial Management
  • PPPM 687 Nonprofit Board Governance

Public Administration/Public Policy

  • PPPM 618 Public Sector Theory
  • PPPM 628 Public Sector Economics
  • PPPM 629 Public Budget Administration
  • PPPM 633 Public Management
  • PPPM 636 Public Policy Analysis
  • PPPM 684 Public and Nonprofit Financial Management

Concentrations: Selected Course Work

Students work with their advisory committee to develop a set of classes to support their research concentration. These classes will align with each student’s chosen research group, and they can be taken in any program at the University of Oregon.

Sustainable Transportation and Cities: Key Graduate Elective Classes

  • PPPM 507 Transportation Issues in Planning: Sustainable Transportation
  • PPPM 538 Transportation Issues in Planning: Bicycle Transportation
  • PPPM 510 Transportation Policy
  • PPPM 510 Transportation Planning
  • PPPM 629 Public Budget Administration
  • PPPM 534 Urban GIS
  • PPPM 507 Growth Management
  • SOC 510 Cycling & Society: The Politics and Culture of Bicycle Movement
  • MGMT 610 Industrial Ecology
  • MGMT 608 Life Cycle Assessment
  • LA 510 Urban Sustainability
  • LA 594 Landscape Studio
  • ARCH 507 Sustainable Urbanism
  • MGMT 608 Clean Energy Finance
  • CIS 650 Software Engineering
  • Anticipated Advanced Seminars:
    • PPPM 607 Seminar: Advanced Topics in Urbanism Next
    • PPPM 607 Seminar: Advanced Topics in Streets and Society

Access and Equity: Key Graduate Elective Classes

  • PPPM 510 Community Organizing
  • PPPM 532 Justice and Urban Revitalization
  • PPPM 546 Socioeconomic Development Planning
  • PPPM 548 Collaboration
  • PPPM 552 Public Participation in Diverse Communities
  • PPPM 572 Creative Placemaking
  • PPPM 610 Immigration and Cities
  • Required Doctoral Seminar
    • PPPM 60X Theories of Access and Equity
    • PPPM 607 Advanced Topics in Access and Equity
    • PPPM 60X Theory and Practice of Community Development
    • PPPM 60X The Communicative Turn
    • PPPM 60X Urban Design Politics

Nonprofit, Philanthropic, and Social Enterprise: Key Graduate Elective Classes

  • PPPM 685 Social Enterprise
  • PPPM 565 Program Evaluation
  • PPPM 587 Impact Philanthropy
  • PPPM 588 Nonprofit Legal Issues
  • PPPM 680 Managing Nonprofit Organizations
  • PPPM 688 Nonprofit Consultancy
  • PPPM 618 Public Sector Theory
  • PPPM 681 Nonprofit Financial Management
  • PPPM 581 Fundraising for Nonprofit Organizations
  • PPPM 687 Nonprofit Board Governance
  • PPPM 586 Philanthropy and Grant Making
  • PPPM 507 Advocacy/Lobbying Seminar
  • PPPM 507 Community Organizing
  • PPPM 670 Cultural Administration
  • PPPM 571 Cultural Policy
  • PPPM 4/570 The Arts in Society
  • PPPM 4/571 Cultural Policy
  • PPPM 4/572 Creative Placemaking
  • PPPM 4/573 Cultural Programming
  • PPPM 4/574 Event Management
  • PPPM 4/575 Performing Arts Management
  • PPPM 4/5XX Museum Practice
  • PPPM 4/5XX Museum Education
  • ARH 4/515 Museology
  • PPPM 670 Cultural Administration
  • LAW 610 Nonprofit Law Clinic
  • Relevant courses in Law, Political Science, Journalism, International Studies, Geography, Sociology, and Anthropology
  • Anticipated Doctoral Seminar: PPPM 607 Seminar: Advanced Topics in the Theory of the Third Sector

Research Methods Course Work

Each student works with their advisory committee to develop a set of classes to support the methods they will need for their chosen research concentration. These methods will generally fall into three categories, and students may take methods in several categories depending on their areas of work:

Quantitative Methods

Examples of Introductory Graduate Courses:

PPPM 656 Quantitative Methods  
PPPM 657 Research Methods in PPPM  
PPPM 611 Planning Analysis

Examples of Advanced Courses:

EDLD 625 Survey & Questionnaire Design and Analysis  
EDLD 628 Hierarchical Linear Modeling I  
EDLD 633 Structural Equation Modeling I  
EC 523 Econometrics  
EC 528 Behavioral and Experimental Economics

Qualitative Methods

Example of Introductory Graduate Courses:

PPPM 610 Research Skills (introduction to qualitative and survey methods)

Examples of Advanced Courses:

PS 612 Qualitative Methods  
ANTH 517 Field Methods in Cultural Anthropology  
ANTH 524 Feminist Methods in Anthropology

Spatial Methods

Examples of Introductory Graduate Courses:

PPPM 534 Urban Geographic Information Systems  
PPPM 508 Advanced Urban GIS

Examples of Advanced Courses:

Geog 585 Remote Sensing I  
Geog 590 GIScience  
Geog 591 Advanced Geographic Information Systems  
Geog 595 Geographic Data Analysis


The dissertation is a scholarly exploration of an important problem or issue. It should have a solid disciplinary grounding, conceptual foundation, and research basis. Also, it should advance the state of knowledge in the field. The dissertation requirement for the PPPM PhD may be fulfilled through either a monograph or a series of articles.

You will receive help choosing a dissertation advisor and committee to support and guide you throughout the dissertation process.

Comprehensive Exams

Comprehensive exams are required for admission to doctoral candidacy. All PhD students must pass two exams:

  1. Disciplinary exam related to your field
  2. Methods exam

These will generally be taken in the second or third year of study.

The goal of these exams is to ensure that you have demonstrated a high level of competency in your discipline and research methods. Because the long-term teaching and research needs for an academic career are often broader than your specialty area, these skills are important for graduates pursing academic careers in planning.

Need More Information?

If you have questions please contact:

Bob Choquette, graduate program coordinator: 541-346-3851

  • Online applications questions
  • Admissions process
  • Campus visit or faculty contacts

José Meléndez, PhD program director: 541-346-2142

  • Program questions
  • Admissions criteria
  • Research interest questions

PhD: Apply Now