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Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs


Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs


Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs

Doctor of Philosophy in Urban and Public Affairs


***************ATTENTION PROSPECTIVE APPLICANTS:**********************

The PhD program has Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) funding available for highly qualified applicants to begin the program in the Fall semester (August). Interested applicants must apply to the program and for the fellowship and graduate research assistantship (GRA) by February 1.


Apply to program here.

Apply for Assistantship here:


UPA Program

The Department of Urban and Public Affairs offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Urban and Public Affairs. The Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs is an interdisciplinary degree that prepares graduates for careers in teaching and research, policy analysis, public administration, land use and environmental planning, and economic development. A number of fellowships and assistantships for outstanding students are available.

The Program consists of a core curriculum and areas of specialization. The core provides a broad orientation and the specializations enable students to develop expertise in particular fields. The curriculum includes 48 credits: 18 credits of core courses, 18 credits of specialization courses, and 12 credits of dissertation research. Students qualify for official candidacy to the Ph.D. by satisfactorily completing all coursework and the qualifying examination.  The field areas are: Urban Planning and Sustainable Development and Urban Policy and Administration.

Although full-time study is encouraged, a limited number of highly qualified part-time students are admitted. See Program's Student Guide for more details and requirements.  The program has placed many of its recent graduates in teaching positions at respected universities across the U.S. and abroad.  For brief profiles of some of these recent graduates click here.  For bio information of the current Ph.D. students in the program click here.


Entry to the program requires a master's degree or equivalent. Students without a master's degree may enroll for the Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Master of Urban Planning (MUP) degree and then reapply for admission to the Ph.D. program in the semester prior to completion of the master's degree. The University also offers relevant master's degree programs in Political Science, Sociology, Applied Geography and other fields. A completed application form, all transcripts of previous undergraduate and graduate study, Graduate Record Examination scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical), at least two letters of recommendation (preferably from former professors), and a SUPPLEMENTAL APPLICATION are required. Minimum GRE scores of 153 verbal, 144 quantitative, and 4.0 analytical (or the equivalent) are (normally) required.  Those applicants whose native language is not English and who do not hold a degree from a university where the language of instruction is English must also submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), with a (normal) minimum score of around 100 or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with a (normal) minimum score of around 7.5.  A personal interview with members of the Ph.D. Admissions Committee also may be required for applicants not fully satisfying admissions requirements.  Interviews will be conducted in-person when feasible or via internet video when in-person interviews are not feasible.



The Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs consists of 48 credit hours of study including 18 hours of core courses, 18 hours in a field specialization, and 12 hours of dissertation research.

Core Courses (18 Credits)

UPA 602 Urban Policy and Governance

UPA 603 Urban Economics

UPA 606 Research Methods

UPA 610 Urban Theory
SOC 610 Seminar in Statistics II

UPA 632 Independent Study (on Comprehensive Exam Reading Lists/Comprehensive Exam Preparation)

Note: Students with no prior study of statistics are required to take PADM 601/PLAN 602 (Statistics for Public Affairs) and SOC 609 (Seminar in Statistics I) prior to enrolling in SOC 610. These courses do not count toward the 48-semester-hour requirement.

Field Area Courses (18 credits)

Students must pursue one of the two specialty areas, including 9 hours of required courses and 9 hours of elective courses. Elective courses must be compatible with track and must be approved by the Program Director.

Urban Planning and Sustainable Development Option

Required Courses (9 credits)

UPA 623 Comparative Urban Development or UPA 626 Urbanism in the Global South

UPA 683 Land Use Planning

UPA 684 Planning Theory


Elective Courses (9 Credits)


Urban Policy and Administration Option

Required Courses (9 Credits)

UPA 621 Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation

UPA 630 Politics and Urban Policy

UPA 660 Advanced Organizational Behavior

Elective Courses (9 Credits)



Students must complete workshops satisfactorily.  Workshop will be convened by the Ph.D. director and will normally meet 3-5 times a semester.  Dissertation Research Workshop.  Students who have recently advanced to candidacy will present dissertation proposal ideas to other students and interested faculty. Professional Development Workshop. Topics may include: academic publishing, undergraduate teaching, and the academic job market, among others.

Dissertation (12 credits)

UPA 700 Dissertation Research

Doctoral Candidacy

After completing all required coursework, including 12 credits of dissertation research, and passing the qualifying exam, each student is required to maintain continuous enrollment in DOCT 600 Doctoral Candidacy until he or she graduates.

Financial Aid

The Department of Urban and Public Affairs administers a number of Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) that are awarded competitively and are intended to support full-time study. Students in the Ph.D. program normally receive a maximum of four years of support.  GRAs currently (as of 2013-2014) provide a stipend of $19,000 over 12 months. This also provides for remission of tuition and health insurance.  Application by February 1 for the following Fall semester is required. Later applications will be considered if any vacancies remain unfilled. 

University Fellowships are also available to exceptional applicants. These fellowships are highly competitive and awarded only to students with exemplary records who are commencing study toward the Ph.D.  The fellowships are normally awarded for two years. Support from departmental funds is available for an additional two years. Application by February 1 for the following Fall is required.



Mark Austin, Ph.D. (Sociology, University of Oklahoma), Associate Professor of Sociology. Community/urban sociology, survey research, neighborhoods, voluntarism, and criminology.


Steven C. Bourassa, Ph.D. (City and Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania), KHC Real Estate Research Professor, Coordinator, Graduate Certificate Program in Real Estate Development. Housing and land markets and policy.


Carrie G. Donald, J.D. (University of Louisville), Professor of Urban and Public Affairs. Labor law, health care, labor relations, workplace issues of women and minorities.


John I. Gilderbloom, Ph.D. (Sociology, University of California at Santa Barbara), Professor of Urban and Public Affairs and Director, Center for Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods. Research methods, housing, community development, planning and design.


Frank Goetzke, Ph.D. (Economics, West Virginia University), Associate Professor of Urban and Public Affairs. Urban economics, spatial analysis and transportation policy.


David Imbroscio, Ph.D. (Political Science, University of Maryland), Professor of Political Science and Urban and Public Affairs and Director, Ph.D. Program in Urban and Public Affairs.  Urban political economy, economic development, antipoverty policy, urban theory.


Janet Kelly, Ph.D. (Political Science, Wayne State University), Professor of Urban and Public Affairs and Executive Director, Urban Studies Institute and Director, Master of Public Administration Program. State-local finance, public and nonprofit financial management, and program evaluation.


Steven G. Koven, Ph.D. (Political Science, University of Florida), Professor of Urban and Public Affairs. Organizational administration, research methods, public budgeting.


Cynthia Negrey, Ph.D. (Sociology, Michigan State University), Professor of Sociology. Political economy, gender and urban labor markets.


Aaron C. Rollins Jr., Ph.D. (Public Policy and Public Administration, Mississippi State University), Assistant Professor. Social equity, organization effectiveness, education policy, and the politics of race.


Matthew Ruther, Ph.D. (Geography, University of Pennsylvania), Assistant Professor of Urban and Public Affairs, Director, Kentucky State Data Center and Kentucky State Demographer. Urban demography, research methods, metropolitan growth and development, spatial analysis.


Hank Savitch, Ph.D. (Political Science, New York University), Professor Emeritus of Urban and Public Affairs, Public management and planning, urban government, comparative urban systems.


David M. Simpson, Ph.D. (City and Regional Planning, University of California at Berkeley), Professor of Urban and Public Affairs and Director, Center for Hazards Research and Policy Development, and Chair, Department of Urban and Public Affairs.  Natural hazards, mediation and dispute resolution, land use and environmental planning, qualitative methods.


Wei Song, Ph.D. (Geography, Ohio State University), Associate Professor of Geography.  Location analysis, transportation geography, urban issues, quantitative methods, and Geographic Information Systems applications.


Margath Walker, Ph.D. (Geography, University of Kentucky), Assistant Professor of Geography.  Urban geography, borderlands and security, cities of the Global South, qualitative research methods.


Timothy Weaver, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania), Assistant Professor of Political Science.  Urban political economy, comparative urban politics, race and class, and American political development.


Sumei Zhang, Ph.D. (City and Regional Planning, Ohio State University). Associate Professor of Urban and Public Affairs. Location theory, quantitative methods, geographical information systems.

Contact Details

David Imbroscio, Program Director
Email Professor Imbroscio

Yani Vozos, Student Advisor
Phone: (502) 852-8002

Ph.D. Program
Department of Urban and Public Affairs
University of Louisville
426 W. Bloom Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40208

Phone: (502) 852-7906
Fax: (502) 852-4558



Additional Information

Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs Student Guide

Ph.D. Supplemental Application

Graduate Research Assistantship/Fellowship Application

Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning

Urban Affairs Association

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