Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs

Doctor of Philosophy in Urban and Public Affairs

Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs



The PhD program has Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) funding available for highly qualified applicants to begin the program in the Fall semester (August, 2020).  Interested applicants must apply to the program and for the Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) and have all necessary application materials to us (including GRE scores and recommendation letters) BEFORE MARCH 1, 2020.



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.  Students normally qualify for official candidacy to the Ph.D. by satisfactorily completing all coursework and the qualifying examination.

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 a complete list of graduates over the last decade click here.

For bio information of the current Ph.D. students in the program click here.


Entry to the program (normally) requires a master's degree or equivalent.  A completed application form, all transcripts of previous undergraduate and graduate study, Graduate Record Examination scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing), at least two letters of recommendation (from former professors), and a SUPPLEMENTAL APPLICATION are required (Note: if getting recommendation letters from former professors is impossible, an exemption to this requirement may be requested if all other admission requirements are clearly exceeded).  Minimum GRE score of (or near) 300, with minimum individual scores (in the range) of a 153 Verbal/145 Quantitative as well as 4.0 Analytical 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 (in the range) of 100 or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with a (normal) minimum score of 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.




After applying and submitting the application fee online, please be sure to send all application materials directly to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies University of Louisville, 105 Houchens Bldg.  Louisville, KY 40292 and/or



Required Core Courses (18 Credits)

UPA 602 The Urban Political
UPA 680 Advanced Urban Studies
UPA 680 Doctoral Urban Economics
UPA 606 Research Methods
UPA 610 Urban Theory
UPA 608 Regression Analysis

Note: Students with limited statistical training may be required to take PLAN 604/PADM 623 prior to enrolling in UPA 608.  This course does not count toward the 48-semester-hour requirement. 

Additional Required Methods Course (3 Credits) 

In consultation with the Program Director, students must take one additional methods course, subject to the approval by the Program Director.  Some examples of courses fulfilling this requirement include:  

SOC 610 or SOC 611 Statistics II and III
SOC 618 Qualitative Field Research Methods
GEOG 660 Qualitative Methods for Applied Geography
UPA 680 Urban Ethnography
UPA 621 Program Evaluation

Field Area Courses (15 credits)

Students must pursue a specialty area, normally including 9 hours of required courses and 6 hours of elective courses.  Elective courses must be compatible with specialty area and must be approved by the Program Director.

Option #1: Urbanism and Sustainable Development Planning Option

Required Courses (9 credits)

*UPA XXX Urbanism Course: Sustainable Urbanism; Urbanism in the Global South; Planning Theory
*UPA XXX Sustainability Course: Sustainable Development and Planning; Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems; Environmental Policy; Intro to Sustainability
*UPA XXX Development Course: Economic Development; Housing and Community Development; Land Use Planning; Urban Displacement and Refuge; Urban Policy and Administration
[Note: Other Relevant Courses can be substituted by approval of Program Director]


Elective Courses (6 Credits)
By approval of the Program Director.

Option #2: Urban Policy and Administration Option
Required Courses (6-9 Credits)

*UPA 630 The Politics of Urban Policy  
*UPA 650 Urban Policy and Administration
*UPA 661 Foundations of Public Administration (can be waived for students with an MPA)
[Note: Other Relevant Courses can be substituted by approval of Program Director]


Elective Courses (6-9 Credits)
By approval of the Program Director.


Students must complete workshops satisfactorily.  Workshop will be convened by the Ph.D. director and will normally meet 2-3 times a semester.  Dissertation Research Workshop.  Students who have recently advanced to candidacy will present dissertation proposal ideas to other students. 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 2019-2020) provide an annual stipend of $19,000. This also provides for remission of tuition and health insurance.  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. An application by late January for the following Fall is required for both GRAs and Fellowships.Later applications will be considered only if any vacancies remain unfilled.


Application Checklist

1) Completed application form.  Apply to program here 

2) All transcripts of previous undergraduate and graduate study 

3) Graduate Record Examination scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical) 

4) At least two letters of recommendation (from former professors) 

5) TOEFL or IELTS  (if required; native language or degree not English; see above) 


7) Application for Assistantship (if desired; optional).  Apply here (full-time study only)




Tony Arnold, J.D. (Stanford University), Boehl Chair in Property and Land Use & Professor of Law.  Land use and environmental planning, governance institutions, complex adaptive systems and resilience, water resources, participation and justice.

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

Lisa Bjorkman, Ph.D. (Politics, New School for Social Research), Assistant Professor of Urban and Public Affairs. Political ethnography, urban theory, material infrastructures, South Asian urbanism.

Daniel DeCaro, Ph.D.  (Psychology, Miami University), Assistant Professor, Urban and Public Affairs/Psychological and Brain Sciences.  Social decision-making and sustainability, environmental governance, public participation, collective action.

Lindsey L. Evans, Ph.D. (Public Policy and Administration, Virginia Commonwealth University), Assistant Professor of Urban and Public Affairs. Public and nonprofit policy analysis and program evaluation, social equity, and research methodology (qualitative and quantitative)

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), 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.  Urban political economy, economic development, antipoverty policy, urban theory.

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

Kelly L. Kinahan, Ph.D., AICP (Urban Studies and Public Affairs, Cleveland State University), Assistant Professor of Urban and Public Affairs. Urban revitalization, historic preservation, community and economic development, legacy city planning and policy.

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), Emerita Professor of Sociology. Political economy, gender and urban labor markets.

Aaron C. Rollins Jr., Ph.D. (Public Policy and Public Administration, Mississippi State University), Associate Professor of Urban and Public Affairs; Vice Chair, Department of Urban and Public Affairs. Director, Masters of Public Administration program. Social equity, organization effectiveness, education policy, and the politics of race.

Matthew H. Ruther, Ph.D. (Demography, University of Pennsylvania), Associate Professor of Urban and Public Affairs, Director, Urban Studies Institute, Director, Kentucky State Data Center and Director, Ph.D. Program in Urban and Public Affairs. Urban demography, research methods, metropolitan growth and development, spatial analysis.

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), Professor of Geography.  Location analysis, transportation geography, urban issues, quantitative methods, and Geographic Information Systems applications.

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

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

Matt Ruther, Program Director

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

Student Guide PhD in Urban and Public Affairs -- 2019 or later program admission

Student Guide PhD in Urban and Public Affairs -- 2018 or earlier program admission only

Ph.D. Supplemental Application

Graduate Research Assistantship/Fellowship Application

Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning

Urban Affairs Association