This is a named option within the Human Ecology, Ph.D.

The Human Ecology Ph.D. named option in Civil Society and Community Research (CSCR) focuses on theoretical foundations of grassroots institutions, nonprofit organizations, voluntary associations, and social networks that strive to benefit the common good. The program emphasizes mixed method inquiries that integrate participatory approaches with advanced quantitative and qualitative analysis. The program prepares students to use the processes of research and outreach to strengthen civil society.

The civil society and community research faculty areas of research include: civil society, the nonprofit sector, civic engagement, developmental psychology, community and organizational development, youth civic engagement, community psychology, applied medical anthropology, sustainability, education, inter-generational partnerships, program evaluation and learning assessment, community–university partnerships, and philanthropy and giving.

The CSCR program is served by a multidisciplinary faculty who are professionally active and have strong records of national and international scholarship. They bring perspectives of many disciplines to their work, including community psychology, developmental psychology, sociology, education, medical and cultural anthropology, transformative evaluation and community action. Reflecting the multidisciplinary orientation of the program, faculty possess expertise in areas as diverse as longitudinal modeling, interpretive interviewing, mixed methods study designs, various mapping techniques, observational methods, survey methodology, community-based research, and ethnography.

The CSCR program is committed to collaborations between faculty and graduate students in the arenas of research, teaching, and outreach. Current areas of scholarly activity include youth civic engagement, community organizing, inter-generational partnerships, social trust, program evaluation, coalition building, voluntary associations, adult learning, community development, place-based education and stewardship, and social change. Faculty and students not only conduct research in these areas, they affirmatively support policies and programs. The department maintains strong affiliations with the University of Wisconsin Extension, Cooperative Extension's Divisions of Youth Development, Family Living, and Program Planning and Evaluation.

Graduates of CSCR are prepared for careers as professors in academic departments of human ecology, community development, community research and action, nonprofit management, community sociology, and applied developmental science. Students will also be prepared for careers as senior staff in technical assistance organizations, foundations, public agencies and advocacy/public education units. Others will choose to use their research and consultation skills to support grassroots organizations.

Applications are accepted once per year for Fall admission and are due by December 1st of the preceding year. To be considered for admission to the Civil Society and Community Research (CSCR) Ph.D. option in Human Ecology, the department requires the following materials:

  • Online application indicating “Human Ecology PHD–Civil Society & Comm Research” as your program selection 
  • $75 application fee
  • Curriculum vitae/resume
  • Unofficial transcripts (official transcripts will be required for students who receive an admission offer)
  • Official Graduate Record Exam scores (GRE Institution code #1846)
  • International students only:
    • Official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or Melab scores
    • International students who hold degrees from U.S. institutions do not need to submit language test scores
  • Three letters of recommendation (submitted electronically through your Graduate School application)
  •  Uploaded Statement of Purpose/Reasons for Graduate Study
    • Statement should also include your reasons for studying or seeking a specialization in Civil Society and Community Research. Please indicate these reasons in a separate section of your statement titled, “Reasons for Specializing in Civil Society and Community Research”
  • Upload a writing sample
    • Examples of writing samples include prior scholarly work such as term papers, theses, or published articles. All writing samples must be written in English and uploaded to the online application system as a PDF.

Additional information is available on the program website.

Graduate School Admissions

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic degree programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet requirements of both the program(s) and the Graduate School. Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.  

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and processes related to funding.

Program Resources

Funding opportunities for Human Ecology graduate students are available and made possible, in large part, by generous donations to SoHE. Every year, these funds are used to fund teaching or project assistantships, award academic excellence scholarships, and provide students doing their masters or doctoral research or final MFA project with conference travel scholarships and graduate research scholarships. See the School of Human Ecology Enrollment Policy on Funding Eligibility and view current funding opportunities on our program website for more information.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Named Option Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations Doctoral students are required to take a comprehensive preliminary/oral examination after they have cleared their record of all Incomplete and Progress grades (other than research and thesis). Deposit of the doctoral dissertation in the Graduate School is required.
Language Requirements Contact the program for information on any language requirements.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.


Introductory Courses6
Special Topics in Civil Society and Community Research (Proseminar: Engaged Scholarship—1 credit)
Special Topics in Human Ecology (Theory and Perspectives of Human Ecology—2 credits)
Research Methods (3 credits)
Theoretical Foundations9
General Topics (Building Civil Society—3 credits)
Special Topics (Civic Development Across the Lifespan—3 credits)
Special Topics in Civil Society and Community Research (Community Power and Collective Action—3 credits)
Methods and Applications of Community-Based Research
Applications of Community-based research9
Special Topics (Evaluation Research in Practice—3 credits)
Special Topics in Civil Society and Community Research (Mixed Methods and Community Action Research—3 credits)
Community-Based Research: Theory and Practice (3 credits)
Research Methods9
Qualitative Data Collection & Analysis 1
Quantitative Designs & Statistical Methods 2
Methods Elective 3
Community Innovations for Civil Society 43
Minor Specialization 59
Research and Thesis6
Research and Thesis
Total Credits51

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Named Option-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

The Graduate Program Handbook is the repository for all of the program's policies and requirements.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count up to 18 credits of graduate coursework taken at other institutions or as a UW–Madison Special student (with a maximum of 9 special student credits as part of the 18). Prior coursework taken at other institutions may not be used to satisfy the minimum graduate residence credit requirement. Credits earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree are not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, up to 7 credits numbered 300 or above from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward degree credit; undergraduate courses must be numbered 700 or above to count toward the minimum graduate coursework requirement. No undergraduate coursework may count toward the graduate residence requirement.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count up to 18 credits of graduate coursework taken at other institutions or as a UW–Madison Special student (with a maximum of 9 special student credits as part of the 18). coursework must be numbered 300 or above for residence and degree credit and 700 or above to satisfy the minimum graduate coursework (50%) requirement. Credits earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree are not allowed to satisfy requirements. Use of Special student credit may require payment of tuition difference.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies. An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor.

To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.


12 credits

Time Constraints

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may by require to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.



Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Program Resources

The School of Human Ecology Graduate Program values the professional development of graduate students and provides financial awards to those who are invited to present at professional conferences/exhibits. The purpose of the support is to encourage participation in professional development, scholarly research, and/or creative endeavor and to help cover expenses not covered by other sources. Students may receive a maximum award of $650 for travel ($750 for international travel) to support conference participation in a single academic year. 

In addition, each academic department within the School of Human Ecology may offer additional professional development grant opportunities. See the program Events Calendar for the most up-to-date information on professional development opportunities. 


Civil Society and Community Studies 

Professors: Cynthia Jasper (chair), Constance Flanagan

Associate Professors: Lori Bakken, Brian Christens

Assistant Professors: Kendra Alexander, Jennifer Gaddis, Leah Horowitz, Carolina Sarmiento, Shannon Sparks

Consumer science (consumer behavior & family economics)

Professors: Nancy Wong (chair), Judith Bartfeld

Associate Professors: J. Michael Collins, Clifford Robb

Assistant Professors:  Feneba Addo, Lydia Ashton, Dee Warmath

Design Studies

Professors: Roberto Rengel (chair), Jennifer Angus, Wei Dong, Majid Sarmadi, Mark Nelson

Associate Professors: Mary Hark, Carolyn Kallenborn, Jung-hye Shin

Assistant Professors:  Marianne Fairbanks, Marina Moskowitz, Kevin Ponto, Kristin Thorleifsdottir

Human Development and Family Studies

Professors: Janean Dilworth-Bart (chair), Charles Raison, Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, Linda Roberts, Stephen Small

Associate Professors: Larissa Duncan, Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Sigan Hartley, Heather Kirkorian, Robert Nix, Lauren Papp

Assistant Professors: Kristin Litzelman, Margaret Kerr