Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/requirements/#english-proficiency).
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

 Applications are accepted once per year for fall admission and are due by December 1 of the preceding year. Admission to the Ph.D. program is highly competitive. The Ph.D. builds on knowledge acquired typically through a master’s degree and provides students with further training to teach and conduct research at the highest level. Competitive candidates will hold a master’s degree (M.S. preferred) in design, architectural history, environmental design, or other related fields. Promising applicants who do not have sufficient educational background may be admitted, under the condition that he or she take pre-doctoral preparation courses.

To be considered for admission to the Design Studies (DS) Ph.D. option in Human Ecology, the department requires the following materials:

  • Online application indicating “Human Ecology PHD–Design Studies” as your program selection
  • $75 application fee
  • Curriculum vitae/resume
  • Unofficial transcripts or academic records from each institution attended (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
  • 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.
  • Personal bio statement
    • Describe concisely how your personal background and life experiences motivated you to further pursue graduate education. The personal biographical statement is not a statement of purpose that describes your academic plan. This statement should be no more than 500 words and should be uploaded to the online application system as a PDF.

Additional information is available on the program website.

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 restrictions 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 3.30 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 Qualifying Research Project: The Qualifying Research Project (3 credits) is part of the Core Course requirements for every Ph.D. student, and must be completed prior to preliminary exams. The Qualifying Research Project provides students with an opportunity to conduct independent research in their area of specialization in preparation for their dissertation. While limited in scope, the project should be comparable to the final dissertation in terms of its intellectual tone and quality. The project could be a self-contained research paper that could later be incorporated into one of chapters in the final dissertation, building theoretical model for the dissertation, or proposal and conduct of pilot study for their final dissertation. Students are encouraged to disseminate the project broadly, in the format of conference papers or published journal articles in their respective fields.

The Qualifying Research Project may be based on work completed as part of any UW graduate seminar. Students often enroll in an independent study with their major advisor to complete this project. The project must be submitted to and approved by student’s major advisor; the project must receive a passing grade in order for the student to sit for the preliminary examination.

Preliminary Examination: All Ph.D. students sit for a preliminary examination after satisfactorily completing coursework and the Qualifying Research Project. The exam is intended to demonstrate the students’ broad knowledge in the field of design, and specialized expertise in both a major and a minor area. Students must pass the preliminary examination before submitting a dissertation proposal, and before advancing to dissertator status.

Research and Thesis: Students with dissertator status are expected to enroll for 3 credits directly related to dissertation research or production. These credits are generally research and thesis credits, independent studies, or required seminars; they must be at the 300 level or above. Three credits is the minimum credit load per semester for dissertators during each of the fall and spring semesters; this is considered a full time load.Dissertators must register for 3 credits each semester until the Ph.D. thesis is filed.
Language Requirements Foreign language proficiency may be required for students in the Design History track; if their major or minor areas or dissertation requires work in a language other than English. Students in EDR Track may be required to fulfill the foreign language requirement if the student’s research involves the use of a language other than English. Competency may be acquired independently or through structured coursework and is assessed through examination. Exams must be taken before students advance to dissertator status.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.


Ph.D. students must complete a minimum of 51 credits. Of these, 42 credits will include Core Courses, courses in a Major Area of Specialization (Design History or "DH track"; Environmental Research Design or "EDR track"; or Textile Science or "TS track")1, courses in a Minor Area of Specialization, and a Qualifying Research Project. The remaining 13 credits may be fulfilled through foreign language competencies, independent studies (i.e. to prepare for qualifying examinations), or Dissertator credits. At least 50% of credits (26 of 51 total credits) applied toward the doctorate degree must be from courses designed for graduate work; courses numbered 700 and above or courses numbered 300–699 that assess graduate students separately from undergraduate students generally satisfy this requirement. Students must maintain a 3.3-grade point average to remain in good standing.

Pre-Doctoral Preparation Courses 1
Design History
Art / Architecture / Design History Survey (2 courses)
Design History or Art History Research Methods (1 course)
Design History Research Seminar (1 course)
Environmental Design Research
Introductory research methods (2 courses):
Research Methods
Research Methods in Human Development and Family Studies
Methods of Sociological Inquiry
Introductory statistics course (2 courses):
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Accelerated Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Classical Sociological Theory:
Classical Sociological Theory
Textile Science
Introduction to Theory and Methods of Mathematical Statistics II
Applied Regression Analysis
Statistical Experimental Design
Introduction to the Theory of Probability
Human Ecology Core3
Special Topics in Human Ecology (Professional Development Seminar)
Theories and Perspectives in Human Ecology
Core Courses 215
Prior to doctoral candidacy, all Ph.D. students will be expected to enroll in 15 credits distributed among the following Core Courses:
Seminar in Design Studies
Design Studies Seminar (select one as appropriate):
Person and Environment Interactions (EDR track only)
Seminar in Design Studies (Topic: Seminar in Design History; DH track only) 3
Seminar in Design Studies (Topic: Seminar in New Developments in Textiles; TS track only) 3
Research Design and Methods (select one as appropriate):
Methods for Design History (select from Dimensions in Material Culture, Architectural History Methods, or Art History Methods) (DH track only)
Practical Research Design and Methods of Empirical Inquiry (EDR track only)
Seminar in Design Studies (Topic: Textile Science Research Methods; TS track only)
Graduate Student Instructor Course
Qualifying Research Project
Major Area of Specialization 415
Minor Area of Specialization (Doctoral Minor) 59
Qualifying Research Project3
Qualifying Exam/Preliminary Exam (Non credit)
Elective Credits3
Research and Thesis3
Total Credits51

VR Technology Focused Minor

The Design Studies program offers a unique minor area of specialization in Virtual Reality1. Students in both the DH and EDR tracks may minor in this field. The minor provides a technology-focused approach for students looking to develop new Virtual Reality technologies or to utilize Virtual Reality technologies in their research. The School of Human Ecology houses a newly developed Virtual Reality system to which students undertaking this minor will have full access. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to work with other Virtual Reality and simulation environments around the UW–Madison campus. Students looking to undertake the VR technology minor should be familiar with concepts of computer programming and programming languages.

Students in the TS Track should develop expertise in both technology and chemistry. Students have the opportunity to develop a minor in the emerging field of technical textiles. If a distributed minor is desired, students must take a minimum of 6 credits in technology and 6 credits in chemistry (12 credits total).

Required during the first semester:
DS/​COMP SCI  579 Virtual Reality3
PSYCH/​COMP SCI/​ED PSYCH  770 Human-Computer Interaction3
DS/​COMP SCI/​I SY E  518 Wearable Technology3
COMP SCI 679 Computer Game Technology3
COMP SCI 559 Computer Graphics3
COMP SCI 777 Computer Animation3
COMP SCI 838 Topics in Computing (Topic: Advanced Modeling and Simulation)1-3
COMP SCI 838 Topics in Computing (Topic: Advanced Graphics)1-3
COMP SCI 838 Topics in Computing (Topic: Visualization)1-3

Read more about the minor here.

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

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.

grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Any student who feels that he or she has been treated unfairly by a Human Ecology faculty or staff member has the right to complain about the treatment and to receive a prompt hearing of the grievance, following the grievance procedures outlined below. To ensure a prompt and fair hearing of any complaint, and to protect both the rights of the student and the person at whom the complaint is addressed, the procedures below are used in the School of Human Ecology.

The person whom the complaint is directed against must be an employee of the School of Human Ecology. Any graduate student or graduate applicant may use these procedures unless the complaint is covered by other campus rules or contracts.

Note: These procedures do not cover appeals of admissions decisions or other decisions made by departmental or Human Ecology committees. For information on appeals of decisions, students should contact the chair of the committee or the chair of the department that made the decision.


Civil Society and Community Studies: Brian McInnes (Graduate Program Chair), Cynthia Jasper (Department Chair)

Consumer Science: J. Michael Collins (Graduate Program Chair), Nancy Wong (Department Chair)

Design Studies: Jung-hye Shin (Graduate Program Chair), Roberto Rengel (Department Chair)

Human Development and Family Studies: Kristin Litzelman (Graduate Program Chair), Janean Dilworth-Bart (Department Chair)

Master of Science in Human Ecology: Sarah Halpern-Meekin (Graduate Program Chair)

Students are encouraged to keep written documentation of their experience of unfair treatment both before and during the grievance proceedings.

Graduate Student Grievance Procedures

STEP 1. The student should first consider talking directly with the person(s) against whom the grievance is directed.

Some issues can be settled at this level, and some cannot be. Although students are encouraged to talk directly with the person(s) involved, we recognize that this may not always be possible. If the complaint cannot be resolved satisfactorily by talking with the person(s) involved, the student may continue to Step 2.

NOTE: In cases of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or racial discrimination, students may choose to bypass these procedures and report the conduct directly to either of the following offices:

STEP 2. Does the complaint involve someone in a Human Ecology academic department (Civil Society and Community Studies, Consumer Science, Design Studies, and Human Development & Family Studies)?

  • Yes: The student should contact the chair of the department. The student will submit the grievance to the chair in writing. This must be done within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment. The department chair will refer the matter to the department’s Graduate Program Committee or to another appropriate departmental committee (standing or ad hoc) for review. The committee will share the student’s written complaint with the person at whom the complaint is directed, and will obtain a written response from this person. This response will be shared with the student filing the grievance. The committee chair will provide a timely written decision to the student on the action taken by the committee (the departmental decision). If either party is unwilling to accept the departmental decision, the department chair will refer the matter to the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies (see contact information below). The Associate Dean will bring the grievance to the Human Ecology Graduate Program Council for review. (NOTE: if the grievance is against the department chair, the written complaint should be referred to the chair of the department’s graduate program committee; contact information given below.)
  • No: The student should contact the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. The student will submit the grievance to the Associate Dean in writing. This must be done within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment. The Associate Dean will refer the grievance to the Human Ecology Graduate Program Council for review.

STEP 3. Human Ecology Graduate Program Council review.

To ensure fairness, the Graduate Program Council chair may appoint a subcommittee to review the complaint (e.g., excluding faculty from the student’s department). The Graduate Program Council may ask for additional information from the parties involved and may hold a hearing at which both parties will be asked to speak separately in closed session. The Graduate Program Council will then make a written recommendation to the Associate Dean who will render a decision and submit it to the Dean of the School for final approval. The Associate Dean will provide the Dean’s final decision in writing to the student and to the person against whom the grievance was filed. Unless a longer time is mutually agreed upon by the individuals involved, this written decision shall be made within 30 working days from the date when the written grievance was filed with the Associate Dean’s Office.

Students not willing to accept the final decision of the Dean may appeal to the Graduate School.

Questions about these procedures can be directed to Connie Flanagan, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies.

State law contains provisions regarding discrimination and harassment. Wisconsin Statutes 36.12 reads, in part:
“No student may be denied admission to, participation in or the benefits of, or be discriminated against in any service, program, course or facility of the system or its institutions or centers because of the student’s race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status.”

In addition, the UW-System prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.

Students have the right to file discrimination and harassment complaints with the Office for Equity and Diversity, 179-A Bascom Hall, 263-2378, Wisconsin Telecommunications Relay Service: 7-1-1



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. Students are encouraged to seek conference and travel funding from the Graduate School as a first step and apply for supplemental funds through SoHE as needed.

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), Lori Bakken, Constance Flanagan

Associate Professors: Brian McInnes

Assistant Professors: Kasey Keeler, Jennifer Gaddis, Leah Horowitz, Carolina Sarmiento, Mariaelena Huambachano

Consumer science (consumer behavior & family economics)

Professors: Nancy Wong (chair), Judith Bartfeld, J. Michael Collins

Associate Professors: Clifford Robb

Assistant Professors: Fenaba Addo, Lydia Ashton, Megan Bea, C. Yiwei Zhang

Design Studies

Professors: Roberto Rengel (chair), Jennifer Angus, Wei Dong, Majid Sarmadi, Mary Hark

Associate Professors: Carolyn Kallenborn, Marina Moskowitz, Kevin Ponto, Jung-hye Shin

Assistant Professors: Marianne Fairbanks, Kristin Thorleifsdottir

Human Development and Family Studies

Professors: Janean Dilworth-Bart (chair), Charles Raison, Julie Poehlmann-Tynan

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

Assistant Professors: Kristin Litzelman, Margaret Kerr, Alvin Thomas