PhD Program in Public & Community Health

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Steps Toward Graduation

Selecting an Advisory Committee
Initially, the Program Director will be responsible for advising and mentoring the students. During the first 18 months, each student is expected to explore research opportunities with different faculty members through the doctoral seminars, community health improvement courses and Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program projects, and to select one member to serve as a research advisor. There will be a formal process for both introducing and linking students to potential mentors and research areas:

  1. Doctoral seminars. Students will have the opportunity to meet faculty during the doctoral seminars held each semester. During those seminars, students will have the opportunity to select from a set of research programs and observe projects to determine their interests.
  2. List of research opportunities. An expanded version of the list of projects and potential areas of study will be made available to students and updated periodically.
  3. In the readings and research course in the first summer, students will have the opportunity to do independent reading and observe the research of at least two faculty.
  4. The Program Director will have regular meetings with students to assess progress toward selecting a research area and a dissertation advisor and provide necessary support and connections to faculty. Selection of an advisor is expected to occur within the first 18 months of the program; students will be encouraged to make the selection within the first year.

Qualifying Examination
Upon successful completion of the required courses (with the exception of the community-based participatory research practicum), the student will be given a written and oral qualifying examination. The examination is offered during the summer after the second year. The evaluation is based on the student’s competencies and knowledge of public and community health at the advanced level and the ability to apply that knowledge to conducting meaningful research.  

A student must pass both the oral and written examinations in order to advance in the program.  A student who does not pass may retake the examination once within three months of the first attempt.

Community-Based Participatory Research Project
One of the unique strengths of the proposed PhD Program is the opportunity for students to participate in a year-long community-based participatory research (CBPR) project.

The CBPR project occurs in the third year while the student is preparing for the dissertation through independent study in readings and research. This project could lead to a dissertation if the student identifies an original research hypothesis to test. This can best be viewed as a methodological experience in which students have a hands-on opportunity to work with a faculty member and his or her community partners on an existing project.

This hands-on training is critical to developing the student’s ability to successfully engage with the community in his or her independent dissertation research. The CBPR experience, in conjunction with the readings and research in the third year, will provide the student with the skills to move forward with a strong dissertation proposal and, ultimately, a final, publishable product.

While teaching is not mandatory in the program, students are strongly encouraged to seek such an experience if they intend to pursue careers with a substantial teaching component. Students who indicate such an interest should consult with the Program Director to make arrangements for teaching opportunities outside of the Graduate School of the Medical College. In addition, students will have the opportunity to conduct at least two lectures during the doctoral seminars.

Steps toward a Dissertation

Dissertation Committee
During the early part of the third semester, students should choose, with the consent of the proposed faculty members and the approval of the Program Director, their Research Advisors.

Students are encouraged to work closely with their individual Advisor to select four additional members of their Dissertation Committee. Thought should be taken to ensure that all members on the committee will cohesively and comprehensively enhance students’ research topics, study questions or hypotheses, and/or research design and methods.

The committee must have at least one faculty member from a department outside of the students’ degree program. The students, with the approval of their Advisor and the Program Director, may propose that a member of the Dissertation Committee be a faculty member at another accredited institution of higher learning. If they so choose, students will be allowed to add a sixth member to the committee from the community, who may or may not be faculty from another institution.

Dissertation Committee composition must be approved by the Program Director, the Dean of the Graduate School, and by the Graduate Faculty Credentials Committee.

Defense of Dissertation Proposal
Students must present to the Dissertation Committee a written research proposal for the dissertation (generally no less than 18 months prior to completion of the degree requirements). Each student is expected to consult with committee members as the proposal is being developed. The Dissertation Committee has full responsibility for examining the doctoral proposal and evaluating performance on the oral examination. The committee may decide to approve the proposal as presented, conditionally approve it subject to specified minor revision, or require that the student make major revisions. Students who pass are eligible to be admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree. The Dissertation Committee will meet at least twice yearly with the student to assess progress on the dissertation.

Final Examination
Every PhD candidate must submit a dissertation based on original research of a high scholarly standard that makes a significant contribution to knowledge in the field of public and community health. Students usually defend their final dissertation during the fourth year. Student must defend the dissertation in an oral examination open to all members of the faculty, students, and the public. The Dissertation Committee is responsible for evaluating the quality of the research, dissertation and defense.

Student Evaluation
There will be a variety of mechanisms to monitor and evaluate student progress. Students will be evaluated in individual courses through class participation, presentations, quizzes, exams, papers, and projects.

Research progress will be assessed by the student’s advisor through regular meetings to review accomplishments of goals and achievement of milestones in planned projects. At the end of each semester of readings and research, student performance is assessed by the advisor and a grade of Excellent, Good, Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory is assigned. In addition, all students will be reviewed annually in accordance with the Graduate School policy.

Student achievement will primarily be measured by grade point average and overall academic standing. The preliminary examinations, dissertation proposal and dissertation itself are critical in evaluating student achievement. In addition, paper and poster presentations at local or national conferences and published papers will be tracked.

Requirements for Academic Standing
The PhD in Public and Community Health is designed to be completed in four years. Students must remain in good academic standing over this period, defined as at least a “B” average in courses and an “S” or better performance in other components of the program. Students who fail to maintain their academic standing may be placed on academic probation for a limited time according to specific guidelines of the Graduate School, including concurrence of the Graduate School Dean. A student on academic probation is not eligible for the qualifying examination or for advancement to candidacy for a graduate degree.
© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 10/08/2014