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Doctoral Program in Public Administration UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT OMAHA


from our current PhD students

A Message from the PhD Chair

Welcome! We are an established Carnegie Doctoral program on a growing campus that is committed to rigorous scholarship and democratic engagement. Our PhD graduates typically complete their degree with at least two publications and substantive teaching experience. Throughout this viewbook we share our philosophy to empower you to establish a strong intellectual identity. We also showcase our esteemed faculty, and offer a helpful admissions checklist when you’re ready to apply. We have a robust record of placing our graduates in the academy or in senior level positions in the public and nonprofit sectors. We hope you will consider joining us in Omaha! Gary Marshall, PhD Doctoral Program Chair School of Public Administration University of Nebraska at Omaha

Why Omaha?

Omaha is our campus and classroom. No fences or barriers separate students from the opportunities offered by the greater Omaha area and beyond. We address real issues, providing relevant learning opportunities which uniquely prepare our graduates as professionals and active members of their community. Since its inception in 1908, the University of Nebraska at Omaha has been firmly anchored in the community, forging partnerships with business, education, government, arts and civic organizations. UNO has long set the pace for accessible higher education in Nebraska and continues to offer an academically rigorous experience to a diverse student body. The Omaha metropolitan area provides excellent opportunities for personal growth and enrichment. Omaha is home to numerous performing arts venues, leading technology centers, national sporting events and an exciting urban nightlife. Affordable housing options are available near campus and in a variety of dynamic neighborhoods. UNO serves as a gateway to a metropolitan environment and is an indispensable part of the Omaha community.

It’s All Here

Omaha is more than simply our location; the city truly functions as part of the UNO campus. With a population of more than 1.2 million within a 50-mile radius, Omaha is integral to what UNO is as a university and offers unlimited opportunities for collaboration. UNO and Omaha enjoy a dynamic, fruitful, long-term partnership with a shared goal: changing the lives of students and residents while enriching the global community.

Place Matters #1 Most Recession Proof City (Brookings Institute) #2 The 15 Best U.S. Cities for Millennial College Students (OnlineColleges, March 2015)

The 5 Best Big Cities: Best in the Midwest (, August 2015)

Our Philosophy The School of Public Administration (SPA) at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) will empower you to establish a strong intellectual identity. You will be introduced to different knowledge traditions and become thoroughly immersed in the discourse of public administration and its integration of theory and practice. At UNO, we foster a culture of openness where the process of knowledge creation among students is a common enterprise. As our students move through the PhD program, they have opportunities to teach and to work hand-in-hand with faculty. When they graduate, they are prepared to understand and help solve public problems as a respected academic professional.

Why SPA?

The School of Public Administration, located on the UNO campus, is a national leader in public service education, with five of its programs ranked in the nation’s top 25 by U.S. News & World Report. Our specializations are ranked in the top 20, including: #6 Public Budgeting and Finance #12 Nonprofit Management #15 City Management and Urban Policy #19 Public Management If you think public service is in your future, you’ll find that our diverse programming can complement your interests and provide a strong orientation to the field.

Why UNO?

The University of Nebraska at Omaha offers a premier graduate education at extremely competitive tuition rates, making UNO the most affordable in the region. After you have completed your course of study and have earned your UNO graduate degree, you will find the value of your education is highly sought after and will set you on the path to not only getting your dream job, but thriving in your career. Approximately 2,800 graduate students from 41 states and 83 countries attend UNO.

Structure of the Curriculum The doctoral program curriculum is comprised of academic course work, field exams, a dissertation proposal and finally, the doctoral dissertation. At each stage of this course of study students add layers of knowledge with each building upon the next. By the numbers, there are four core seminars, three advanced research courses, and four specialization courses, and a formal teaching workshop required prior to the field exams and dissertation work.


The faculty offer six areas of specialization. Doctoral students choose two courses (six hours) in each of two areas, for a total of 12 credit hours. The area of specialization includes a seminar or proseminar and a second course drawn from the graduate curriculum of Public Administration or a related academic unit in the university system. The six specialization areas are outlined on the next page.

Core Seminars

There are four required core seminars in the doctoral program of study. These seminars are taken at the beginning of a student’s program of study and cover the theoretical foundations of the field, the major knowledge frameworks that form the basis for research design and methods, the political social and economic environments of public administration, and the history of management reforms. PA 9000 | Foundations of Public Administration PA 9300 | Knowledge Development and Use PA 9400 | Environment of Public Administration PA 9600 | Seminar in Advanced Management Theory

Research Track

There are three required research seminars. The first two courses are taken during the first or second year of a student’s program and cover quantitative and qualitative research design and methods. The third course on advanced research design is taken at the end of the student’s course work under the supervision of the committee chair and covers the elements of a successful dissertation proposal. These courses include:

PA 9800 | Advanced Research Design PA 9950 | Quantitative Methods in Public Administration PA 9960 | Qualitative Research Methods

Teaching, Professional Skills Workshop There is a required two-day workshop which doctoral students take prior to completing their degree. A team of faculty facilitate discussions on topics related to teaching and job search skills. The workshop includes videotaping of students giving “micro” lectures and feedback from faculty and students.


The dissertation represents an original contribution to knowledge development in the field of Public Administration. Following successful completion of all course work and a field exam, doctoral students apply for Candidacy for the Degree and then defend a dissertation proposal before their supervisory committees and other faculty and students. Following successful defense of the proposal, students work under the guidance of their supervisory committee chairs until the project is substantially complete. Two readers from the student’s supervisory committee then review the entire document and may recommend further work or changes. After the committee chair and readers agree that the dissertation is ready for defense, the student schedules a public defense. For detailed information about curriculum and specializations, visit

PhD Specializations Public Administration Theory Public Aviation and Transportation Public Budgeting and Finance Public Policy Urban Management Information and Technology Management

Specialized Expertise, Remarkable Research The PhD in Public Administration transcends all areas of campus, the community, and our society. Learn more about our six PhD specializations and our research centers within the School of Public Administration by visiting us at

SPA Research Centers Global Digital Governance Lab Nebraska State and Local Government Finance Lab Nonprofit Management Center

A PhD with Purpose Faculty

The graduate faculty at UNO is world-class and internationally recognized through professional academic associations. The faculty members are dedicated to individual student instruction and mentoring to help guide students through their courses of study. The average class size is seven students.

The Carnegie Foundation

The Carnegie Foundation has classified UNO as a Carnegie Doctoral Research University for our specialized doctoral programs and comprehensive range of master’s degrees and certificates.

Excellent Placements

Graduates of the PhD in Public Administration Program include faculty and leaders at the following prestigious institutions: • University at Albany–State University of New York • Sun Yat-Sen University • Purdue University • James Madison University • Senior Executive--Federal Aviation Administration • Associate Vice President for Research and Evaluation--Nebraska Children and Families Foundation

Intellectual Identity

Successful completion of the PhD requires each student to have a sophisticated relationship with knowledge and an awareness of one’s own intellectual project. Doctoral students are introduced to the ontological and epistemological foundations of knowledge. This occurs within an academic culture of openness and the shared understanding of terms, ideas and concepts in order to work scientifically and creatively.

Democratic Purpose

The practice of public administration occurs within a diverse and democratic society. Democratic practice equally informs the day-to-day management and delivery of public services as well as broader debates over public purposes. Knowledge of democratic governance is emphasized throughout the curriculum. Students gain intensive knowledge of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist debates, the historic tension between democracy and bureaucracy, the role of the public interest, competing theories of democracy and their relationship to administrative accountability and public participation, to name just a few of these core concepts.

Academic Rigor

Doctoral study requires a tenacious commitment to the advancement of knowledge. This ideal is reflected in the level of difficulty of the course work, exams and dissertation process. Students can expect rich and intense subject matter interaction with faculty and fellow students. A successful dissertation defense is the pinnacle of these expectations for high academic achievement, content expertise and intellectual complexity.

PhD Program FAQ Are graduate assistantships available? Yes, we have graduate assistantships available. Our graduate assistants work with a faculty member on research projects and grants. Graduate assistants will eventually teach at the undergraduate level with support of our faculty. Applications to be considered for a graduate assistantship are due February 1.

Do graduate assistants get paid? Yes, our graduate assistants received a stipend of $18,000 during the academic year (September-May). Tuition is paid for by UNO. Students pay for their student fees and textbooks.

How much does the program cost? UNO’s tuition is based on a per credit rate at the following rates: Resident On-campus: $255.75 Nonresident On-campus: $714.50 *The cost of the program varies since it depends on how many credits are completed and the number of semesters enrolled.

PhD Admissions

Admission to the PhD Program is the decision of the Dean of Graduate Studies based on the recommendations of the School of Public Administration Doctoral Program Committee. There are eight elements in the application portfolio, including three letters of recommendation. All application materials must be received by the applicable deadline in order for the application to be reviewed by the Doctoral Program Committee. Those applicants who enter the program with a master’s degree in a field other than Public Administration may need to complete up to three prerequisites: (1) Foundations in the Public Sector, (2) Organization Theory and Behavior, and (3) Research Methods in Public Administration. The letter of admission will specify which prerequisites are necessary before enrolling in the core curriculum.

Apply Today Application deadline for Graduate Assistantships: February 1 Application deadline for all others: June 1

PhD Application Checklist 1. All official transcripts from post-secondary educational institutions are sent to: Office of Graduate Studies 6001 Dodge Street Eppley Administration Building, Room 203 Omaha, NE 68182-0209 2. A $45.00 application fee 3. Completed graduate application 4. A minimum TOEFL score of 557 (or 233 on computer-based test or 90 on internet based test)*; or minimum IELTS score of 6.5, or minimum Pearson score of 61 5. A minimum Graduate Record Exam combined verbal and quantitative score of 305 6. A five-page statement of intent describing what career the applicant wishes to pursue after completion of the PhD, desired area of concentration and an explanation of academic and professional backgrounds 7. A resume of professional work experience 8. Three email addresses for your writers of letters of recommendation; two recommendations must be academic; the Graduate Studies Office will contact each of them via email to obtain the letters *Required if applicant’s language of nature is not English and master’s degree is not from a university in a country where the official language is English.

PhD in Public Administration, Dr. Jim Harrold, Graduate Commencement Speaker, Spring 2016

Behind Our Great Graduates Are

GREAT DEGREES Dr. Courtney Jensen Assistant Professor, Eastern Washington University “You will not find a more supportive faculty. From research to teaching to professional development, UNO SPA is there to guide and mentor doctoral students at every step.”

Dr. Gang Chen Assistant Professor, University of Albany, State University of New York. “At UNO, you are educated by world-class scholars, who always encourage and support you to pursue your highest intellect. My education gave me an incredible skill set.”

Dr. Gerard Wellman Assistant Professor, California State University, Stanislaus “The PhD program helped me find my passion, then gave me the tools to pursue it. Making the world a better place has never felt so possible.”

Dr. Catherine Brown Associate Vice President for Research and Evaluation, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation The PhD program at UNO made it possible for me to expand both my personal and intellectual horizons. Surrounded by nationally and internationally recognized experts in their fields, I felt challenged to grow my potential as well as supported in the process of finding my own intellectual “voice.”

SCHOOL OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION Dr. Gary Marshall Doctoral Program Chair 402.554.2962 Dr. Meagan Van Gelder Academic Program Coordinator 402.554.3480 The University of Nebraska does not discriminate based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, relation, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, marital status, and/or political affiliation in its programs, activities, or employment.

Doctoral Program in Public Administration, UNO  
Doctoral Program in Public Administration, UNO