Prospective Students

The School of Urban Affairs offers a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) degree. You can read more about the program below:

How to Apply

Click here for detailed information about the PhD application process. 

Ph.D. Program Overview

You can find the specific dates for various deadlines in the student calendars provided by the Registrar's Office. By far, the most important calendar is the one for graduation deadlines provided by the Graduate SchoolConsult these calendars frequently, especially at the beginning of each semester, to ensure you keep up with deadlines which change from year to year. Failure to meet deadlines will delay your graduation.

1.   Apply for admission and apply for assistantship/fellowship (if applicable):

2.  Be advised and get registration clearance:

  • Please contact the Director of the Urban Affairs PhD program for an advising appointment after the Graduate School informs you of your admission into the Ph.D. program. You will not be able to register until you do this. After advising, the director will clear your registration PIN and process overrides for UAPP courses so you can register for classes.
  • Students must register using the myMemphis Web-based registration system. See https://www.memphis.edu/registrar/students/selfserv/quick.php.
  • After that, meet with the Director of the Urban Affairs PhD program at least once a year for course enrollment advising and clearance. When going for advising, students are encouraged to talk to their faculty advisor and bring an updated advising form, which can be found on the Student Resources page. 

3.  Year One: Complete Urban Affairs Core Curriculum and Complete Qualifying Exams. (EFFECTIVE FALL 2024)

  • Transferring credits from another school (or master's program) if necessary: If you want to use any credits from another school or master's program, your faculty advisor and the program director must approve this first.  Fill out the Transfer Credit Evaluation (For Doctoral Degree Programs Only) form and submit a copy of this form and the syllabus for the requested transferred classes.
    • No classes can be substituted for the following courses: UAPP 8009, 8010, 8011, 8012, 8013, 8014.
    • GIS or qualitative methods may be substituted on a case-by-case basis. 
  • Part-time students cannot take qualifying exams, theory, or specialization coursework until they have completed the following core courses: UAPP 8009, 8010, 8011, 8014, one GIS, and one qualitative methods course.
  • Refer to the Program Handbook for more information on course sequencing.
  • FT students should begin preparing for spring comprehensive exams from the first day of their first class.
  • PT students should prepare class notes and lecture materials but should not sit for comprehensive exams until they have completed the program core. 
  • After completing spring qualifying exams, students must submit the Comprehensive Exam Results Form to the Urban Affairs program director for transmission to graduate school.



UAPP 8009, UAPP 8011, and one qualitative methods course or one GIS course 

UAPP 8014, UAPP 8010, and one qualitative methods course or one GIS course.



Select Faculty Advisor

Take Spring Qualifying/Comprehensive Exams


4.  Year Two: Take Specialization and Theory Coursework and Begin Dissertation Prospectus.

  • Select your specialization field and identify who should be on your Dissertation Committee in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and your faculty advisor. Students are encouraged to review the program specializations before applying to the program. In the second year, students focus on the specialization and theory coursework necessary for their dissertation research.
  • The Dissertation Committee must include a UM faculty member with Full Graduate Faculty status as chair and at least two other Graduate Faculty members to represent your dissertation's specialization area or topical focus.
    • Students may have dissertation members in departments outside of SUAPP, and in special circumstances, tenured faculty at other universities may sit on a student's dissertation committee.
  • Students should designate their committee members using the Dissertation Committee Appointment form. A new form must be submitted to the Graduate School if a student changes their dissertation committee members.
  • Meet with this Dissertation Committee during your first or second semester once your committee is formed. Take an updated Ph.D. advising form to your meeting with the Dissertation Committee members. You and your committee members will discuss the expectations of the dissertation prospectus and work with you to schedule a prospectus defense date. All forms for committees can be found on the Student Resources page.  Faculty members can refer to the Faculty Resources page for additional information.
  • The Dissertation Committee chair should provide you with a written evaluation at the end of your second year and beyond. Unless they say you are doing well and mention no problems, meet with each member individually to discuss your options. Use the Doctoral Student Assessment form on the Student Resources page and submit it to the program director once completed at the end of each Spring semester.



UAPP 8012, Theory Course 1, Theory Course II 

UAPP 8013, Specialization Course I, Specialization Course II, UAPP 9001 (1 credit hour)



Choose dissertation committee members.


Re-take spring qualifying/comprehensive exams (if needed).

Prepare dissertation prospectus and schedule prospectus defense.


5. Year Three: Continue Dissertation Research

  • Write your dissertation in consultation with your advisor and, if helpful, with your other committee members.
  • For the proper format of the dissertation, see Dissertation Formatting Guidelines.
  • Register for at least one (1) hour of dissertation credit per semester in the Fall and Spring to maintain your active status and continuous enrollment. 
  • To register for your first dissertation credit during the semester following your comprehensive exams, first, discuss the hours needed with your dissertation chair and email your request to Dr. Davia Downey (dcdowney@memphis.edu), who will enter a UAPP 9000 permit under your dissertation chair as the faculty of record.
  • You will not need any form for clearance for the semesters following the passing of the comprehensive exam or the term following the prospectus defense. In those cases, simply email the program director to enter the permit for the dissertation hours you need during that semester.
  • You may not take dissertation credits (UAPP 9000 or UAPP 9001) until you have passed comps and submitted the comps form to the Graduate School.



UAPP 9000 (hours vary), Specialization Course III, or UAPP 8200 (Directed Readings, if needed)

UAPP 9000 (hours vary)



Continue writing dissertation and periodically check in with committee members for feedback. 


Prepare dissertation prospectus and schedule prospectus defense if not yet completed.


6.  Year Four and Beyond: Defend your Dissertation and Apply for Graduation

  • Students will continue to take dissertation hours until they are ready to defend their dissertation. This determination (i.e., readiness to defend the dissertation) is made in consultation with the student's dissertation chair and committee members.  
  • Very early in the semester you intend to apply for graduation (be sure to check the deadline) you must do two things:

Before you defend your dissertation, complete a dissertation defense scheduling form and schedule the defense with the committee members. Be sure to schedule your defense before the Graduate School deadline for the semester.

  • At least two weeks before the defense, notify the Urban Affairs program director of the time, place, and dissertation title. In addition to the defense form, take a black pen and three copies of the signature page of the dissertation, on the correct paper and in the correct format, to the defense for your committee to sign. You will only need one, but having some spares is a good idea.
  • Submit a paper copy of the final draft to the Graduate School, including the signature page, for approval by the dean.
  • After both your committee and the Graduate School have approved the dissertation, submit the electronic version of your dissertation to ProQuest by the deadline indicated on the Graduate School calendar page, along with an abstract of not more than 350 words.