FAQs for Educational Policy Studies



Main Office

Educational Policy Studies
School of Education
UW - Madison
235 Education Building
1000 Bascom Mall
MadisonWI  53706

Tel: 608/262-1760
Fax: 608/262-0460

contact form


Q: I am applying to several programs. They all seem strong. What are some reasons to come to EPS rather than to enroll in another program?

A: There are many reasons, among them:
Our approach to policy studies is rooted in a strong belief that policy researchers and policy experts need to be well versed in interdisciplinary conversations about the meaning, purposes, scope, and limits of education analyzed through historical, social/cultural, and comparative international lenses. Similarly, scholars who study education through the disciplines need to be aware of the policy implications of their work. Our department includes scholars who study education through several disciplines as well as scholars primarily concerned with educational policy. Departmental conversations both deepen and broaden participants’ perspectives. 

Further, our department encourages students to explore ideas and perspectives available across the University. Our credit requirements inside the department facilitate students’ ability to draw on courses from other departments that complement our offerings.  We maintain rich and active intellectual ties with departments and programs across the School of Education and also in Letters and Science, especially the Departments of Anthropology, History, Philosophy, Sociology, the LaFollette Institute of Public Policy, Women’s and Ethnic Studies Programs, and various International Area Studies Programs. The location of our university in a capitol city facilitates research that examines state policy formation and implementation.

Our faculty are actively publishing scholars who hold leadership positions in national professional organizations related to their varied disciplines.

Because the department is small, there is opportunity for students to become well acquainted with both faculty and other students.

Q: Are the masters and doctoral programs separate?

A: No. Credits taken in working toward a masters degree also provide progress toward the doctoral degree. Students can and do enter intending to take a masters degree and decide to stay for the doctorate. Conversely, some students who enter planning to take a doctoral degree decide to take a masters degree and leave for the working world.

Q: I am sure that I want to take a doctoral degree but I do not have a masters degree. Can I be admitted directly to the doctoral program?

A: No. All students who do not hold masters degree are initially admitted to the masters program.

Q: If I am admitted to the masters program, do I need to reapply for the doctoral program?

A: No. At the time of the defense of your masters thesis, a decision is made about your admission to the doctoral program.

Q: If I already have a masters degree, will I have to complete another one?

A: Perhaps. A degree in policy studies or a comparable field and writing comparable to a masters thesis is essential for admission to the doctoral program. The Admissions Committee and temporary advisor decide together whether the applicant is admitted to the masters or to the doctoral program.

Q: What percent of students complete a degree?

A: About 75 to 80 percent.

Q: How many advisees does each faculty member have?

A: Typically, each faculty member advises four or five masters students and three or four doctoral students.

Q: How many students does EPS enroll annually?

A: Entering classes typically range from 12 to 20 students. Generally about fifty students are actively present on campus.

Q: How large are course classes?

A: Graduate classes typically range from eight to fifteen students. Mixed undergraduate/graduate classes (classes below the 700 level) typically range from twenty to forty-five students, with one exception: eps/History 412: The History of American Education (about 150 students).

Q: Are graduate courses separate from undergraduate courses?

A: Generally yes. Courses numbered 700 and above are open to undergraduates only through petition. However, courses numbered from 400 to 699 are open to both undergraduate juniors and seniors and to graduate students and do count for graduate credit when taken by graduate students.

Q: How flexible are EPS degree requirements?

A: The requirements are very flexible. Students’ programs and preliminary (comprehensive) examinations are generally individually tailored. For a detailed answer, see our Graduate Student Handbook.

Q: What is the time-to-completion for the masters degree?

A: The requirements for the masters degree can be completed in two to three years.

Q: What is the time-to-completion for the doctoral degree?

A: For a doctoral degree, time to completion typically ranges from three to five years if you enter with a masters degree and from five to seven years if you earn both a masters degree and a doctoral degree in EPS.

Q: How can I arrange to visit EPS?

A: Visitors are always welcome. Feel free to email individual faculty for appointments. You may also contact our Graduate Coordinator, Mary Jo Gessler (608/262-1761 or gessler@education.wisc.edu) to make arrangements for longer visits. However, you may wish to wait until you hear whether you are admitted and to take advantage of our Annual Visitation Weekend.

Each March, our department hosts an Annual Visitation Weekend for students admitted for the following fall. Visitors meet with faculty, current graduate students, and other admitted applicants, attend Monday or Friday classes, and are introduced to students’ and faculties’ research during a day-long question-and-answer panel. Some current graduate students help out by opening their houses and apartments to visitors and some funding is available to help defray travel expenses.

Q: What kind of financial aid opportunities are available?

A: There are a very small number of fellowships for first year students and for students working on dissertations. Most of our students work as Project, Research, and Teaching Assistants in a great variety of settings across campus. Positions anywhere on campus contracted at 33% or more provide you with tuition, health insurance, and a stipend. Contact Mary Jo Gessler (gessler@education.wisc.edu) for details and see our EPS web site for announcements of employment opportunities. The research resources link on the EPS home page lists additional on- and off-campus sources of funding.

Q: Are your course syllabi on your website? Where?

A: Short descriptions of EPS courses are available on our website.

Q: How are advisors assigned? Can I switch advisors?

A: The admissions committee matches newly admitted students with temporary advisors, based on the committee’s assessment of student-faculty research interests. Students can switch advisors at any time.

Q: I am a student of color. Are there any campus or departmental resources that may address my needs and interests?

A: The Multicultural Student Center is a campus-wide center that serves as a meeting place and information center for students of color. See also the Department of Afro-American Studies, the American Indian Studies Program, the Asian American Studies Program, and the Chicana/o Studies Program.

Q: I am a non-U.S. citizen. Are there any campus or departmental resources that may address my needs and interests?

A: International Student Services and the Multicultural Student Center serve as meeting places and information centers for international students. See also weekly informal Friday meetings for international students held at Union South.

Q: Can I transfer credits that I’ve taken in other graduate programs?

A: Yes, however transfer credits are not routinely approved and decisions are made after you have been here for a semester.

Q: What kinds of topics do masters and doctoral students write about?

A: Here is a partial list of titles of recently completed masters papers and doctoral theses:

 MA titles:

  • The New State of Education: Education and the Delinquent in Wisconsin from Statehood to 1860
  • Secularization and the Presence of Islam in Early Turkish Education (1923-1949)
  • Popular Education and Civil Society in Mexico
  • Choosing and Committing to an Applied Science Major: Exploring 
  • Differences in the Factors that Influence Men’s and Women’s Decisions
  • Parallel Souls: Studies on Early Twentieth-Century Native American Leaders in Relation to Black Activists W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey, 1900-1934
  • (Re)Contextualizing Indian Higher Education: A Qualitative Study of Indigenous Women at Predominantly White University
  • An Instrumental Case Study of Multicultural Democratic Education: The Facing History and Ourselves Leadership Program

Dissertation titles:

  • Painting Outside the Lines? Tensions and Possibilities of Alternative Schools for Marginalized Students
  • Addressing the Achievement Gap: A Study in Two High Schools Attempting Reform
  • Claiming Belonging and Difference: Cultural Citizenship and Identity Construction in Schools
  • Principal Leadership and Teacher Expectancy in a High-Stakes Accountability Policy Context
  • Accountability and the Search for Instructional Strategies: Changes in Search Activity by Elementary Teachers in the Chicago Public Schools after the Implementation of Outcomes Based Accountability
  • Forgiveness and Education
  • Consolidation for Democracy: Rural School Reform in the Midwest 1910-1930.
  • Teachers Notions of Diversity: An Ethnographic Study of Two Multiethnic and Multiracial Head Start Classrooms
  • Youth Development, Participation and School Reform: Creating Opportunities and Supports for Student Decision-Making in a High School

Q: Where does EPS stand in U.S. World and News rankings?

A: Typically, EPS is among the top three in its category. See U.S. News and World Report rankings for the latest information.

Q: What positions do EPS masters degree recipients hold?

A: Here is a partial list of positions held by EPS masters graduates:
  • Project Manager at the National Institute for Science Education
  • Research Specialist: Peoria, AZ School District
  • CEO/President of East End Neighborhood House, Cleveland, OH
  • Director of College Counseling at Rowland-St.Mark’s School, Salt Lake City, UT, also
  • President of the Rocky Mountain Association for College Admission Counseling
  • Teacher and Curriculum Writer, Clark County School District (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Education Advisor for Save the Children, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Cross-Cultural Relations Specialist in the Office for Institutional Equity, Duke University

Q: What positions do EPS doctoral graduates hold?

A: Here is a partial list of positions held by EPS doctoral graduates:
  • Professor of Education at DePaul University
  • Associate Professor, Univ. of Iowa
  • Associate Professor and Director of the Educational Studies Program at Trinity College
  • Special Assistant to the Provost, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Dept. of Educational Organization and Leadership
  • Professor and leading scholar at Seoul National University, Dept. of Education
  • Associate Dean of the School of Education, UW-Eau Claire
  • Associate Professor, Grad School of Education, University of California at Riverside
  • Associate Professor, Dept. of Educational Leadership & Policy, SUNY at Buffalo
  • CEO of the African Virtual University
  • Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank in Washington DC. 
  • Director of Service and Service Learning, Cornell College
  • Director of Educational Linguistics Program, Penn State
  • Dean of the College of Education at North Carolina State University
  • President of the Rocky Mountain Association for College Admission Counseling
  • Professor & Chair, Dept. of Teaching & Leadership, Univ. of Kansas
  • Post-doctoral Research Associate in the School of Education at Stanford
  • Assistant Professor at Tamagawa University, Tokyo
  • Professor, Graduate School of Education, SUNY Buffalo 
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