Frequently Asked Questions about Educational Policy Studies

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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?

There are many reasons, among them:

Our approach to policy studies is rooted in a strong belief that policy researchers, practitioners, and experts need to be well-versed in interdisciplinary conversations about the meaning, purposes, scope, and limits of education, as analyzed through historical, social/cultural, and comparative international lenses. Similarly, scholars who study education through disciplinary lenses 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 about education, society, and policy. 

Because of our interdisciplinary approach to policy studies, 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 to complement our offerings. We maintain rich and active intellectual ties with departments and programs across the School of Education and the university, including with the departments of anthropology, history, philosophy, sociology, the LaFollette Institute of Public Policy, gender and women’s studies, Afro-American studies, Asian American studies, American Indian studies, and Chican@ and Latin@ studies. Department members are also very active participants in many other programs and units across campus, including African studies, Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian studies, East Asian studies, the Institute for Regional and International Studies, the Global Health Institute, 4W, the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies, and the Institute for Research on Poverty. The location of our university in a capitol city facilitates research that examines state policy formation and implementation.

Our faculty and graduate students are active scholars whose research, teaching, publishing, outreach, and service activities impact individuals, communities, organizations, and policies around the world. They hold leadership positions in local, national, and international professional organizations related to their varied disciplines and fields of study, and actively shape the educational policy research agenda.

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

Are the master's and doctoral programs separate?

No. Master’s and doctoral students have the same course-taking options, and credits taken in working toward a master’s degree also count toward the doctoral degree. Students can and do enter intending to take a master’s degree and decide to stay for the doctorate.

I am sure that I want to take a doctoral degree but I do not have a master's degree. Can I be admitted directly to the doctoral program?

Yes. Students can apply directly to the doctoral program, even if they do not have a previous master’s degree. Students who are interested in pursuing a doctoral degree are strongly encouraged to apply directly to the PhD program.

What percent of students complete a degree?

More than 90 percent. Most students who do not complete their degree stop out of the program because they are working full time outside of the university.

How many advisees does each faculty member have?

Typically, each faculty member advises no more than 10 students.

How many graduate students does EPS enroll annually?

Entering classes typically range from 10 to 12 students. Generally about 40 students are actively present on campus.

How large are graduate classes?

Graduate classes typically range from eight to 15 students. Mixed undergraduate/graduate classes (classes below the 700 level) typically range from 20 to 45 students, with one exception: EPS/History 412: The History of American Education (about 150 students).

Are graduate courses separate from undergraduate courses?

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.

How flexible are EPS degree requirements?

The requirements are very flexible. Students’ course programs and preliminary (comprehensive) examinations are generally individually tailored. Students’ proposals and dissertation research are always designed by the student, in consultation with their faculty committee. 

What is the time-to-completion for the master’s degree?

The requirements for the master’s degree can be completed in two years.

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

For a doctoral degree, time to completion typically ranges from five to seven years, depending largely on the type of research that a student hopes to conduct for their dissertation, and the speed with which the student completes their coursework and preliminary exam requirements.

How can I arrange to visit EPS?

Visitors are always welcome. Feel free to email individual faculty for appointments. You may also contact our Graduate Program Manager, Kristin Dalby (608-262-1761 or 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 EPS conference/admitted student event when admitted students meet with faculty, current graduate students, and other admitted applicants, and are introduced to students’ and faculty members’ research during question-and-answer panels.


What kind of financial aid opportunities are available?

All doctoral students are now admitted to EPS with a four-year funding package. The exact package differs by student, but generally is composed of a four-year guarantee of work as a teaching, project, or research assistant in the department. Some of these packages also include one, two, or more years of fellowship funding. Many EPS students also serve in assistantship positions in a variety of settings across campus. Positions anywhere on campus contracted at 33 percent or more provide you with tuition, access to health insurance, and a stipend. 

How are advisors assigned? Can I switch advisors?

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.

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

The School of Education’s Global Engagement Office provides resources, hosts events, and can connect international students with a range of organizations. International Student Services and the Multicultural Student Center serve as meeting places and information centers for international students. 

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

Yes, students can transfer up to six credits taken in other graduate programs. However, transfer credits must be individually approved, and decisions about whether credits will be transferred are made after you have completed your first semester.

What positions do EPS master's degree recipients hold?

Here is a partial list of positions held by EPS master’s 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
  • Teacher and Curriculum Writer, Clark County School District (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Education Advisor for Save the Children, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Cross-Cultural Relations Specialist in the Office for Institutional Equity, Duke University

What positions do EPS doctoral graduates hold?

EPS doctoral graduates are thought leaders who work in universities, non-governmental organizations, government entities, and research think-tanks in the U.S. and around the world. Here is a partial list of positions held by EPS doctoral graduates:

  • Professor of Education, DePaul University
  • Associate Program Officer, Spencer Foundation
  • Associate Professor, University of Iowa
  • Associate Professor and Director of the Educational Studies Program at Trinity College
  • Vice President of Social Impact, Level for Change (MacArthur Foundation)
  • Special Assistant to the Provost, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Dept. of Educational Organization and Leadership
  • Project Manager, Ubuntu Dialogues, Michigan State University
  • Assistant Professor, Michigan State University
  • Professor, Seoul National University, Dept. of Education
  • Senior Education and Evaluation Technical Specialist, Social Impact
  • Associate Dean of the School of Education, UW–Eau Claire
  • Associate Professor, Graduate 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, Washington D,C.
  • Director of Service and Service Learning, Cornell College
  • Director of Educational Linguistics Program, Penn State
  • Dean of the College of Education, North Carolina State University
  • President of the Rocky Mountain Association for College Admission Counseling
  • Professor & Chair, Dept. of Teaching & Leadership, University of Kansas
  • Post-doctoral Research Associate in the School of Education, Stanford
  • Assistant Professor at Tamagawa University, Tokyo
  • Professor, Graduate School of Education, SUNY Buffalo