Portland-State-University 2022-2023 Bulletin

Public Affairs and Policy Ph.D.

The Ph.D. in Public Affairs and Policy is an interdisciplinary program designed to prepare individuals to pursue research, teaching, advocacy, public service, and/or consulting in a variety of settings ranging from universities to policy research organizations, public agencies, and private consulting firms. The degree may be pursued on a full- or part-time basis.

The degree program is offered through a collaboration between the Departments of Public Administration and Political Science in the Hatfield School of Government. Faculty members across the entire College of Urban and Public Affairs contribute expertise to the program as well.

The curriculum focus is governance, the integrated study of political, administrative, and policy processes. This curriculum is taught against the backdrop of globalizing economies and political systems seeking to recognize governance in a modern world characterized by both cooperation and conflict among the public, private, and non-profit organizations.

The doctoral program in Public Affairs and Policy is designed to enable students to approach governance as an applied area of knowledge in which theory informs and is informed by real-world practice.

Admission requirements

More information about the public affairs and policy Ph.D. program and all application forms are available at https://www.pdx.edu/hatfield-school/ and https://cupa.pdx.edu/apply-now.  Applications are accepted for fall admission only; the priority application deadline is December 1st and there is a late application deadline of March 30th.

Only one application will need to be submitted to apply to the PAP Program. The following materials should be submitted through the application link found on the Graduate School's website.

  • Non-refundable $65 application fee (no cash)
  • One transcript from each post-secondary institution attended (both sides need to be uploaded)
  • Statement of Financial Support and Declaration of Finances (if International)
  • International Applicants who currently reside in the United States with an F-1 or J-1 visa must fill out the SEVIS form
  • Official TOEFL scores if the applicant does not speak English as a native language and has not received a graduate or undergraduate degree in an English-speaking territory
  • A statement of intent up to 1,000 words. The statement should address the following: 1) Professional goals; 2) Planned area of study (policy specialization); 3) Desired employment sector; 4) How the degree furthers achievement of your professional goals
  • A policy-oriented or academic writing sample.
  • Three recommendation letters from individuals familiar with the applicant's academic and/or professional capabilities. Preferably, two of the three letters should be from former instructors or from individuals with knowledge of your professional performance and potential.
  • A current resume

International Agreements

The Hatfield School of Government is under a university-level memorandum of understanding with Khon Kaen University in Thailand and Cukurova University in Adana, Turkey. The Hatfield School maintains an active relationship with the College of Local Administration at Khon Kaen University (COLA) and the Department of International Relations at Cukurova University and welcomes HSOG graduate students as part of these partnerships. Graduate students seeking opportunities for coursework, research, and professional development in the context of developing areas and emerging Asia and Turkey are encouraged to contact the Director of the Hatfield School for more information.

Degree requirements

Award of the Ph.D. is the culmination of a sequential process of coursework, comprehen­sive examinations, and the research, writing, and defense of a doctoral dissertation. In addition to the department core coursework, each field has additional specialization requirements. The total number or credit hours required for the degree is 93, distributed as follows:

  • Core Coursework--        21 credits
  • Research Methods--      24 credits
  • Field Electives--             21 credits
  • Dissertation--                27 credits

As a cohort, first-year students take a series of six courses commonly referred to as “the core” and are examined on this material upon completion. During their second and third years, students complete their field and research methods coursework. The comprehensive exam­ination that follows the satisfaction of all course requirements typically asks students to think prospectively about the application of this material to their dissertation work. After the completion and defense of a dissertation proposal, students advance to Ph.D. candidacy. The last remaining hurdle is the dissertation.


All students entering the doctoral program must have completed a basic course in statistics either upon entering or within the first year of study. No degree credit will be awarded for this coursework.

Credit requirements

The Ph.D. in public affairs and policy requires 66 credit hours of required and elective coursework. In addition, the student enrolls in 27 credits for dissertation research and writing.

The credits are distributed as follows:

Core Coursework


Field Electives


Research Methods


Dissertation credits


Total Credit Hours:93

To meet these credit requirements, relevant past academic coursework is recognized in these ways:

Up to 32 credits of coursework related to governance or research methods completed at the master's level may be counted toward the Ph.D. degree.

In addition, students with extensive academic background and/or experience in using quantitative or qualitative research methods may substitute one or more required research methods courses with other coursework with permission of their academic adviser.

Core courses

PAP 613Organization Theory and Behavior


PAP 614Contemporary Governance


PAP 616Policy Process


PS 520Seminar on American Political Institutions


PS 569Comparative Political Institutions


PS 585Political Theory and Governance


Total Credit Hours:21

Field Electives

Students must choose four of the following ten courses.
PS 511Advanced Overview of Political Science


PS 515Comparative Public Policy


PS 531State and Local Politics


PS 546National and International Security Policies


PS 576Politics of Inequality in the United States


PA 513Administrative Ethics and Values


PA 514Global Leadership and Management


PA 521History And Foundations of the Nonprofit Sector


PA 534Administrative Law


PA 561Intergovernmental Relations





Additional Field ElectivesThree additional graduate-level courses from around PSU, selected based on interest and in consultation with their adviser


Total Credit Hours:21-28

Research Methods

Coursework in research methods is normally completed concurrently with field specialization coursework. Approved substitutes for methods coursework will be listed in the PAP Course Planner each year.

Methods courses and credits

PAP 690Research Design for Politics and Policy


PS 591Testing Theories in Political Science


PS 593Philosophy of the Social Sciences




Total Credit Hours:24

Dissertation Research

Students must register for a minimum of 27 credits of PAP 603 or PS 603 Dissertation to represent the work of researching and writing the doctoral dissertation.

Comprehensive examinations

In order to evaluate one’s ability to integrate, analyze, and critique the diverse materials and ideas presented in the PAP curriculum, students are required to complete a two-part comprehensive examination. Part A of the examination (core exam) covers the 21 credit hours of foundational core courses. Part B (field exam) covers all coursework done in the student’s specialization field. Part A is a written exam taken upon completion of the core coursework. Part B has written and oral components to the exam and is typically taken upon completion of all coursework.

Dissertation requirements

The dissertation process is designed to evaluate the student’s ability to successfully conduct a significant, independent applied research project. The dissertation thesis represents the culmination of a student’s doctoral studies.

Program Rules

A more comprehensive set of rules governing satisfactory completion of field area examinations, presentation of dissertation, and timely completion of doctoral program requirements appear in the General Handbook for the Public Affairs and Policy Doctoral Program issued to incoming students and available upon request.

Limitation on graduate/undergraduate courses

Students in the PAP program are strongly advised to use no more than 12 credits of courses offered simultaneously at the 400- and 500-level in support of their degree programs. These courses must be an integral part of the student’s program, and courses with the same content must not be available on a purely graduate basis.

Limitation on by-arrangement courses

Admitted Ph.D. students may utilize no more than 12 credits of Research and/or Reading and Conference credits (501/601 and 505/605). In cases where more than 12 credits are needed because of the lack of regularly scheduled classes, the student must submit a written request waiver to their adviser for approval.

Continuous enrollment and leave of absence

All students admitted to the Ph.D. program in public affairs and policy must be continuously enrolled until graduation, except for periods in which they are absent for an approved leave. Taking a minimum 3 credits per term during the regular academic year will constitute continuous enrollment for students taking coursework. Taking a minimum of 1 credit of PAP 603 or PS 603 during the regular academic year will constitute continuous enrollment for students who have advanced to candidacy. Failure to register without an approved leave may result in termination of a student’s admission. Students may have no more than six terms of approved leave.

Grade requirement

A student who receives more than 9 credits of C+ or below in all coursework attempted after admission to the Ph.D. program will be dropped from the program.

Performance in core courses

A grade of C+ or below received for work performed in a core course is not considered passing. A PAP doctoral student who receives a grade of C+ or below in one of the core course offerings during fall or winter terms may not proceed to take the core course offerings in the subsequent term until the course in which a failing grade was received has been repeated, and the failing grade is replaced with a passing grade of B- or better.

Research and Teaching Opportunities

The doctoral degree in public affairs and policy offers a limited number of research and teaching opportunities.

Hatfield Residency Program

This program, conducted in cooperation with the Hatfield School’s Center for Public Service, places qualified doctoral students in public and not-for-profit agencies as paid residents. Agency placements provide students opportunities to conduct dissertation research, gain advanced research experience, and receive assistance in financing their educational objectives.

Graduate research assistantships

Depending on available funds, a limited number of graduate research assistantships are available each year. Students must apply for these by February 1st of the academic year in which the assistantships are desired. Assistantships pay tuition up to 9 credits and associated fees as well as a small additional stipend.

Teaching opportunities

Doctoral students with an interest in developing competencies in teaching in a higher education setting are encouraged to teach prior to completing their Ph.D. programs. There are a limited number of opportunities available in this regard.

Teaching apprenticeships with a university faculty member

These duties can include teaching one or more class sessions, assistance in preparing courses, and correction of examinations. Students are encouraged to consult with their faculty adviser to develop opportunities for teaching apprenticeships.

Teaching in the University Studies Program

Advanced doctoral students may also teach in sophomore inquiry coursework sponsored by the College of Urban and Public Affairs. This coursework deals largely with citizen participation and leadership. Advanced doctoral students may also propose and teach a senior Capstone course at the undergraduate level. These are interdisciplinary community-based courses required of all PSU seniors. These students will develop and implement strategies to deal with a community issue in cooperation with one or more community organizations.