Urban Design & Planning Interdisciplinary PhD

Info for Students

Student Guide

Information for First Year Students

First Things First (before Orientation)

  • Establish your UW NetID
  • Set up your UW Email account
  • Contact (or determine) your primary faculty mentor
  • Contact the Program Office, Loew 311, to fill out payroll paperwork

Registration for Classes (after Orientation)

Your first year plan of study will be worked out between you and your faculty advisor, taking into consideration the recommendations presented at the orientation. Nevertheless, you will need to register for the core sequence of courses, URBDP 591 (Autumn), 592 (Winter), and 593 (Autumn). Please see the Core Curriculum for other Phase I requirements.

To ensure quality mentoring, the Steering Committee asks students and advisors to adhere to the following meeting reporting system:

  • Current students meet with their main advisor to go over courses taken, a plan of study for the upcoming academic year, and a general overall timeline.
  • New students meet with their first year advisor to devise a first year plan and a first year Advisory Committee (see below).
  • The advisor reports the content of the meeting to the steering committee by November 1, which can be done via email to the Program Office and the Program Director, Professor Qing Shen.

For the quarterly list of classes, please see the UW Time Schedule

Advisory Committee

You are expected to coordinate with your Advisor to ask two additional members to form your Advisory Committee. This needs to be done by the end of the fall quarter to oversee your progress through phase 1 of the program. The committee membership may be changed at any time in phase 1, based on agreement by the student and faculty advisors. Committees must consist of at least three members of the Interdisciplinary Group, and represent at least two academic departments. You establish this committee by letting the program coordinator and program director know who the additional faculty members are.

Phase 1 Paper

Phase one of the program will culminate with the acceptance of a paper. The paper is to help students in narrowing down their research area and preparing students for their general exam and to help them focus on the literature of interest. The paper is an opportunity for students to review in a critical fashion the key literature on specific subjects or domains that are likely to form the basis of their future research.

The length of the paper is about 6000 words, excluding references, tables, and figures, and students will submit an abstract for their first year paper to their first year advisor at the end of the first year winter quarter. Students will work with their advisor to develop a plan for completing the paper through the first two weeks of Spring quarter. A first draft of the paper will be presented to the advisor by the end of the spring quarter. Students will revise their paper based on the advisor’s comments and submit the final paper by the end of summer. For a full description of the Phase 1 Paper and further requirements to move to phase 2 please visit Phase 1: the core curriculum.

Good to Know About

  • The Program has a student room with desks, computers, and a phone designated for your use in Gould Hall, room 418.
  • The PhD Students have regular gatherings for giving practice presentations, sharing research, and socializing. There are usually 3-4/quarter. Students also select 2 representatives to serve on the Steering Committee for the Program and to take the lead at other functions.
  • The Program has an Annual Symposium with a guest speaker. This usually lasts half a day, and full participation is encouraged.
  • The Program has an Annual Meeting every Spring. Students are encouraged to participate.
  • Please see the Graduate School web site for university-wide policies and procedures.
  • Please do not hesitate to contact the program office (urbdp@uw.edu or 206-543-6398) for any questions or concerns.

Information for Students in Phase II

Forming the Supervisory Committee

The committee must consist of at least three faculty members in the Interdisciplinary Group representing at least two academic departments; one member must be from the Urban Design and Planning Department. Students requiring a committee of a different composition should submit a request to the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee recommends (but does not require) that students have at least four faculty members on their committee and that two of these be from the Urban Design and Planning Department.

In addition, the Graduate School Representative (GSR) (please see the link for the role of the GSR) is selected by the student in consultation with the committee chair and/or the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC – faculty advisor). All endorsed Graduate Faculty, with the exception of affiliates, are eligible to serve as GSRs. The GSR must not have an appointment within the student’s/committee chair’s department(s) or have a conflict of interest (i.e, budgetary, familial, romantic) with the committee chair(s) and student. The Graduate Faculty Locator is useful in determining faculty affiliations and status.

The committee membership is discussed with the student’s primary advisor; members are asked; and the committee members’ written agreement is submitted to the Program Office by the student. This can be done via email by the student emailing all members, asking for confirmation of their willingness to serve on the supervisory committee, indicating in what capacity (chair, GSR, or member). The email confirmation then functions as the signature of the faculty member. Once the Graduate Ochool has approved the committee, all members of this supervisory committee are then notified of their participation by the Dean’s Office of the Graduate School. Please see the Graduate School web site for more information on the roles of the supervisory committee members. This committee should be established at least four months before you plan to take the general exam.

General Exam Content

The General exam consists of both a written and an oral exam in which the Supervisory Committee evaluates the preparedness of the student to advance to doctoral candidate status and to begin developing a dissertation proposal. The committee designs a written exam based on the advanced coursework in the area of study and critical review of the literature that the student has completed. The content, length, and duration of the written exam varies but it typically consists of 3-4 questions over 4-5 days. The oral exam is generally two hours in length and requires the formal scheduling process through the graduate school (see below).

The General Exam Statement is to be submitted prior to taking the General Examination. It should provide a brief synthesis of the student’s fields of study, accompanied by a reading list. See: the General Exam Statement template.The Chair of the Supervisory Committee establishes the specific terms and questions of the written exam with input from other committee members. The specific expectations are communicated to the student prior to the written exam. Any questions concerning the exam questions and logistics are directed to the Chair of the Supervisory Committee. The oral exam is typically scheduled for the following week. Students are notified by the Supervisory Committee at the conclusion of the oral exam about the outcome of the exam process (i.e., passing, conditionally passing, re-schedule, failing).

To schedule the General Exam (Oral)

After determining a date, a 2 hour time slot, and a room for the oral exam that all committee members agree upon, you submit a request to schedule the exam. (Note that, when exams are held in person the Program Office can help you schedule a room. Since it is required that both your GSR, Chair and at least member attend, it is best to start the scheduling process by finding a time in which both these members are available.

An official warrant is generated by the Graduate School for the student to take the oral exam. (The program will notify the student when the warrant has been generated.) The student takes this to the exam, the faculty sign it, and the student returns it to the program office before the end of the quarter . At least two other members (besides the GSR and the Chair) of the supervisory committee must be present at the general (and final) exam.

Candidacy is awarded upon receipt of the signed Warrant in the Graduate School. A Candidate Certificate is sent to the student by the Graduations Office (207 Schmitz) at the end of the quarter (approximately three months after Candidacy is conferred.

Information for Students in Phase III

The Dissertation Proposal

After passing the General Exam, you are expected to build on the critical review of literature to develop a dissertation proposal. The proposal should be formally presented to the Supervisory Committee at a scheduled proposal defense presentation. (This is not scheduled through the graduate school, however, like the general and final exams.) The Supervisory Committee then certifies that you are prepared to undertake the proposal research and that it meets the program requirements for scholarship. At this point, you can register for dissertation credits (URBDP 800). One must complete a minimum of 27 dissertation credits over a period of at least three quarters.

The Dissertation Defense/Final Exam

The final exam/dissertation defense is a two-hour presentation to the Supervisory Committee of the dissertation. After agreeing on a date and time with your committee, schedule your defense at MyGrad.

The following are Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Do I need to register in the quarter that I defend? What if I defend in the summer?
    Yes, you need to register for at least 2 credits in the quarter that you defend. This is true for summer quarter as well.
  • Who is my GSR?
    For the roles and responsibilities of the GSR please see the above link. The GSR’s attendance is required at your final exam, and he/she cannot participate via videoconferencing. Therefore, in scheduling your final exam, it is important to choose a time that this person can attend.
  • How and when do I establish my Reading Committee?
    Usually several months before scheduling your Final Examination it is time to formally designate a reading committee consisting of at least three voting members of your supervisory committee. The reading committee is appointed to read and approve the dissertation. You do this by letting the Program Office (urbdp@uw.edu) know which three members of your supervisory committee you would like to have appointed.
  • How far in advance do I need to do my paperwork to schedule my Final Exam?
    It is recommended that this be done no later than three weeks before the exam date (just like the general exam).
  • How many faculty members need to attend it?
    At least four members of the committee (including the Chair and GSR) must be present at both the General and Final Examinations. For the guidelines regarding videoconferencing, please see: http://grad.uw.edu/policies-procedures/doctoral-degree-policies/instructions-for-video-conferencing-in-doctoral-examinations/.
  • How much time do I have to turn in my dissertation?
    While the 60 day deadline is no longer in place, it is recommended that you turn it in as soon as possible. Tuition must be paid in the quarter in which the dissertation is submitted, and there must not be a lapse in graduate student status (unless on-leave), so delay of submitting the dissertation can be costly. If the dissertation is submitted within 2 weeks of the final day of the quarter, it is possible to pay a late fee of 250 and waive tuition for the following quarter; otherwise, if it is not turned in by the 2 week “grace” period, full tuition must be paid the following quarter. Procedures for submitting your dissertation to the graduate school are addressed on the graduate school web site.
  • When do I get my diploma?
    It usually takes four months from the quarter that you graduate before the diploma is mailed to you. To have this expedited, contact the Graduation and Academic Records Office (264 Schmitz, 206.543.1803, ugradoff@u.washington.edu).

For further information about about any of these topics, please don’t hesitate to contact:

Urban Design & Planning PhD, Interdisciplinary Programs
University of Washington
The Graduate School
Box 35 2192
Seattle, WA 98195-2192