Public Affairs and Administration

Discipline Coordinator

Arif Ahmed, (816) 235-2319,

This discipline is currently NOT accepting new students for the primary discipline. 

Public Affairs and Administration is a discipline in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program administered by the School of Graduate Studies.

Note: The discipline-specific requirements listed here are in addition to the requirements listed in Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Application Procedure and Minimum Criteria for Admission and Minimum Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Academic Regulations and Degree Requirements.


The Public Affairs and Administration (PAA) discipline in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program is designed to prepare students for research careers in universities, public and nonprofit agencies, healthcare institutions, or for other roles in which research training is needed. Successful applicants must show evidence of a strong interest and the ability to successfully engage in research and exhibit promise as skillful teachers. The PAA doctoral faculty supports the development of strong research capacities and requires all Ph.D. students to complete a significant supervised empirical research study for the dissertation.


The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program is comprised of coursework and research in at least two disciplines. The primary didactic effort will be in PAA and the student will select at least one secondary area of concentration (co-discipline) from other Interdisciplinary Ph.D. disciplines.  


Both primary discipline and co-discipline students in PAA must complete all requirements for their degree within six years from the date of admission to the Ph.D. program. PAA primary discipline students must complete all coursework and pass disciplinary area and Comprehensive Examinations within the first three years of the aforementioned six year period. Under compelling circumstances and on the written recommendation of a majority of the supervisory committee, a single extension for up to one year may be requested for approval by the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program Director.

PAA primary discipline students may receive financial support (in the form of fellowships or graduate assistantships) from the Department of Public Affairs contingent upon satisfactory progress towards degree completion. Specific conditions of funding, if provided, will be enumerated in the offer letter; however, in most instances, such funding will be available only for the first three years in the program.

Discipline-Specific Admission Requirements

The PAA doctoral faculty will consider applications for admission to the primary discipline from only the applicants willing to pursue doctoral studies with full-time academic load (as defined in the current UMKC catalog).

All applicants (primary and co-discipline) are required to submit official scores for all three sections of the GRE General Test. Applicants must also submit official transcripts of coursework from all colleges and universities attended. Additionally, a narrative statement of interest, a writing sample, three letters of reference, and a résumé are required. Admission is based on an applicant's overall record of academic achievement and the doctoral faculty's judgment of the applicant's likelihood of successfully completing the Ph.D. We expect that those admitted will have scored well on the GRE and have high GPAs.

Applicants should pay particular attention to the narrative statement that accompanies their application. The PAA doctoral faculty gives substantial weight to this statement. It should provide a clear description of the applicant's intellectual interests, how those interests evolved and the research direction(s) the applicant intends to pursue. A good statement also discusses the fit between the applicant's interests and the resources available at UMKC (for example, it might identify faculty with whom the applicant hopes to work). Narrative statements need not be limited to one page. Applicants should provide a sample of academic writing (such as an undergraduate or master's thesis or a paper from a graduate seminar) that illustrates writing skills and the potential for scholarly work. Applicants are also encouraged to seek letters of recommendation from people who can address their potential for engaging in scholarly research.

The PAA doctoral faculty seeks to admit only students whose research interests fit the interests and capabilities of the doctoral faculty. We admit only students for whom a member of the doctoral faculty agrees to serve as interim advisor, and after the student's plan of study is completed, that faculty member should also be willing to chair (for primary discipline students) or serve on the student’s  supervisory committee. This requirement of commitment from a member of the PAA doctoral faculty applies to all applicants seeking admission to PAA as a primary or co-discipline. We strongly recommend that applicants communicate with PAA doctoral faculty about their interests and attempt to secure commitments from faculty to serve as PAA advisor and supervisory committee chair/member. Since applications are reviewed immediately following the respective application deadline, applicants should contact faculty by e-mail, telephone or in person before that time.

The primary discipline applicants should be available to appear (in person or via video conferencing) in front of the PAA PhD admissions panel for interview.

Suggested Compatible Co-disciplines

Biomedical and Health Informatics, Curriculum and Instruction, Economics, Educational Leadership Policy and Foundations, History

Core Program Requirements

The exact amount of coursework will be determined by the student’s level of preparation and as deemed necessary by the supervisory committee. The following are minimum requirements, exclusive of dissertation research credits.

PAA as Primary Discipline

The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in PAA consists of a minimum of 34 credit hours coursework.

Required Courses
Mandatory enrollment in Doctoral Seminar in the first semester1
PUB-ADM 5610Inquiry In Public Administration And Affairs3
PUB-ADM 5620ALiterature Of Public Affairs And Administration: Political Science3
PUB-ADM 5620BLiterature Of Public Affairs And Administration:Organizational Theory & Behavior3
Two additional graduate courses (approved by the supervisory committee) in statistics and research methods in relation to the student's likely dissertation topic 6
One or more of the following requirements may be waived or replaced, with the approval of the supervisory committee, by other PUB-ADM or HLTH-ADM courses if a student has previous course work that is substantially equivalent to any of the following courses.
PUB-ADM 5525Financial Accountability and Policy Development3
PUB-ADM 5526The Politics of Administration3
PUB-ADM 5530Capstone Seminar in Public Administration3
PUB-ADM 5541Public Policy Development and Analysis3
PUB-ADM 5544Program Evaluation3
PUB-ADM 5548Leadership, Change and Social Impact3
Total Credits34

PAA as Co-discipline

The PAA co-discipline consists of a minimum of 15 credit hours coursework.

Required Courses
PUB-ADM 5610Inquiry In Public Administration And Affairs3
PUB-ADM 5620ALiterature Of Public Affairs And Administration: Political Science3
PUB-ADM 5620BLiterature Of Public Affairs And Administration:Organizational Theory & Behavior3
Two additional graduate courses (approved by the supervisory committee) in PUB-ADM or HLTH-ADM6
Total Credits15

Transfer Credit

Transfer of graduate credit earned before entering the PhD program, including courses taken toward the Master of Public Administration degree at UMKC, will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and will be approved at the discretion of the supervisory committee.

Requirements for Comprehensive Examinations 

Disciplinary Area and Comprehensive Examinations

Before taking the Comprehensive Examination, students with PAA as their primary discipline must pass three “disciplinary area exams”.  The exams are developed, administered and evaluated by committees of PAA doctoral faculty in each of the following areas: (1) public administration and policy analysis, (2) organizational studies, and (3) inquiry, research methods and statistics.  The Comprehensive Examination for each PAA primary discipline student is developed, administered and evaluated by the student’s supervisory committee and is customized for the student.  Co-discipline Comprehensive Examinations may be required as well and are determined by the requirements of the particular student’s co-discipline(s). 

The Comprehensive Examination for students with PAA as their co-discipline consists of two areas: (1) public administration and policy analysis and (2) organization studies.  The PAA examination is customized for each student and developed, administered and evaluated by the PAA faculty member(s) on the student’s supervisory committee.


To successfully complete the Ph.D. program each student must write a dissertation based on empirical research that constitutes a contribution to knowledge in their field of interest.  Students with PAA as their primary discipline are expected to write dissertations that include some consideration of public management or public policy issues.  The minimum number of hours for a doctoral dissertation with PAA as the primary discipline is 12, though some committees may require more.

Students with PAA as their primary discipline may, at the direction of their dissertation committee, complete a “traditional” dissertation or a “manuscript-based” dissertation.  The general guidelines for each dissertation type are provided in the Public Affairs and Administration Doctoral Student Handbook.