PhD in Regional Planning

Your Advisor and Plan of Study Committee

Your faculty advisor can help you select initial courses, prepare for qualifying examinations, develop a research project, submit research proposals, publish your research, hone your ideas until they become feasible dissertation questions, and understand Department and University requirements. Your advisor can also offer career planning advice and will serve on your Plan of Study Committee and assist you in completing your Plan of Study document.

You will rely on the guidance of this advisor to choose courses for the first semester of residence. By the end of the first semester you should have defined an area of specialization, identified appropriate theory and methods courses, selected or confirmed an advisor, enlisted other members for your Plan of Study Committee, and prepared a draft Plan.

You will be assigned a faculty advisor upon admission into the program. Most matches continue throughout a student’s degree program and for years thereafter, but you or your advisor may request a change to serve your needs better. You might develop new interests and choose a dissertation topic in which the original advisor has no interest or expertise. Another faculty member may offer multi-year financial support on a new project if you agree to write your dissertation as part of the project. Your advisor may have other responsibilities that suggest someone else might serve you more attentively. Sometimes student and advisor find themselves incompatible in research style, skills, interests, or personalities. You are free to approach any other member of the Planning faculty about becoming your advisor, but you should be sensitive to responsibilities and commitments you may have incurred to an original advisor who provided you financial support and on-the-job training in anticipation of doing advanced research with you.

Although advisors, the Department, and the University can assist you, you ultimately are responsible for decisions affecting your academic progress. You should expect to rely largely on your own effort for your success. Admission into the graduate program does not convey an obligation on the part of advisors, the Department, or the University to ensure that you successfully complete the requirements for a graduate degree.

Plan of Study Committee

The Plan of Study Committee supports, monitors, and assesses progress toward the Ph.D. up to the formation of the Dissertation Committee. It consists of at least two faculty members (including the advisor), one of whom must have more than a zero-time appointment in the Department. The members of the Plan of Study Committee do not necessarily become members of the Qualifying Committee or Dissertation Committee.


The student prepares the Plan in consultation with the Plan of Study Committee, but also may consult other members of the Department faculty whose teaching and research are relevant to the student's plans as well as faculty members of other departments in which the student intends to do significant coursework. The student and Committee should explore alternative emphases and time schedules so that the completed Plan becomes a firm, feasible, considered way to satisfy all the degree requirements of the Department and University. The Plan also serves as the source document to identify appropriate faculty to participate in the Qualifying and Dissertation Committee.

Plan of Study Committee and Qualifying Committee

The Plan of study (POS) committee consists of the advisor and one other member, agreed upon by both the student and the advisor. The POS committee should be appointed during the first semester and serve to guide the student in the first year.

In the second year, the student should form a Qualifying Committee. This Committee will pick up where the POS committee leaves off and continue to guide the student through their courses, with the purpose of ensuring that they have the appropriate qualifications to do independent research in their chosen field. The Qualifying Committee will guide and assess the student on their synthesis papers and the qualifying paper or the qualifying exam.

The Qualifying Committee must include your advisor and at least two other faculty members who in combination are knowledgeable about planning theory, your research methods of interest, and your area of specialization. Faculty members from other departments may be included on the committee, but the majority must be faculty from the Regional Planning Ph.D. program. The members may or may not overlap with the POS Committee. Often, however, the Qualifying Committee will include both members of the POS committee. The composition of this Committee often is different from that of the committees for preliminary and final dissertation examinations.