The interdisciplinary doctoral program in public affairs at UCF was established in 1998 and is based at UCF Downtown in the heart of downtown Orlando. Situated in the School of Public Administration, the doctoral program features representation from public administration, social work, health management, criminal justice, governance and urban education. The program prepares students for academic appointments in colleges and universities as well as research and leadership positions in public, nonprofit and private agencies. The dynamic mix of an interdisciplinary faculty with students from varied backgrounds creates a stimulating environment to examine many of the contemporary social ills communities are currently facing.

The program includes a distinguished group of faculty members who are interested in fostering collaborative and transdisciplinary perspectives to solve societal issues and problems. As a global program, the doctorate in public affairs has produced more than 30 international graduates from countries such as China, South Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Armenia, South Africa, Taiwan and Ethiopia.

Learn about our mission, vision and values.

Contact Us

Department Office
Dr. Phillips Academic Commons (DPAC), Suite 446

Academic Program Coordinator
Staci Zavattaro

Where Do Our Graduates Work?

Graduates of UCF's doctoral program in public affairs go on to work in a variety of industries.











Program Details

Full-time students enroll in nine hours per semester and part-time students enroll in six hours per semester. All courses are offered face-to-face during the evenings from 6:00 to 8:50 p.m. Students may vary their plan of study to move from full-time to part-time or vice versa, if necessary.

The 57-credit doctoral curriculum comprises multiple core competencies designed to train next-generation scholars and practitioners to study social problems and to effectively communicate with academic- and practitioner-based constituencies. Domains such as critical and analytical thinking, research methods and statistics, leadership and engagement, and communication and dissemination encapsulate this approach. By diverging from classical approaches typically embodied within a single academic field, which feature only a single set of theories, traditions and examples, the interdisciplinary public affairs orientation encourages broader and more innovative strategies, partnerships and impacts. For more information, please visit the graduate catalog.

UCF has several funding resources to help doctoral students fund their education, such as assistantships, fellowships and student loans. Additionally the College of Community Innovation and Education offers various scholarships to support graduate students.

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Specialization Areas

Students enrolled in the Doctoral Program in Public Affairs will have the opportunity to choose from one of nine specialization areas. Suggested areas of specialization are comprised of graduate courses offered by the university’s existing graduate degree programs. When pursuing electives intended for master’s level students, doctoral students are expected to complete additional readings and assignments in addition to those required for master’s students enrolled in those courses. Students complete four recommended courses (twelve credit hours) for their chosen specialization (substitutions will be allowed with the approval of the program director, and students may create their own specialization with advance approval from the program director) and six credit hours of directed research in which the student conducts independent research in their anticipated dissertation topic with their advisor. Students should note that the concentrations identified below are exemplary and not exclusive.

Concentrations include, but are not limited to:

Public Policy Analysis

Students pursuing this specialization will develop the skills necessary to assess the efficacy of public policies in an environment characterized by goal complexity and conflict. Students will learn to identify key performance indicators, select appropriate analytic methodologies, involve stakeholders in the process, and assess policy performance in implementation settings that involve intergovernmental and intersectoral collaboration, networks, or coproduction. Scholarly research will assess the impact of various policies within government and public agencies and the degree to which these policies meet established goals.

Public Budgeting & Finance

Students pursuing this specialization will be exposed to research that centers on the complexity of public budgeting and finance systems and processes across federal, state, and local governments. Tools of budget and financial analysis will enable students to conduct research that helps to better understand and forecast the impacts of policies and events on agency and government budgets. Students will develop deep knowledge about taxation, budgeting processes, performance budgeting, and public finance. Scholarly research will focus on critically analyzing the approaches, functions, formations, and allocations of public resources and the economic structures of society.

Public Management

Public management in the modern era requires students to develop strong conceptual understanding of the various facets affecting implementation of public policies, including complex and collaborative implementation settings. Students will develop a strategic management perspective built around performance management. This specialization draws heavily from the literature on organizational theory and behavior, and integrates the tenets of evidence-based practice. It offers students a deep look at human resource management and leadership needed to improve the quality and efficiency of services delivered by public agencies. Scholarship will allow students to understand organizations in their contexts, manage risks, and promote organizational stability.

Urban Policy

Students pursuing this specialization will focus on research and policy development in areas that affect the infrastructure and development of urban areas and communities. As urban populations continue to expand rapidly, policies that focus on globalization, spatial concentration, and urban sprawl are becoming especially critical in addressing the challenges and policy needs for urban communities. Research in this area will include topics on transportation, environmental and green development, community development, poverty, as well as public housing.

Emergency Management

Students specializing in emergency management will explore, in depth, the role that public and private agencies play in responding to emergencies effectively. Emergency management scholarship critically assesses how well agencies coordinate, organize, mobilize, and manage public and private resources and responsibilities that pertain to the mitigation of risks that impact local communities, regions, and/or countries.

Nonprofit Management

Students specializing in nonprofit management will develop an integrated perspective that focuses on understanding nonprofit organizations, their unique management and financial challenges, and the factors responsible for their success, including ethical leadership, resource development, collaboration, and more. Nonprofit organizations address some of society’s most pressing needs, often implementing policies funded by public agencies. Students pursuing this specialization will conduct original research that leads to improved understanding of the nonprofit sector, challenges, and their role in promoting change within local communities.

Collaborative Governance

Students pursuing collaborative governance will explore the relationships between public, private, and nonprofit organizations and the communities they serve. Collaborative governance frameworks emphasize pursuit of strategic goals that cross traditional agency and jurisdictional boundaries and are seen as a solution to many of the “wicked problems” facing society in modern times. Whether organized into networks, coproduction, formal collaboration, or informal interaction, the accomplishment of public objectives is increasingly shared, complex, and creative. Research in this area evaluates theoretical frameworks that relate to the public and their needs in an intergovernmental and intersectoral fashion and contributes to our understanding of the factors responsible for success.

Comparative Public Administration

In an increasingly complex global society, actors and agencies operating in different nations and states face varied constraints and opportunities. The culture and norms that frame agency expectations vary, and social, political, economic, and technological characteristics shape agency missions, approaches, and success.  A comparative approach encompasses cross-sectional (e.g., cross-country and cross-policy) analyses that study the roles, responsibilities, patterns, and regularities of organizational and personnel behavior, as well as the relations between administrative stakeholders and political decision makers. Students pursuing comparative administration will conduct scholarly research that shapes our understanding of best practices through a deep understanding of the factors contributing to success in unique settings around the globe.

Global & Community Health Services Research

This specialization, provided in partnership with the School of Global Health Management and Informatics, focuses on issues relevant to global and community health including health care systems, delivery, financing, outcomes, and policy. Students will receive training related to advanced research methods, data analyses, and industry and community partner engagement. Emphasis will be on healthcare access and quality, ethics, social justice, and health disparities including examination of social and structural determinants of health inequities. Students will be trained in developing, promoting, and sustaining equitable health initiatives and policies in global and community health services research. Evidence-based theoretical frameworks will be utilized to train students to conceptualize, conduct, and integrate original research while working with faculty to pursue funding, participate in external collaborations, and prepare for careers in academic and non-academic positions in community and global health.