The PhD program at the Heller School prepares students to help advance social policy through leading roles in government, academia, and the non-profit and private sectors. The program supports a collegial and intellectually vibrant community that thrives on rigorous research, collaboration and support, and diverse ideas. Students come from many backgrounds and bring varied experiences, but all share a passionate commitment to using their knowledge to advance social justice. The program uses a multidisciplinary approach to social policy research that hones conceptual, analytical, qualitative, and quantitative skills. Students can tailor their course of study to their research interests by specializing in one of three broad concentrations.
As a student, you'll choose to concentrate on one of four policy areas. Each of these areas is represented by a corresponding Heller institute focused on domestic or international policy, which will be your intellectual home during your time at Heller. Students participate in a dissertation seminar for their area of concentration from the beginning, and gain in-depth knowledge of an area of policy through courses led by their concentration faculty. The Institutes provide opportunities to work collegially with faculty and research staff on grant-funded research projects.
Students concerned with health services delivery and policy affiliate with the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy, which include the Institute on Healthcare Systems and the Institute for Behavioral Health, as Health and Behavioral Health concentrators; the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy is home to students focusing on those populations; and students concentrating in Assets and Inequalities will work with faculty of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy to understand the distribution of economic and human capital. Students in our newest concentration, Global Health and Development, will be able to take advantage of the resources of the newly-formed Institute for Global Health and Development.
Students usually come to the Heller School with direct experience in managing or providing health and human services. In government policy roles or in private organizations, they have seen firsthand the effects that breakdowns in social policy can have on individuals, and they share Heller's belief that greater insight, gained through rigorous research, can lead to improved policies. The Heller doctoral program is designed to channel that commitment by providing students with access to theoretical frameworks in the social sciences that can help make sense of what they have observed, and methodological tools they can use to attack critical real-world questions.