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Testudo

Recently admitted?

Welcome! Find out everything you need to know as a new Policy Terp.

Policies and Procedures

View the School's policies and procedures relevant to graduate students.

Graduate Assistants

View resources and policies related to School graduate assistantships. 

Advising

Academic Advising

In our graduate programs, academic advising is not mandatory but highly encouraged.

  • Students in the Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Management program are welcome to reach out to Fan Tsao at fantsao@umd.edu
  • Students in the Master of Professional Studies - Public Administration and the Executive Master of Public Management are welcome to contact Mike Goodhart at goodhart@umd.edu
  • Doctoral students should consult the PhD Program Director, Dr. Rob Sprinkle at sprinkle@umd.edu, or their faculty advisor

Specialization Town Halls

Every semester, a number of town halls are held for graduate students interested or specializing in various topics to learn about relevant upcoming courses and meet the faculty. Students are also encouraged to provide feedback on their specialization and offer suggestions for future course topics. 

TOWN HALL SCHEDULE FOR FALL 2019:
  • International Development and International Security and Economic Policy - TBD
  • Management, Finance and Leadership (including Management and Leadership; Public-Sector Financial Management; and Federal Acquisitions) and Nonprofit Management and Leadership - TBD
  • Environmental and Energy Policy - TBD
  • Social, Health and Education Policy - TBD

Career Advising

Whether you need career counseling, interview preparation, networking assistance, job search advice or a simple resume review, our staff is ready and committed to help.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the program requirements?

View the policy on program requirements.

How many credits do I need to graduate?

The Master of Public Policy degree requires a minimum of 48 credits.  You are though free to take more credits. The most common reason to pursue extra credits is to take courses that are insufficiently policy/management focused to count toward the MPP degree but will likely still be useful for your career (or you just find interesting). For example, business skills, science, or undergraduate language courses.

What are the required courses?

View the required courses for the program.

May I be waived from a required course?

View the policy on waiving a core requirement

May I take a course outside of the School?

View the policy on taking outside and D.C. Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area courses

May I take an independent study?

View the policy on independent study.

When should I take the required courses?

Here are some general rules of thumb. Your specific circumstances may warrant a different schedule.  An academic advisor can help you with these decisions. Most of these guidelines assume you are taking approximately 12 credits a semester – the underlying principles still apply though if you are going at a slower pace.

  • It is wise to take required courses as soon as possible.  In part this is because other courses often draw on the required courses, in part because some forms of financial support require substantial completion of the core courses, and in part because of the danger of reaching your intended graduation semester and being unable for one reason or another to take your remaining required specialization course(s).
  • Take one of the two Governance courses (PLCY688E and PLCY688G) in your first semester and the other Governance course in your second semester.  While they can be taken in either order, it is generally advisable to take PLCY688E before PLCY688G.
  • Take at least one Quantitative Skills course in your first semester and one or two each semester thereafter until you have completed them. The order in which you should take the Quantitative Skills course depends on your specialization and other interests.  Students in an internationally-oriented specialization (e.g., IDEV, ISEP) should take PLCY688I “Macroeconomic Analysis” in their first or second semester since many of their specialization courses assume knowledge of macroeconomics. Similarly, students in a management/financial specialization will want to take PLCY688R “Public Finance & Budgeting” early since some of their specialization courses will build on it.
  • Take the PLCY699W and PLCY790 “Policy Engagement Project” sequence in your last full academic year. That is, register for PLCY699W in the fall semester preceding the calendar year in which you plan to graduate, and register for PLCY790 in the following spring semester.
What electives may I take?

Most students who pursue a specialization are required to take elective course(s) within the specialization. These are referred to as the “specialization electives.” View our pre-designed specializations and their requirements.

The remaining courses needed to complete the required total of 48 credits for the MPP degree are “general electives.” They may be any other policy/management focused graduate-level course in the School, in the overall University, in nearly any of the other major policy/management programs in the area, or (subject to limits) at any other accredited University throughout the world (including courses taken prior to entering the master's program but not previously counted toward a degree).

Some courses are best taken after the first or second semester.  For example, some assume mastery of large parts of the core curriculum. If in doubt, check with an academic advisor as to the suitability of a given elective given your courses to date. Contact Fan Tsao at fantsao@umd.edu.

Do I have to select a specialization?

Specializations are optional and may be added or dropped any time simply by notifying the Graduate Studies academic advisor.  

You may pursue more than one specialization by meeting the requirements of both specializations, double-counting no more than one course towards each specialization. If you are double-counting a course required by both specializations, then you may substitute a specialization elective for the required course.  It is wise for those pursuing more than one specialization to meet with an academic advisor to map out your schedule.

You may also choose to pursue an individual specialization other than the predefined ones.  Our academic advisors will assist you in this process.

What courses will be offered next semester?

The School maintains a Graduate Course Projections spreadsheet indicating the courses we plan to offer in the upcoming semesters. Constantly updated, this spreadsheet is usually more accurate than the Schedule of Classes found on Testudo.

Students are welcome to attend our specialization town halls each semester to meet the faculty in their interest areas and asked detailed questions about upcoming courses. 

May I see the syllabus before I register?

View the collection of sample syllabi

How do I get a graduate assistantship?

Graduate students may pursue graduate assistant positions across campus at ejobs.umd.edu. For positions within the School, please see our Graduate Assistantship policy.

Is there financial support for attending scholarly conferences?

View the procedure for applying to the Master's Students Development Grant below.

What is the curriculum if I started before 2016?

The core curriculum for MPP students matriculated before Fall 2016 is:

  • Quantitative Aspects of Public Policy (PUAF610); or, with permission, Quantitative Analysis of Social Policy (PUAF611)
  • Political Analysis (PLCY620); or Comparative Political Institutions (PUAF688A)
  • Microeconomics and Policy Analysis (PUAF640)
  • Moral Dimensions of Public Policy (PUAF650)
  • Public Management & Leadership (PUAF711)
  • Either Macroeconomics (PUAF641); or Public Budgeting and Finance (PUAF670), depending on specialization

MPP students matriculated before Fall 2016 are required to pursue a specialization and complete a three-credit Project Course (PUAF790) in that specialization.

What are the program requirements?

View the policy on program requirements.

How many credits do I need to graduate?

The Master of Public Management degree requires a minimum of 36 credits.  You are though free to take more credits. The most common reason to pursue extra credits is to take courses that are insufficiently policy/management focused to count toward the MPM degree but will likely still be useful for your career (or you just find interesting). For example, business skills, science, or undergraduate language courses.

What are the required courses?

View the required courses for the program.

May I be waived from a required course?

View the policy on waiving a core requirement

May I take a course outside of the School?

View the policy on taking outside and D.C. Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area courses

May I take an independent study?

View the policy on independent study.

May I be waived from a required course?

Perhaps. The only basis for a waiver from a required course is that you have already recently learned the topics covered in the required course.  This can often be demonstrated by having recently taken a similar or more advanced course and received a good grade in it. There is no hard definition of “good grade” here – it depends on how advanced the course appears to be and how recently it was taken.  Certainly at least a “B”. Alternatively, you might need to be quizzed by an instructor or even take an old final exam.

To request a waiver, please contact an academic advisor.

When should I take the required courses?

Here are some general rules of thumb.  Your specific circumstances may warrant a different schedule. An academic advisor can help you with these decisions. Most of these guidelines assume you are taking approximately 12 credits a semester – the underlying principles still apply though if you are going at a slower pace.

  • It is wise to take required courses as soon as possible.  In part this is because other courses often draw on the required courses, in part because some forms of financial support require substantial completion of the core courses, and in part because of the danger of reaching your intended graduation semester and being unable for one reason or another to take your remaining required specialization course(s).
  • Take one of the two Governance courses (PLCY688E and PLCY688G) in your first semester and the other Governance course in your second semester.  While they can be taken in either order, it is generally advisable to take PLCY688E before PLCY688G.
  • Take at least one Quantitative Skills course in your first semester and one or two each semester thereafter until you have completed them. The order in which you should take the Quantitative Skills course depends on your specialization and other interests.  Students in an internationally-oriented specialization (e.g., IDEV, ISEP) should take PLCY688I “Macroeconomic Analysis & Policy” in their first or second semester since many of their specialization courses assume knowledge of macroeconomics. Similarly, students in a management/financial specialization will want to take PLCY688R “Public Budgeting & Finance” early since some of their specialization courses will build on it.
What electives may I take?

Most students who pursue a specialization are required to take elective course(s) within the specialization. These are referred to as the “specialization electives.” View our pre-designed specializations and their requirements.

The remaining courses needed to complete the required total of 36 credits for the MPM degree are “general electives.” They may be any other policy/management focused graduate-level course in the School, in the overall University, in nearly any of the other major policy/management programs in the area, or (subject to limits) at any other accredited University throughout the world (including courses taken prior to entering the master's program but not previously counted toward a degree).

Some courses are best taken after the first or second semester.  For example, some assume mastery of large parts of the core curriculum. If in doubt, check with an academic advisor as to the suitability of a given elective given your courses to date. Contact Fan Tsao at fantsao@umd.edu.

Do I have to select a specialization?

Specializations are optional and may be added or dropped any time simply by notifying an academic advisor.  

You may pursue more than one specialization by meeting the requirements of both specializations, double-counting no more than one course towards each specialization. If you are double-counting a course required by both specializations, then you may substitute a specialization elective for the required course.  It is wise for those pursuing more than one specialization to meet with an academic advisor to map out your schedule.

You may also choose to pursue an individual specialization other than the predefined ones.  Our academic advisors will assist you in this process.

What courses will be offered next semester?

The School maintains a Graduate Course Projections spreadsheet indicating the courses we plan to offer in the upcoming semesters. Constantly updated, this spreadsheet is usually more accurate than the Schedule of Classes found on Testudo.

Students are welcome to attend our specialization town halls each semester to meet the faculty in their interest areas and asked detailed questions about upcoming courses. 

May I see the syllabus before I register?

View the collection of sample syllabi

How do I get a graduate assistantship?

Graduate students may pursue graduate assistant positions across campus at ejobs.umd.edu. For positions within the School, please see our Graduate Assistantship policy.

Is there financial support for attending scholarly conferences?

View the procedure for applying to the Master's Students Development Grant below.

What funding support do I get?

The funding package for a PhD student is determined at the time of admission.  A typical package has guaranteed two years of funding in the form of a graduate assistantship or a fellowship or both.​

How many credits must I take, and how many “units” do I need, for the Graduate School to certify full-time status?

The Graduate School uses a unit system in making calculations to determine full-time or part-time student status. Please note that graduate units are different from credit hours. The number of graduate units required to be certified as full-time status varies by the stage you are at in the program, as well as whether you have a Graduate Assistantship. The number of graduate units per credit hour is calculated in the following manner:

  • Courses in the series: 600-897 carry 6 units per credit hour.
  • Master's Research course: 799 carries 12 units per credit hour.
  • Pre-candidacy Doctoral Research courses: 898 carries 18 units per credit hour.
  • Doctoral Dissertation Research: 899 carries 18 units per credit hour. All doctoral candidates must pay candidacy tuition for which they will be registered for six (6) credit hours of 899; this defines all currently registered doctoral candidates as full-time.

To be certified as full time, you must be officially registered for a combination of courses equivalent to 48 graduate units per semester. Most graduate courses convey 3 credit hours, so a single 3 credit hour course provides 18 graduate units.

Full-time graduate assistantships (20 hours/week) count for 24 graduate units, and hence you only require an additional 24 graduate units from coursework to be certified as full time. Half-time graduate assistantships (10 hours/week) count for 12 graduate units, and you require an additional 36 graduate units from coursework to be certified as full time. 

What work would I do as a Graduate Assistant?

A PhD student typically works as a research assistant supporting a member of our PhD faculty, as a course assistant supporting our graduate-level courses, or as a teaching assistant supporting our undergraduate courses.​

What courses should I take in the first two years?

Your Faculty Advisor and the PhD Program Director will be glad to help you develop your course plan.

May I add or drop a course after the semester has started?

The University has a Schedule Adjustment period during the first 10 business days of the fall and spring semester. In this period, you may drop and add courses without penalty provided that the changes are made on the same day and that the total number of credits does not change.  Remember, to avoid additional charges when dropping and adding, both the drop and add must be done during the same day. The total number of credits dropped and added must be equal. If you drop a course without adding another with the same number of credits, you will have to pay a penalty. Please review the University policy on Schedule Adjustment to avoid financial penalty.​

What’s PLCY898: Pre-Candidacy Research, and when should I take it?

Technically you may take PLCY898 any semester before you advance to candidacy. However, it is advised that you take at least 24 credits of other graduate courses that will prepare you for your comprehensive exams and research before registering for PLCY898.​

See this list to find the section number that corresponds to your faculty advisor.​

What is the process of the Comprehensive Exams?

Some faculty members who administer comprehensive exams will announce the exam schedule via email. See this page for the exam topics and examiners.​  Other professors will expect to negotiate a reading list, a test focus and format, and a date.

How do I advance to candidacy?

Aside from the required coursework and Comprehensive Exams, you also need to present and defend your dissertation proposal, often called a prospectus.  The term “proposal” here is especially instructive, as you will be asking your Committee members to join you in an original research project that may take several years to complete and will obligate a good bit of their time in an advisory capacity, perhaps also in a collegial capacity, and ultimately in a judgmental capacity.  They must accept your invitation or you cannot proceed.  If your defense goes well, you must prepare the Application for Admission to Candidacy.  It is important to note that this form must be received by the Office of the Registrar prior to the 25th of the month in order for the advancement to be effective the first day of the following month.  Meeting or missing this deadline affects the start of PLCY899 and any associated support. 

Must I prepare a computer slide show?

No, not really.  Doctoral students have come to believe that to defend a dissertation proposal (or prospectus) or to defend a dissertation itself they must prepare a computer slide show. Learning to prepare a computer slide show — a good one, as contrasted with a not-so-good one — is advisable, but complicating an event as critical as a defense to do so is not advisable.  You will be defending a document, not a slide show, and the document you will be defending is one your committee will have read. Transferring attention to a screen is not a good strategy.

How do I register for PLCY899: Doctoral Dissertation Research?

Students who have advanced to candidacy will automatically be registered by the Office of the Registrar for six credits of PLCY899 every semester. The Graduate School requires at least 12 credits of PLCY899 to be completed before you earn the PhD degree.​

While writing your dissertation you should adhere to the style that the Graduate School will ultimately require. Many students discover that they must reformat their work extensively before uploading their dissertations and that they cannot graduate until they do so. For students defending “at the last minute,” few minutes are left to accommodate this task.  Accordingly, the savvy student will avoid this problem altogether by adhering to these guidelines from the start. On the Thesis & Dissertation Filing page, examine “Style Guide” and download the The University of Maryland Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) Style Guide.

Is funding support available for dissertation research and writing?

Yes. You may be able to secure a Dissertation Fellowship from the Graduate School. Multiple named fellowships share the same application process, so you often have to fill out only one application.  Please send your application to our School’s Office of Student Affairs at least one week before the deadline. If more than two applicants from our School apply in the same semester, the faculty will determine which two applications will go forward to the Graduate School.​ 

May I have a co-author on a chapter of my dissertation?

A dissertation should demonstrate an individual aspiring scholar’s ability to create and contribute either new knowledge or new understanding of existing knowledge.  In many fields now, though, methods and costs nearly preclude truly individual contributions. The Graduate School's policy on the inclusion of co-authored work can be found here.

What must I do to apply for graduation, to nominate a committee, to defend my dissertation, and to file my dissertation?

There are several deadlines to follow in the semester you defend your dissertation and graduate, so please look them up on the Graduate School’s Academic Deadlines page. Be sure to use the drop-down menus to select a specific semester, year, and student type.

Apply for graduation (even before you have defended your dissertation).

Prepare the Nomination of Thesis or Dissertation Committee form and return it to the School's Office of Student Affairs, which will submit it to the University Registrar on your behalf.

This form takes some time to complete and must be submitted to the University Registrar at least six weeks before your defense. If any one of your committee members is not a member of the University's Graduate Faculty, the PhD Program Director must consult with the School's faculty to ensure that the off-campus member is acceptable, and approval from the Graduate School may take longer than expected. Take this added time into account when planning your timetable.

Additionally, a Dean’s Representative must be found.  Your advisor will help you find a Dean's Representative or, if no one agrees to serve, may ask the Dean of the Graduate School to appoint a Dean's Representative randomly. Dean's Representatives are members of the University’s Graduate Faculty but not the School’s faculty and are appointed to represent the Dean of the Graduate School at your defense.  Dean's Representatives may know nothing of your topic or discipline, but they will know if you or your Advisor or your Committee misbehave procedurally or if you fall far below the standards expected by the Graduate School.  Note that a Dean's Representative may be a sixth member of your committee and not vote or, if expert in some aspect of your topic, may be a fifth member of your committee and vote.  Either way — but crucially if voting — the Dean's Representative should get a copy of your dissertation far enough in advance to read it.

Schedule your defense once your advisor assesses your dissertation to be good enough to survive scrutiny and your committee has been fully formed. By tradition this task devolves to the candidate alone. Finding a date, a time, and a room is always difficult, especially if your committee includes a sixth member (that is, a non-voting Dean's Representative) or anyone who must attend by video connection.  (Until recently, ALL members had to be physically present, but now one — but no more than one, and NOT the chair — may attend remotely.) 

Send copies of your dissertation to your committee members individually.  Send PDFs if acceptable; print copies for anyone insisting on paper.  Single-sided copies are better, as their sheets are less likely to become disordered or hard to read if marked up.

If your defense is successful, your committee members will sign the Report of Examining Committee form.

Your Chair will send the Report of Examining Committee form to the Office of Student Affairs, which will submit it to the Registrar.  You are then responsible for following Graduate School guidelines for submitting your dissertation. Pay attention to the Graduate School's deadlines for these steps. They will include filling out the Thesis and Dissertation Electronic Publication Form for the Graduate School and a much longer form for ProQuest.

Lastly, the Graduate School will require you to complete two surveys.

What if I need a waiver of some sort — maybe because I’m unable to finish all my degree requirements on time?

Waivers must be justified, but they’re usually granted.  So don’t worry, but do fill out the Petition for Waiver of Regulation form.

If you applied for graduation this semester and cannot graduate, your application will automatically roll over to next semester.  (That is, spring application rolls over to summer, summer to fall, and fall to spring.)  You won’t have to apply for graduation in the rollover semester.  However, the rollover occurs only once.

If you have completed all the degree requirements and the graduation date is still a few months away, you may request an official letter from the Office of the Registrar stating the expected degree conferral date. The letter may be used to demonstrate your degree to a potential employer before you receive your diploma.  The Registrar’s staff responsible for graduate-degree clearance can help you with this.

I’m presenting a paper at a conference. May I get funding?

There are two funding sources to explore:

  1. Funding from the SPP PhD Program​.  The SPP PhD Program is pleased to support conference attendance.  The PhD Program Director calls for applications for funding once or twice per semester.  The application process is announced via email to all PhD students.  Preference will be given to students seeking awards that meet the criteria of the the Goldhaber Travel Grant.
  2. Funding through the Graduate School.  The Graduate School offers two travel grants: The Jacob K. Goldhaber Travel Grant and The International Conference Student Support Award (ICSSA). These grants are intended to help defray the expenses incurred by students who are traveling to scholarly, scientific, or professional conferences to present papers, posters, or other scholarly material.  Students may receive each award twice during their graduate education at UMD, once before the achievement of candidacy and a second time after the achievement of candidacy.  For the Goldhaber Grant, the PhD Program Director can provide the “Funding Representative” signature on the application form. Your Faculty Advisor can provide the required recommendation letter.  Please coordinate with Kathy Monroe at our School’s Office of Finance and Administration as you prepare the application and, after your travel, submit receipts for reimbursement.​

Conference and Travel Support

The School encourages master’s students to attend scholarly events, such as research symposia, industry conferences, and training workshops, to present policy papers or develop policy skills. This allows us to showcase our best students at prominent gatherings in the public policy arena and raise our School’s visibility. The Master’s Student Development Grant is intended to help defray the expenses incurred by attending such events. The grant guidelines are as follows.

Rolling Deadline

Our limited funding is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The rolling deadline allows students to apply at any time as long as the complete application is received by the School 10 business days before the event date.

Eligibility and Funding Amount
  • All master’s students at the School of Public Policy in good academic standing are eligible to apply. The grantee must be a registered degree-seeking student during the event.
  • The grantee may receive only one Grant during their tenure with the School.
  • The grantee must articulate the benefit to them, and to the School, of attending the event.
  • The grantee may request no more than 50% of the total event cost. Only events that cost $50 or more will be considered.
  • The award ceiling is $200. However, if the grantee qualifies for another funding source (e.g., the Jacob K. Goldhaber Travel Grant) that requires a match from the School, the award amount can potentially be raised above $200 to maximize external funding.
  • Awards are based on the School’s funding availability.
Application Procedures

Submit the following documents to Fan Tsao at fantsao@umd.edu.

  • Proof of participation in the event. This can be a copy of a letter or email accepting the paper, an invitation, or printed program.
  • If presenting, an abstract of the presentation.
  • A statement that addresses the importance of the event to the student’s degree and benefits to the School. The statement should include the student's name and UID.
  • A budget showing the total event cost (including airfare, lodging, registration, etc.), requested amount, and any matching funds.

Allow one month for the School to reach an award decision.

If you are awarded the Grant, you will receive the funds in the form of reimbursement after you return from the event. The School will provide further instructions on the reimbursement process at the time of the award.

The School provides conference and travel funding awards to support PhD students present their research at scholarly and professional conferences. The awards are intended to partially support the cost of attending such events. Other sources of duding should be used in conjunction with requested School funds. Request are judged on an individual basis and subject to the availability fo funds. 

Availability and Eligibility

To be considered for the award, you must be in good academic standing and be making adequate progress toward completing your degree. Funds are only available to current students and may not be used post-graduation or for those who are not currently enrolled in coursework or research such as those who have a waiver of registration or similar circumstance.

Awards will only be granted prior to the start of a conference.

Award Preferences

Preference will be given to PhD students seeking awards that meet the criteria of the Graduate School’s Conference and Travel Awards (International Conference Student Support Award and Goldhaber Travel Grant). Students who have attended previous conferences of the host organization will also receive greater consideration.

Local and regional conferences for which no travel is required are less likely to receive funding.

Award Application

Please contact the PhD Program Director for guidance on the application process. 

Return Responsibilities

The School will reimburse students for expenses at an amount that is less than or equal to the granted funding. You must submit original receipts for eligible expenses within two weeks of your return to be reimbursed. If expenses have been divided among others receiving SPP funding, the student may submit a copy as long as another person submits the original receipt. All requests for reimbursement must be documented.

Upon return, the attendee must write about the experience for the SPP student blog. Additionally, the student should prepare a short presentation with visuals about the experience that may be given at an orientation, open house, networking event or other public forum. While these additional activities add a small amount of work, public presentations are invaluable to our community for telling the total experience of students at the School of Public Policy.


Student Life

Explore the Graduate Student Life Handbook to find all the resources available across campus for graduate students.