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How do cognition, motivation, social interaction and culture affect human learning and development? These are some of the fascinating topics you’ll study through UWM’s Cognitive and Developmental Sciences PhD program.

Program Type


Program Format

On Campus

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Why Choose Our Program?

  • You’ll develop a deep understanding of the psychological foundations of education and explore the latest theories and research related to human learning and development.
  • You’ll work closely with internationally known faculty who have a wide range of research interests.
  • You’ll be well prepared for jobs in education, research, marketing, program evaluation and more.

This graduate-level program emphasizes the perspective of the developing learner. Graduates from this program have insight into the cognitive, emotional, and social changes in children, adolescents, and adults. Students should apply if they have an interest in:

  • Learning about social, cultural, and contextual influences on children, adolescents, and emerging adults,
  • Investigating core aspects of human development and cognition,
  • Understanding the connections between parents, peers, and youth over the course of development,
  • Understanding how people think and reason about the world around them,
  • Engaging with, or independently conducting cutting-edge research applied to a broad range of learning contexts — from schools to museums to home — throughout the human lifespan.

Students in the Cognitive and Developmental Sciences PhD program can pursue a doctoral degree in Educational Psychology while working closely with one of our faculty members. Many graduates of our PhD program pursue careers at research institutes and universities.


Many graduates of our Cognitive and Developmental Sciences PhD program pursue careers at research institutes and universities.

The Graduate School provides a range of resources for student professional development on its website.

Students completing the PhD program receive a PhD in Educational Psychology from the School of Education with a specialization in Cognitive and Developmental Sciences. These degrees do not lead to licensure or state certification.

The CDS Student Guide is a Canvas site to which current students should self-enroll using this link to view updated program requirements and information.

Program Requirements

Cognitive and Developmental Sciences PhD Required Courses (PDF)

In addition to required coursework, you’ll work closely with faculty to develop research skills that will help you prepare for research and teaching positions in academic settings as well as other leadership roles that require expertise in development, learning and research skills. Faculty mentorship is centered on the development of a thesis topic that will become your dissertation. Additionally, throughout the program, you will have opportunities to gain research experience by working on projects with one or more of our professors. The PhD is granted upon a successful completion of program and Graduate School milestones, including a preliminary exam and successful defense of your dissertation research. Learn more about degree requirements on the Graduate School Doctoral Requirements webpage.

Course Rotation

The Course Rotation Schedule (PDF) is intended to help you and your advisor plan your coursework schedule. Please consult the latest Graduate School Bulletin for course descriptions.

Doctoral Minor

The CDS minor is for students in other degree programs who wish to earn a concentration of studies in learning and/or human development. A minor in CDS would be a particular benefit to individuals who desire added training in understanding the psychological underpinnings and contextual factors that influence child and adolescent understanding and interpretation of their learning or social environments or development across the lifespan.

Students must take a minimum of 9 credits (in addition to those required for the PhD) to earn a transcript-designated CDS doctoral minor.

Application Process

All application materials must be submitted through UWM Graduate School’s Panthera Application System.

  • Final Deadline for Spring Admission: Final application deadline is Oct. 1 for Spring admission.
  • Final Deadline for Fall Admission: Final application deadline is Dec. 1 for Fall admission.

Please note that these dates are firm, even if they differ from the Graduate School’s application “lock date”. The CDS area reviews applications twice a year. Doctoral applicants must apply by the Fall deadline, for full consideration of funding.

Panthera will collect information about your educational background, transcripts, personal statement/statement of purpose, Letter of Recommendation requests (see below), writing samples, and application fee.

Admission to the PhD program requires 3 letters of recommendation; letters that can speak to your scholarly capabilities are desirable. These letters must be submitted through the application’s electronic recommendation feature by the recommenders themselves. Letters uploaded or sent by the applicant will not be accepted. When you request a letter of recommendation, your recommender receives an email with a link to upload their letter directly to your Panthera application.

GRE scores are not required, though you are welcome to submit your scores if you wish to do so. In lieu of GRE scores you must submit a sample of scholarly or scientific writing.

All students must meet the minimum requirements for admission stipulated by the UWM Graduate School.


Susie  Lamborn, PhD
  • Associate Professor, Educational Psychology
Christopher Lawson, Associate Professor in Educational Psychology.
  • Associate Professor, Educational Psychology
  • Program Director, Cognitive and Developmental Sciences MS/PhD
Jacqueline Nguyen, Associate Professor in Educational Psychology.
  • Associate Professor, Educational Psychology
  • Department Chair, Educational Psychology

PhD Students

Joshua James Anderson
  • PhD Student, Educational Psychology: Cognitive & Developmental Science
Bradley Jacob Bessler
  • PhD Student, Educational Psychology: Cognitive & Developmental Science
Sthephany  Escandell
  • PhD Student, Educational Psychology: Cognitive & Developmental Science

Susie D. Lamborn, PhD, Associate Professor
Dr. Lamborn’s research focuses on adolescents and their families, seeking an empirically-based understanding of the normative development of ethnically diverse youth.

Chris Lawson, PhD, Associate Professor
Dr. Lawson’s research examines the development of generalization: How do children use what they have learned in one situation to make sense of new situations? The main goal of this work is to understand which examples and situations are the most likely to support generalization in young learners. To learn more about his research please visit his lab page.

Jacqueline Nguyen, PhD, Associate Professor
Dr. Nguyen’s research explores the ways developmental processes, such as cultural/ethnic identity development, transitions into college, or peer-parent-child relationships, are shaped by cultural contexts including immigration. She specializes in qualitative and mixed-methods research and working with community organizations. To learn more about her current projects, please visit her research page.