Other Requirements

Doctoral students must meet the following requirements beyond coursework for graduation. The Graduate School Doctoral Toolbox is a great resource for UWM requirements for doctoral students. The Geography doctoral program follows the doctoral requirements of the Graduate School with some additional requirements detailed below. Students must fulfill the Graduate School requirements as well as the Departmental ones. Contact the Graduate Program Chair for any inquiries.

Major Professor and Advisory Committee

The student must have a major professor to advise and supervise the student’s studies as specified in Graduate School regulations. The student may not register for any courses without that advisor’s prior approval. Each student, preferably after completion of the first year of study, will select at least four additional members of the faculty/qualified professionals to form their advisory committee. A majority of the committee members must be core geography faculty members. Affiliated faculty members from other departments may serve as major advisors.

Graduate Student Orientation

All new students are expected to participate in the department orientation program, offered during the week prior to the start of fall classes. New students will be paired with an experienced student mentor during their first year. Instructional opportunities sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning(ETL) and the Preparing Future Faculty & Professionals initiative will be offered to all teaching assistants and other interested students enrolled in the doctoral program.

Doctoral Preliminary Examination

Refer to the Milestones of Doctoral Study for the Graduate School requirements. The process starts with completing an application on the online Doctoral Milestone System.

Each student will undergo a comprehensive written and oral examination by the end of their sixth semester in the program. The student’s committee, advisor, and proposed dissertation topic must be approved formally by the Geography departmental faculty prior to the scheduling of these exams. A dissertation proposal must be filed with the major professor prior to the preliminary examination. Successful completion of these exams and dissertation proposal hearing leads to candidacy, when work on the dissertation can commence.

The student’s advisor, as chair of the advisory committee, will organize and administer the examination. In general, the written exam will be “open book” and consist of one “eight hour” question and two “four hour” questions or their equivalencies. The content of the examination will be determined by the area of the student’s interest. The scope of the examination will be determined by the student’s advisory committee. A student judged qualified by the majority of the advisory committee will be admitted to candidacy. A student judged not qualified by the majority of the advisory committee will not be admitted to candidacy at the time of the examination but will be given an opportunity to retake the examination once, after a waiting period of at least one semester. At the discretion of the advisory committee, the second examination will be either a complete reexamination or a partial examination over the parts in which the student failed to qualify. A student receiving a negative vote of the advisory committee after the second examination will be recommended for academic dismissal. The student will be informed of the reasons for failure to qualify.


Each student must make two presentations at department colloquia. The first presentation will be scheduled program around the time of the preliminary exam; it is designed to give the student experience in making formal presentations. The second presentation will communicate the student’s dissertation research topic and preliminary results. The student should contact the colloquium organizer for scheduling prior to the semester of presentation.


The candidate must write an acceptable dissertation that demonstrates formulation, design, and independent execution of a significant research project. The dissertation must make an original contribution to knowledge in the field of geography. It may focus on geographical theory, methodology, data, or analysis, or it may involve collaborative approaches, interdisciplinary syntheses, and integrative solutions appropriate to the focus of the student’s graduate program of study.

Dissertation Defense

Refer to the Milestones of Doctoral Study for the Graduate School requirements. The process starts with completing an online application no later than the end of the second week of the semester you expect to graduate.
If the candidate passes the defense, the advisory committee will recommend to the Graduate School that a degree of Doctor of Philosophy be conferred.

For additional information see the Graduate School Doctoral Toolbox.