Human Ecology PhD


Each named option has its own faculty, curriculum, requirements and includes a challenging array of coursework along with exciting opportunities for research, outreach, and service consistent with each student’s scholarly interests and career aspirations.

Students enrolled in one of the Human Ecology Ph.D. program named options have the opportunity to earn the Human Ecology MS: Human Ecology Research degree along the way to the Ph.D. upon successful completion of coursework and research.

As part of a Research I institution, SoHE faculty members have national reputations in their fields of study and are highly committed to nurturing future scholars and practitioners. They conduct research and mentor students to address issues that cross disciplinary lines. They work closely with graduate students to create courses of study that match each student’s personal and professional goals.

The School of Human Ecology has a strong tradition of outreach and counts several faculty members with budgeted extension appointments among its ranks. But all faculty members devote time and resources to ensuring their work benefits others beyond the campus. These efforts reflect the Wisconsin Idea, the notion that the university’s boundaries are those of the state, nation, and beyond. Graduate education at SoHE encompasses this mission by stressing the integration of research with program design and implementation, administration, policy development, and evaluation.

Professor Carolina Sarmiento gestures to a table of students in a class.

Civil Society & Community Research

This program focuses on theoretical foundations of grassroots organizations, nonprofits, voluntary associations, and social networks that strive to benefit the common good. With an emphasis on mixed-method inquiries that integrate participatory approaches with advanced quantitative and qualitative analysis, this program prepares students to use the processes of research and outreach to strengthen and make a positive impact on civil society.

Aerial view of a student sitting in a red plush chair studying on their laptop.

Consumer Behavior & Family Economics

The PhD program in Human Ecology: Consumer Behavior and Family Economics develops scholars able to apply social science theories to understanding household and consumer interactions within the marketplace and the public sector. Students undertake research on consumer decision-making affecting the social and economic well-being of individuals and families. This is a multi-disciplinary degree program.

Design Studies

Our PhD is for students interested in design and its relationship with human environments, the human body, textiles and other material objects. It is highly flexible, as each student works closely with their advisor and graduate committee to design a custom-fit curriculum, preparing students for professional design careers, art careers, specialized research, teaching in higher education, museum or archival work, community engagement, and entrepreneurial endeavors.

A young child wearing butterfly wings runs around the grass

Human Development & Family Studies

Among the top of its kind nationally, the graduate program in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison provides challenging opportunities for advanced study, research, and outreach. HDFS offers an interdisciplinary approach to development across the lifespan leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. Students who enter the PhD program without a master’s degree complete their master’s degree along the way.