Community Well-Being – Ph.D.

Educational and Psychological Studies

Community Well-Being


To be a hub for engaged scholarship in community well-being and social change.

To produce community-engaged scholars who promote individual, relational, and collective well-being through community-based research and action.

The new PhD program in Community Well-Being (CWB) trains community-engaged action-researchers committed to promoting well-being and social justice through rigorous theoretical analysis and community-based research. The program is rooted in the discipline of Community Psychology and prepares scholars for careers in academia, research, and public policy. Community-engaged scholarship involves the researcher in a mutually beneficial partnership with the community. Such partnership augments the scholarship of teaching, discovery, integration, application, or engagement.

Program Overview

Purpose and Goals

The vision of the program in Community Well-Being (CWB) is to be a hub for engaged scholarship in community well-being and social change.

The mission of the program is to produce community-engaged scholars who promote individual, relational, and collective well-being through community-based research and action.

The program in CWB trains community-engaged action-researchers committed to promoting social justice through rigorous theoretical analysis and community-based research. The program is grounded in the discipline of community psychology, and focuses on community-engaged scholarship that involves the researcher in a mutually beneficial partnership with the community. The program prepares scholars for careers in academia, research, and public policy.


Who Applies?

The CWB Program admission process is highly selective. We admit a small number of students (2-4) in each admission cycle. We are particularly dedicated to increasing the number of under-represented minorities in the profession. Qualified applicants to our program have research and practical experiences relevant to a career in community psychology. Applicants with master’s degrees in Community Psychology are especially encouraged to apply, as well as those holding master’s degrees in Public Health, Social Work, Public Administration, Applied Anthropology, Education, Sociology, and related fields. Specifically, qualified applicants are able to demonstrate in their applications:

  • An excellent academic record
  • Research experience and interest in becoming proficient in qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Familiarity with the field of community psychology
  • A fit with a CWB faculty members’ research program in terms of background and interests
  • An interest in becoming a scholar/researcher and seeking an academic position upon graduation.
  • A personal statement that articulates the applicant’s research interests and experience, and reflects each of the items above.


CWB core and affiliated faculty conduct research in local community organizations, schools, networks and coalitions, neighborhoods and other national and international settings. Examples of current community-engaged research include adaptation and acculturation among immigrant and refugee populations, cultural coping strategies in Black and Latino communities, organizational change in CBO’s, and mobile gaming applications for individual and relational wellness, the effectiveness of a heritage-based mentoring and tutoring program, and the development of mental health services for Haitian populations. CWB doctoral student will work with one of these faculty members as their primary research mentor.

Program Requirements

CWB Students complete the following requirements for the PhD:

  1. Research training with faculty advisor
  2. Coursework: 60 credits. Up to 30 credits may be transferred from a master’s program
  3. Qualifying Exam
  4. Advancement to Candidacy
  5. Dissertation
Program Timelines:

  • Approved Program of Study - Spring Year 1
  • Qualifying Exam proposal meeting - Year 2
  • Qualifying Exam completed - Summer Year 2
  • Admission to Candidacy - Summer Year 3
  • Dissertation Proposal - Fall Year 3
  • Dissertation Defended - Summer Year 3

Research Training

The primary focus of doctoral study for CWB students is research training, which takes place in the context of apprenticeship with a research advisor, and supported by coursework in research methodology. This research experience is designed to provide the student training with respect to varied aspects of the research process such as conducting literature reviews, developing research designs, building relationships with community members and partners, collecting data, conducting analyses, and writing papers and articles. In addition to participating in the advisor’s research program, students also receive mentorship on developing their own ideas in order to develop their Qualifying Exam, Dissertation, and ultimately an independent program of research.

Research Advisor

Each student in the program must have a research advisor. A research advisor is assigned to each admitted student in the letter of admission, based on fit with research interests as determined during the admissions process. The research advisor must be a member of the CWB faculty. The research advisor will serve as the student’s research mentor, and as the Chair of the student’s Supervisory Committee and Qualifying Examination Committee.

Doctoral Research Project

Starting in their first year in the CWB program students are expected to engage in a doctoral research project, apprenticing with their research advisor apprenticeship. The purpose of the doctoral project is to ensure that students engage with empirical research throughout the program. The doctoral project may take any form associated with the research process, engaging with initial planning stages of a project, data collection and/or analyses, and must lead to producing a manuscript that can be suitable for publication. The doctoral project can also be used to fulfill the empirical paper requirement of the qualifying exam.

Required Coursework

To obtain the PhD students are required to complete 60 credits of coursework and 12 credits of dissertation research

Program coursework includes:

  • Foundations - a core set of courses covering community psychology, organizational theory and change, ethics, inequality, diversity & social justice.
  • Applications - a second set of core courses focused on community application of theories and practice in topics such as disease prevention and health promotion, youth development, community organizing, and not for profit administration.
  • Research methodology - covering research philosophy, quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods, and community-based action research.
  • Professional skills – including consultation, management, grant writing, ethics, and leadership.
  • Electives - cognate areas that are designed individually and drawn from other departments and specializations within the SEHD (e.g., Educational and Psychological Studies, Teaching and Learning, Kinesiology) and departments and schools throughout the university (e.g., economics, sociology, public administration, public health, nursing).

EPS 622 Community Well-being and Change: Theory and Practice

EPS 623 Development & Change in Community Organizations: Theory & Practice

EPS 624 Essentials of Research in Social and Behavioral Sciences

EPS 626 Multicultural Communities in a Globalized Society

EPS 628 Social Change Praxis

EPS 629 Seminar in Community & Social Change

EPS 700 Quantitative Methods I

SOC 601 Classical Sociological Theory

EPS 725 Seminar In Community Well-Being

EPS 731 Theories of Community Research and Action

EPS 732 Community Based Participatory Action Research

EPS 701 Introduction to Research Methods

EPS 702 Quantitative Methods II


Additional advanced statistics course such as:

EPS 703 Applied Multivariate Statistics

EPS 708 Structural Equation Modeling

EPS 714 Qualitative Methods I

EPS 715 Qualitative Research Methods II: Case Studies and Grounded Theory

The primary purpose of the CWB Qualifying Examination is to determine the candidate’s potential and readiness for completing the doctorate in Community Well-Being. The exam is designed to assess the students’ competencies in Community Psychology.

Qualifying Exam Format

The Qualifying exam is a portfolio of the students’ work with 4 components:

(1) Critical Review of empirical literature relevant to the students’ emerging program of research. The review should identify an existing empirical literature on the topic of interest to the student and critique it, applying a theoretical lens rooted in Community Psychology. The paper should demonstrate competence in the following:

  • Articulating a Theoretical Framework or Frameworks in the field of community psychology.
  • Conducting a systematic and comprehensive review of empirical literature on a Topic of Interest that is central to the content of expertise the student is developing as a community psychologist.
  • Critiquing the literature on this Topic of Interest from the perspective of the Theoretical Framework(s) articulated, including an analysis of questions asked, methodological approaches used, results found, and suggesting future directions for research.
Students are encouraged to rely on papers prepared in their Core Courses in the CWB program to develop this critical review paper.
The final paper should be written in a format suitable for publication in Community Psychology journal, and should not exceed 8,000 words (excluding references, tables or appendices).

(2) Research Report on an empirical study written in the traditional form of a research report. The report should include a brief literature review, methods, results, and discussions sections. For most students this report will stem from their first year doctoral project and can be based on data (qualitative, quantitative or mixed) available through the research advisor’s ongoing research, or collected by the student.
The final paper should be written in a format suitable for publication in Community Psychology journal, and should not exceed 8,000 words (excluding references, tables or appendices).

(3) Research Statement, describing the students’ professional research biography and identity. The statement should outline the students’ career goals and describe the focus of the emerging research program. The statement should be 3-5 pages long (double spaced) and written in a format consistent with research statements submitted for faculty jobs and promotion. A professional CV should accompany the statement.

(4) Syllabus. Students will be asked to create a syllabus for a course they might teach on a topic of interest relevant to community psychology. Students are also encouraged to be a guest lecturer in an undergraduate class on this topic of interest.

EPS 830 Pre-Candidacy Dissertation Research

EPS 840 Post-Candidacy Dissertation Research

The Dissertation is a comprehensive report of original research that contributes to existing theory and knowledge in community psychology. The dissertation proposal is to be completed within one year of the successful passing of the qualifying examination. The purpose of the dissertation is for the student to demonstrate scholarly expertise in a chosen research area and competence in independent scholarship with respect to developing a review of the literature, articulating a research question, designing a study to answer the question, collecting data, conducting analyses, reporting and interpreting the findings.

CWB students are expected to conduct an empirical study, including primary data collection. In some situations secondary analysis may be appropriate, such as when a student is working on a larger research project and has included data elements of specific relevance to the dissertation; or when working with a community organization that has pre-collected data that they would like to collaborate with the student on. Approval by the University of Miami IRB is required.

The dissertation should follow the standard format, with chapters covering Introduction, Review of the Literature, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Students should consult the Graduate Student Handbook for information about the Dissertation Editor and deadlines for defending and submitting the dissertation.

CWB students are required to attend and participate in the CWB Forum [held 4-8 times per year]. The Forum is a gathering of CWB faculty, students, and other interested faculty and students from other departments and programs where they present on their research and discuss community psychology theories, research and practice.

Financial Support

Most CWB students receive 3 years (27 months) of fellowship support. The fellowships are designed to free the students up from assistantship responsibilities to enable them to focus on engaging in research and teaching activities under apprenticeship of their Research Advisor. Students are expected to remain in the Miami area and participate in program activities to receive the fellowship funding.

In addition, students are encouraged to apply for other fellowship available at the University such as: the McKnight Fellowship, the Barbara Marks Fellowship, and the University of Miami Fellowships.

Travel Support

Limited financial support is available for students to offset expenses of travel to professional conferences.

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Program Director

Dina Birman

Professor of Educational and Psychological Studies Director, Community Well-Being Ph.D. Program (CWB) Editor in Chief, International Journal of Intercultural Relations


MB 311 AA