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Prospective Students

Public Health

(Ph.D. with a Concentration in Community and Behavioral Health Promotion)

School/College: Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health

Degrees Conferred:



The Zilber School of Public Health offers a Master of Public Health (MPH), a Ph.D. in Public Health with a Concentration in Community and Behavioral Health Promotion, and a Ph.D. in Environmental and Occupational Health.

Offered by UW-Milwaukee’s Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, the Community and Behavioral Health Promotion (CBHP) doctoral program is designed to train students in social and behavioral science aspects of public health research and intervention with a particular emphasis on the development of community-level interventions. Faculty interest areas include: maternal, infant, and child health; health disparities; obesity; nutrition; food security; HIV and STD prevention; adolescent health; violence prevention; substance abuse prevention; creating healthy environments; and promoting mental health.

Students entering the program will be trained at the graduate level in health promotion from a public health perspective. Students will also have exposure to other key areas of public health (environmental health, epidemiology, biostatistics, and policy and administration), which will allow them to be integrated into the broader public health profession upon graduation. The Ph.D. in Public Health with a concentration in CBHP requires 66 course credits beyond the Bachelor’s degree. Course work includes core courses as outlined below (18 credits), advanced methods courses, electives, and credits taken as pre-dissertation research supporting CBHP faculty research. In addition, students will prepare for public health leadership through their own original research.

Student research in community and behavioral health promotion may focus on the social and behavioral determinants of disease and injury, the interaction of social and behavioral factors with other disease susceptibility or health promoting factors, or on interventions that seek to improve health through social and behavioral strategies within a community.

This program aligns with UWM’s mission to further academic opportunities at all levels for women, minority, part-time students, and financially or educationally disadvantaged students. In addition, the program consistently strives for diversity within its faculty ranks to achieve the University’s goal for cultural competency in teaching and learning.

Graduate Faculty

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Distinguished Professor

Fendrich, Michael, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

Cisler, Ron, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Weinhardt, Lance, Ph.D., Syracuse University

Associate Professors
Cho, Young, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago
Florsheim, Paul, Ph.D., Northwestern University
Assistant Professors
Harley, Amy, Ph.D., MPH, RD, Ohio State University
Ngui, Emmanuel, DrPH, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Walker, Renee, DrPH, University of Pittsburgh
Yan, Alice, Ph.D., University of Maryland
Affiliated Faculty

(Home departments appear in parentheses)

Adjunct Associate Professors
Scott Strath, Ph.D. University of Tennessee (Human Movement Sciences)
Ann Swartz, Ph.D. University of Tennessee (Human Movement Sciences)
Adjunct Faculty
Associate Professor
Swain, Geoffrey R. MD, MPH, Medical College of Wisconsin (University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine & Public Health)

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health with a Concentration in Community and Behavioral Health Promotion

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Admission Requirements

Applicants to the Ph.D. program in Public Health should have completed academic programs that facilitated development of solid analytical and communication skills. Applicable baccalaureate programs include those in the social and behavioral sciences, health and health-related sciences, and biological sciences. Baccalaureate degrees in related fields will be considered. At least one statistics course is preferred for admission. A minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.00 (A=4.00) is preferred.

While a completed master’s degree in public health or the social and behavioral sciences is encouraged, a master's degree is not a prerequisite for admission. For those applicants without a master’s degree in a relevant field, most successful candidates will have work, research and/or volunteer experiences that contribute to career development in community health and health promotion. Demonstrated communication and analytic skills are required.

Applicants from diverse backgrounds with a strong interest in community health and health promotion are encouraged to apply. Each application will be evaluated individually on the basis of four key areas:

  1. Academic record/achievement.
  2. Work, research, and/or community experience.
  3. Commitment/interest/awareness of public health and community health promotion.
  4. Matching interest with current Community and Behavioral Promotion Health faculty.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are required of all applicants. Submitted test scores must be from a test taken within 5 years of the date of application. For the GRE, only scores from the general test (verbal, quantitative, analytical writing) are required. While we do not have a minimum GRE score requirement, strong quantitative, verbal and writing skills are critical to successfully completing the program. Admitted candidates will typically score above 500 (153 revised test) in verbal reasoning, 600 (148 revised test) in quantitative reasoning and 4.5 in analytical writing.

Students must meet UWM Graduate School admission requirements (http://www.graduateschool.uwm.edu/students/prospective/admission/). For international applicants whose native language is not English, the UW-Milwaukee Center for International Education Web site (http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/CIE/IA/IA-GradAppReqs.shtml) provides English Language Proficiency Requirements including required TOEFL or IELTS scores, and students who attended an international university must also pay an additional fee for evaluation of international transcripts.

In addition, a personal statement, writing sample, résumé and at least three letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with the applicant's scholarship, research achievements, and/or academic potential are required for the application. The letters of recommendation should address the candidate’s potential for achievement in a graduate program in public health from an academic as well as personal (e.g., commitment, integrity, ethical) standpoint. At least one letter must be from a university faculty member.  A select group of the most qualified candidates will be invited to participate in an interview process. In-person or internet-facilitated interviews (Skype, etc.) will be required for finalist candidates prior to admission.

Applicants may be admitted with course deficiencies at the discretion of the ZSPH Graduate Program Committee. The student is expected to rectify these course deficiencies with a grade of B or better within three enrolled semesters. The Graduate School and the academic program unit monitor deficiencies. No course credits earned in making up deficiencies may be counted as program credits required for the degree. For students entering with an advanced degree, the Admissions Committee can grant credit for relevant coursework at its discretion, but at least half of the graduate credits required for the Ph.D. must be completed at UW-Milwaukee in doctoral status in accordance with Graduate School policy. Thesis, dissertation, research, independent study, and practicum credits must be completed at UW-Milwaukee.

Major Professor as Advisor

The student must have a major professor to advise and supervise the student's studies as specified in Graduate School regulations. The entering student is assigned an advisor/major professor at admission based on fit and focus. The major professor serves as the student's research mentor and will guide the student in course selection, program planning, and research design. Students may change their advisor/major professor if the fit and focus changes over time. Such changes will need approval of the graduate program committee. The major professor must have graduate faculty status.


A student who receives the Master of Public Heath degree must formally reapply to the Zilber School of Public Health to gain admission to the Ph.D. program in Public Health before continuing studies toward the Ph.D.


The student must meet minimum Graduate School residence requirements.

Course of Study

A minimum of 66 credits of coursework beyond the bachelor’s level must be completed to earn the degree, at least 27 of which must be earned in residence at UW-Milwaukee. The course list consists of required common Ph.D. core courses, CBHP core courses, methods courses, advanced CBHP coursework, and elective courses. Also, students will be required to complete six credits of supervised research under the tutelage of the primary advisor prior to the required dissertation research requirement. This is to ensure that all students obtain hands-on, supervised research training. After achieving dissertation status, students will enroll in three research credits per semester for at least two semesters.

The assemblage of elective courses is not exhaustive but reflects a starting point for the new program. With few exceptions, all of the courses are graduate-level courses. Those that are designated as Undergraduate/Graduate (U/G) classes are taught at the level of advanced undergraduate students, but include additional material and assignments consistent with graduate-level curricula. Zilber School of Public Health faculty will continue to expand the choice of elective courses as future programs develop.

In addition to regular coursework and research, doctoral students are expected to attend monthly seminars. ZSPH hosts the seminar series, "On Public Health," regularly during the lunchtime and evening hours. The seminar series provides doctoral students the opportunity to meet with ZSPH faculty and affiliated Center scientists who will present on critical public health-related research and new developments in all areas of public health. Seminars are free and open to the public. Students must regularly attend the On Public Health series in-person or remotely to successfully progress in the Ph.D. program.

Credits and Courses
Required Core Ph.D. Courses, 18 credits
PH 801 Seminar in Public Health Research, 3 cr
PH 819 Social and Environmental Justice in Public Health, 3 cr
PH 704 Principles and Methods of Epidemiology, 3 cr
PH 710 Biostatistics I, 3 cr
PH 825 Social and Behavioral Foundations, 3 cr
PH 826 Principles of Community Interventions, 3 cr
Required Methods Courses, 15 credits
PH 804 Epidemiology II, 3 cr
PH 810 Biostatistics II, 3 cr
PH 827 Research Design in Community and Behavioral Health
  Promotion, 3 cr
PH 904 Epidemiology III (May be a special topics course), 3 cr
PH 902 Biostatistics III (May be a special topics course), 3 cr
Advanced CBHP Coursework, at least 15 credits
See program for list of qualifying courses.
Preliminary/Qualifying Exam Process

Students must successfully complete a preliminary examination process before formally becoming candidates for this doctoral degree. The preliminary exam involves completing two projects:

  1. An integrative review paper on a topic that is relevant to the student’s primary research interests (and future dissertation topic) and broadly consistent with the mission of the School.
  2. A public health “case study” project focusing on a specific policy proposal or health promotion problem.

Both projects must include a thorough integrative review of current relevant research findings and, if appropriate to the topic, a discussion of pertinent research methodology. Together these projects will be used to assess the student’s knowledge of public health theory and research methods, competence in the application of theory and research to policy and promotion, and ability to address a specific public health issue from a multidisciplinary research-based perspective. In addition to the written projects, there will be an oral component in which students meet with a comprehensive exam committee for 60-90 minutes to address questions regarding both the case study and integrative paper. Students will be asked to articulate how these written products demonstrate both general and specific PH and CBHP competencies. The process through which a CBHP student is admitted to doctoral candidacy is directly tied to program expectations regarding scholarship and academic competencies.

Specifically, the design of the integrative review project will allow the student to demonstrate his or her ability to synthesize, integrate, and evaluate a broad base of research and theory pertaining to a selected area of public health. The case study project allows the student to demonstrate his or her skills in “translational” scholarship, defined as the capacity to integrate public health research and practice. The case study should focus on linking the student’s primary area of research interest to the enterprise of public health promotion, broadly defined as policy, education, prevention, and intervention. Students must demonstrate general and specific competencies listed in the Zilber School Graduate Student Handbook in their preliminary examination projects and oral defense.

Although publication is not a requirement for the completion of these projects, both final products should be of “publishable” quality, as determined by the review committee.

Students will not be admitted to doctoral candidacy until they have completed the research and case study projects and the oral exam. Once the student has been admitted to doctoral candidacy, the dissertation committee may be formed. The preliminary examination process must be completed no later than the end of the fifth year of study.

It is important to note that good faith efforts will be made by the faculty advisor and committee members to ensure that students are prepared for the preliminary exams and will meet the expectations of the program. The preparatory phase may include additional methodological or theoretical coursework and/or specialized readings as necessary.

At the discretion of the examining committee, a student who fails the qualifying process may be allowed one additional attempt with all or part of the examination. After successful completion of the qualifying process, the student will concentrate on the development of the dissertation.

Dissertation Process

In consultation with his or her primary faculty advisor, the candidate will develop a dissertation research plan and form a dissertation advisory committee. The composition of the dissertation committee must be in compliance with the rules and regulations of the Graduate School. The candidate then submits a written dissertation plan to be reviewed and formally approved by the dissertation advisory committee. The research plan must clearly outline the student’s obligation for completing an original piece of work of sufficient quality, which is to be determined by the committee. The review and approval process will include a formal presentation to the committee.

Once the dissertation research and write up has been completed, the candidate submits the original work to the committee for review. In addition, the candidate must orally defend the dissertation document, including the research design, analysis and conclusion. The dissertation defense will be publically announced and open to the academic community. Once the defense is completed, students will be encouraged to revise their dissertation and submit it for publication.

Once the committee has formally approved the dissertation document and the oral defense, and the Chair of the CBHP Program has certified completion of all requirements, the candidate is awarded the Ph.D. in Public Health with a Concentration in Community and Behavioral Health Promotion.

Time Limit

All degree requirements must be completed within ten years from the date of initial enrollment in the doctoral program.

Public Health (PH) Courses

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Courses numbered 300-699 are Undergraduate/Graduate. Courses numbered 700 and above are Graduate only.

701 Public Health Principles and Practice. 3 cr. G.
Examination of fundamental principles designed to improve the health of the public, public health theories, domains, and practices.
702 (effective 09/02/2014) Introduction to Biostatistics. 3 cr. G.
Development and application of statistical reasoning and methods in addressing, analyzing and solving problems in public health. Prereq: grad st; MATH 116 with B or better, or equivalent, or cons instr
702 Introduction to Biostatistics. 3 cr. G.
Development and application of statistical reasoning and methods in addressing, analyzing and solving problems in public health. Prereq: grad st
703 Environmental Health Sciences. 3 cr. G.
Survey of effects environment has on humans, and effects humans have on environment, emphasis on toxicology and infectious disease. Prereq: grad st
704 (effective 09/02/2014) Principles and Methods of Epidemiology. 3 cr. G.
Introduction of the quantitative study of patterns and determinants of health in human populations, including problem conceptualization, study design, measurement, causal inference, estimation accuracy, and threats and solutions to validity. Prereq: grad st; PH 702(C) or cons instr
704 Principles and Methods of Epidemiology. 3 cr. G.
Description and comparison of the health status of populations and assessment of the underlying determinants of risk factors for disease, injury, and death. Prereq: grad st; PH 702(P) or cons instr
705 Principles of Public Health Policy and Administration. 3 cr. G.
Description of delivery, quality and costs of health care for populations; assessment of structure, process and outcomes of population-based health policies and services. Prereq: grad st
706 Perspectives on Community & Behavioral Health. 3 cr. G.
Philosophical underpinnings, conceptual frameworks, and strategies for the application of behavioral and social science concepts to the goals of public health.Prereq: grad st
707 Introduction to Statistical Computing. 1 cr. G.
Introduction to statistical methods as implemented in SAS, including macros and core statistical analysis functions Prereq: grad st; PH 702(C) or cons instr
709 Public Health Informatics. 3 cr. G.
Overview of the rapidly emerging and evolving field of public health informatics - active learning and exposure to new and relevant public health informatics methods, applications, and tools. Prereq: grad st
711 (810) (effective 01/26/2015) Intermediate Biostatistics. 3 cr. G.
Introduction to modern multivariable statistical analysis, based on generalized linear models. Topics include linear regression, logistic regression, one-way and two-way ANOVA, longitudinal analysis, missing data, and mixed models. Prereq: grad st; PH 702(P) or cons instr
712 (effective 09/02/2014) Probability and Statistical Inference. 3 cr. G.
Introductory graduate-level course that provides students with a mathematical treatment and understanding of key concepts in probability and distribution theory and statistical inference, and their applications in public health. Prereq: grad st; Math 231 (P) & 232 (P) or equivalent, or cons instr
725 Theories and Models of Health Behavior. 3 cr. G.
Examine theories of health behavior targeted to each level of the social ecological model, including historical and public health context. Assess utility of these theories in various domains. Prereq: grad st
726 Community Health Assessment. 3 cr. G.
Introduction to the concepts and techniques of community health assessment; conducting and critically analyzing community assessments. Prereq: grad st; PH 701(P) or cons instr
727 Program Planning & Implementation in Public Health. 3 cr. G.
Systematic approach to planning and implementing public health programs, examining program monitoring, methods of impact assessment, and measuring efficiency. Prereq: grad st
728 Program Evaluation in Public Health. 3 cr. G.
Students design and present research and evaluation plans, receive guidance on developing conceptual frameworks and hypotheses, collecting and analyzing data, and developing program evaluation plans. Prereq: grad st
729 Survey Research Methods in Public Health. 3 cr. G.
The application of survey methods with emphases on sampling, survey design and planning, and data collection procedures. Prereq: grad st
732 Youth Mental Health Practice for Non Mental Health Professionals. 3 cr. G.
Examination of mental health principles and practices from a public health professional's perspective, including ethical guidelines, necessary interpersonal skills, and mental health screenings and referrals to services. Prereq: grad st
740 Special Topics in Public Health: (Subtitled). 3 cr. G.
Topics of current interest in public health. May be repeated w/ chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: grad st.
745 Developmental Toxicology. 3 cr. G.
An introduction to the field of developmental toxicology and how environmental contaminants influence vertebrate development, including humans. Prereq: grad st.
750 Seminar in Environmental Health Sciences. (Subtitled). 1-3 cr. G.
Survey of an area in environmental health. Specific credits and add'l prereqs announced in Schedule of Classes each time course offered. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.
752 (effective 05/19/2014) Public Health and Mental Health. 3 cr. G.
Understanding mental health and mental illness from a public health perspective; designed for an interdisciplinary audience of students, researchers and practitioners. Prereq: grad st.
762 Environmental Epidemiology. 3 cr. G.
Expands upon basic epidemiological principles to tackle current problems in studies of health impacts of contaminants in air, water, food supply, consumer products, and indoor spaces, emphasizing a cross-disciplinary approach. Prereq: grad st; PH 703(P) and PH 704(P) or cons instr.
775 Mechanisms of Infectious Disease. 2 cr. G.
Molecular and cellular means by which microorganisms facilitate infection, withstand or evade immune response, induce damage to host, and ensure transmission to human populations. C L Sci 775 & PH 775 are jointly offered; they count as repeats of one another. Prereq: grad st; lc & la course in medical microbiology
780 (effective 09/02/2014) Seminar in Public Health Policy and Administration. (Subtitled). 1-3 cr. G.
Survey of an area in Public Health Policy and Administration. Specific credits and add'l prereqs announced in Schedule of Classes each time course offered. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: grad st
790 Field Experience in Public Health. 1-6 cr. G.
Apply skills learned in the classroom to real world public health problems in a mentored field placement, engaging both faculty and site preceptors. Prereq: grad st; PH 701(P), PH 702(P), PH 703(P), PH 704(P), PH 705(P), PH 706(P), and PH 707(P) or cons instr
800 Capstone in Public Health. 2 cr. G.
Application of acquired public health knowledge, experience and competencies in developing a public health project that demonstrates readiness for professional practice. Prereq: grad st; PH 790(P) or cons instr.
801 Seminar in Public Health Research. 3 cr. G.
Immersion in interdisciplinary collaborative approaches to public health research. Prereq: grad st; 1 course in stats/biostats and 1 course in research methods; or cons instr.
810 Biostatistics II. 3 cr. G.
Introduction to modern multivariable statistical analysis, based on generalized linear models. Topics include linear regression, logistic regression, one-way and two-way ANOVA, longitudinal analysis, missing data, and mixed models. Prereq: grad st; PH 702(P) or cons instr
819 Social and Environmental Justice in Public Health. 3 cr. G.
Social and environmental justice perspective on public health problems and concerns. Jointly offered w/ & counts as a repeat of Soc Wrk 819. Prereq: grad st
820 Maternal and Child Health Foundations, Policy and Practice. 3 cr. G.
The foundations of MCH, historical context, financing, challenges, and opportunities in advancing MCH at state, national and international level including the integration of men. Prereq: grad st; PH 702(P), 704(P) or cons instr
825 Social and Behavioral Science in Public Health. 3 cr. G.
Overview of the contribution and use of social and behavioral sciences approaches in public health research, policy, planning/evaluation, practice, and interventions. Prereq: grad st
826 (effective 09/02/2014) Principles of Community Intervention Research. 3 cr. G.
Seminar covering classics in community-based public health research and the development of conceptual and methodological skills in community engagement. Counts a repeat of PH 740 with similar topic. Prereq: grad st.
827 Research Design in Community and Behavioral Health Promotion. 3 cr. G.
Examination of experimental, quasi-experimental, and nonexperimental study designs, focus groups, and coding with qualitative software. Prereq: grad st; admis to doctoral prog; PH 801(P) & 702(P) or cons instr.
831 Community Engagement and Participatory Research Approaches in Public Health. 3 cr. G.
Effective approaches to engaging communities in health interventions and addressing health disparities. Prereq: grad st.
990 Research and Dissertation. 1-8 cr. G.
Original research in any public health discipline Prereq: grad st.
999 Independent Study. 1-3 cr. G.
Independent study on a topic not available as a regular course, directed by a member of the graduate faculty. Prereq: grad st; cons instr.

Page last updated on: 01/29/2014