HCDE PhD Program Hits Growth Spurt

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

By Jaret Basden

In 2002, the metaphorical red ribbon was cut that strung across the doors of the HCDE PhD program—honoring the brand new program. Four years later, the first student of the PhD program graduated, and today, 25 students study in the growing department.

The rapid expansion of the program occurred for a few reasons, HCDE Director of Student Services, Gian Bruno, explains. A few years ago, the Washington State Legislature removed the cap on graduate students for the department, which allowed room for growth. Bruno is the PhD student administrative advisor and assists students with various administrative processes such as the general exam and dissertation defense. Furthermore, he explains, the merging of HCDE's two Master's programs has provided more space in the PhD program.

HCDE Graduate Program Coordinator Mark Zachry points out, the program is growing "to ramp up the research profile of the department and to support the research work that some of the new faculty are doing." Zachry is the initial contact point for new PhD students and helps these new students decide which faculty member they will work with—which also includes him.

Zachry notes that national recruitment for the program has also grown, while he has also seen applications from as far away as Asia and South America. He explains that the recruitment effort has been a reciprocal relationship meaning that UW graduates with promising skills are introduced to other departments across the country.

Zachry describes admission to the department as "very competitive," but explains that aspiring PhD students can strengthen their application by participating in research groups, and by participating in public presentations at a local level, or better yet—on the national stage. Also, he says that reading research papers and thinking early on about relevant research questions will help.

Bruno highlights the growth of the program by estimating that last year's 16 students, now at 25, could grow to 34 students by next year.