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Curriculum Overview

We encourage you to explore our curriculum, study sequences, and examination procedures below. Note that students must also meet the Graduate School’s doctoral degree requirements during the course of their studies in the program.

BEPhD_curriculum_summary

Required Core Courses

All Ph.D. students in the Built Environment Program are expected to have the basic knowledge and skills covered by the program core. The core presents the intellectual and cultural context within which the built environment has been produced and interpreted, and the basic means by which students will come to understand it and contribute to its development. Students are required to successfully complete a total of 21 credits of core work, distributed as follows:

  • History, Theory, and Ethics (9 credits)
  • Colloquium-Practicum—Research-Practice & Teaching-Learning (6 credits)
  • Research Methods and Design (6 credits)

History, Theory, and Ethics Sequence

B E 551: The Contemporary Built Environment
(3 credits) Autumn Quarter

The history of 20th– and 21st-century built environment covers major or landmark cases of complex built environment projects, emphasizing the multiple dimensions involved and their interconnections (financing and economics, regulatory systems and codes, environmental factors, materials and technology, energy systems and infrastructure, design intentions, construction processes, facility uses and client-occupant responses, subsequent adaptations).

B E 552: Theories of Knowledge and the Built Environment
(3 credits) Winter Quarter

Systematic examination of the alternative epistemological frameworks applicable to studying the built environment. An analysis and explication of the differences among the theories of knowledge which account for their separation and often antagonism, and an exploration of the similarities and relationships such that they might be understood as complementary or merged in a more comprehensive, pluralistic approach. Coverage includes the history behind the current problematics, the multifaceted character of the built environment, the major epistemological issues and fundamental concepts, and the dominant epistemological paradigms. The course provides the background for the diverse range of theories and methods used by built environment researchers.

B E 553: Ethics in Practice, Research, and Teaching
(3 credits) Spring Quarter (odd years: 2017, 2019, etc.)

The course will cover central readings in ethics, applying them through cases to built environment practice and research protocols. Coursework and exercises will provide the opportunity for students to reflect on case studies and problems, enabling them to become more conscious and responsible for their contributions and actions, especially as members of teams and within group projects. Emphasis will be given to both pluralistic and contending social values and problems (including social and environmental justice) and to the ethics of research (for example in regard to client and data confidentiality, informed consent, fidelity, and veracity).

Colloquium-Practicum

B E 550: Colloquium-Practicum on Research-Practice and Teaching-Learning
(3 credits, taken two times for a total of 6 credits) Autumn Quarter

The course provides the occasion for program members’ interaction and collegiality, and for processes of critical reflection during the research and production that allows the student the chance to gain systematically deeper understanding of the research and practical process and strategies for overcoming the problems and errors that seem unavoidable in the course of a life-time career.

Research Methods and Design

Students must complete a minimum of 6 credits of coursework in research methods. Because of the wide variety of methods appropriate to students in research methods and design in the three specializations, there is no specific set of courses that all students must take. Rather, in order to customize the preparation for each student, the methodologies may be selected with the guidance of their advisor and provisional doctoral committee, and are intended to provide the skills for the specific approach to be undertaken in the student’s dissertation research project. In choosing the 6 credits, special attention should be given to considering a balance between methods that clearly will be called for, and a broader consideration of approaches presenting challenges that need to be critically met or alternatives that might prove fruitful from a non-traditional perspective.

The research methods and design courses from which the students can choose to satisfy the core requirements and from which they may also select courses for additional advanced work include (but are not limited to):

  • ANTH 536 Seminar in Visual Anthropology
  • ANTH 551 Research Design
  • ANTH 572 Environmental Anthropology Research Methodology
  • ARCH 588 Research Practice
  • ARCH 597 Research Practicum
  • BA RM 590 Behavioral Research Methods – Theory and Design
  • BA RM 591 Behavioral Research Methods – Approaches and Applications
  • BIOTST 511, 512, 513 Medical Biometry I, II, III
  • BIOTST 514, 515 Biostatistics I, II
  • C LIT 599 Special Seminar (Research Methods)
  • CM 535 Research Methods in Construction
  • COM 501 Methods of Inquiry
  • COM 513 Fieldwork Research Methods
  • CS&SS 527 Survey Research Methods
  • CS&SS 567 Statistical Analysis of Social Networks
  • EDPSY 490 Basic Educational Statistics
  • EDPSY 501 Human Learning and Educational Practice
  • EDPSY 588 Survey Research Methodology and Theory
  • EDPSY 591 Methods of Educational Research
  • ENGL 562 Discourse Analysis
  • EPI 555 Statistical Methods for Spatial Epidemiology
  • G H 531 Research and Evaluation Methods in Global Health
  • GEOG 425 Qualitative Methodology in Geography
  • GEOG 461 Urban Geographic Information Systems
  • GEOG 505 Spatial Dimensions of Chinese Development
  • HCDI 544, 545 Research Methods I, II
  • HCDE 517 Usability Studies
  • HDCE 544 Research Methods I
  • HDCE 545 Research Methods II
  • HSTRY 596, 597 History Research Seminar
  • HSTRY 598 Methods of Historical Research
  • HSTCMP 530 Comparative Colonialisms: Methodological and Conceptual Approaches
  • L ARCH 571 Landscape Architecture Research Methods
  • OCEAN 452 Spatial Information Technology in Ecosystem Sciences
  • SOC 504, 505 Applied Social Statistics
  • SOC 506 Methodology: Quantitative Techniques in Sociology
  • URBDP 422 Urban and Regional Geospatial Analysis
  • URBDP 519 Qualitative Research Methods
  • URBDP 520 Quantitative Methods in Urban Design and Planning
  • URBDP 522 Urban and Regional Geospatial Analysis
  • URBDP 591, 592, 593 Doctoral Seminar: Researchable issues and research methodology

Fundamental Areas of Study and Additional Coursework

The three fundamental areas of specialization in built environment knowledge and practice offered within the PhD in the Built Environment program are: 1) sustainable systems and prototypes; 2) technology and project design/delivery; 3) history, theory, and representation studies. Each student will select one of these areas, within which she or he will take their advanced and specialized coursework and, eventually, conduct their dissertation research project. Each student will be required to take 30 course credits in the chosen area of specialization during their first several years in the program, before undertaking the qualifying examinations.

A broad selection of courses, both within the College of Built Environments and in other University of Washington units, is available to provide the content of the three areas of specialization. Given the already diverse, interdisciplinary character of each of the areas, as well as the anticipation that each student’s intended trajectory will be unique and because of the inherently interdisciplinary character of the areas and the fact that they already involve a wide variety of disciplines and departments, the requirements for the total number of course credits have not been further specified among sub-categories commonly utilized (terms such as “primary” and “secondary”; “concentration” and “supporting” are not necessary). Nor is there specified a set of required courses for all students within each fundamental area; rather, with the guidance of their advisor/chair and provisional doctoral committee, each student will create a customized curriculum that addresses their broad intellectual interests while building expertise in their chosen area.

Initial Advising and Doctoral Committee

During initial coursework, students should meet with faculty in their area of interest for course advice, and gradually begin to identify potential committee members. At least four months in advance of the intended date of their General Examination, students should inform the program coordinator of the committee members who have agreed to supervise their General Examination and dissertation. The chair of the committee must be a core member of the Built Environment Program faculty with expertise in the area of specialization and intended dissertation research project. Other committee members should be chosen to complete the substantive and methodological expertise necessary for guidance and evaluation of the student’s work. Committee composition is described in Graduate School Memo 13, and must include a chair, Graduate School Representative from outside the College of Built Environments, and at least two additional members. The program director will approve the committee prior to submission to the Gradate School.

General Exam

After the student has completed the coursework (normally in about five quarters), she or he will take the examinations to demonstrate mastery over the core and chosen area of specialization. The qualifying examination will consist of written responses to three questions, followed by an oral examination on the material. Two of the questions will cover the core area: one on theory and historical-cultural issues, a second on research methodology and research design. The third question will cover an aspect within the chosen fundamental area that focuses upon the student’s intended dissertation subject matter and approach. The written and oral examinations will be composed, conducted, and evaluated by the student’s formally appointed dissertation committee. The written portion will be a take-home examination, due within seven days of being received by the student. If the written answers are determined to be acceptable, the student will undertake the oral examination. In the event that the student does not pass one or more sections of the examination, she or he will be given a second opportunity.

For further detail, please see our General Exam Policy document and the Graduate School’s information on the General Exam.

When students successfully pass their General Examination, the Graduate School grants them the Candidate in Philosophy (PhC) status.

Research Proposal and Dissertation

After the General Examination and before commencing research for the dissertation, students must prepare and formally defend their research proposal. For further detail on this process, please see our Research Proposal Policy document. Ideally, the research proposal defense should be successfully completed within a quarter of receipt of the Candidate in Philosophy (PhC) status (i.e., the quarter after the student passes their General Examination).

Dissertation research will be guided by the committee, with regular meetings of the chair and student and at least annual meetings of the entire committee and the student. Dissertation credits will be credited under B E 800; a minimum of 27 credits are required. Please see the Graduate School’s Doctoral Degree requirements for information on restrictions about the distribution of these credits.

As noted, the dissertation should be in one of the three fundamental areas of knowledge and practice of the built environment. The dissertation project for the PhD in the Built Environment is intended to be original research that contributes new knowledge and/or approaches to practice. (Doctoral students are required to write a dissertation that significantly advances the state of knowledge in the field.) The dissertation must demonstrate an understanding of the theory and methods related to the area of knowledge in which the dissertation is based, as well as the relevance and appropriate background information. Thus, the strategies and content of the dissertation provide the culmination and integration of the student’s learning and experience, an especially important contribution in this newly developing interdisciplinary field.

Upon completion of the dissertation research project and approval of the correctly formatted document by the dissertation committee, the student schedules his or her oral defense of the dissertation. The final examination consists of the student’s oral defense of the dissertation before that Dissertation Committee. The student subsequently will incorporate into the dissertation appropriate changes recommended by the Committee before the final awarding of the degree. Because the student must successfully defend her or his research before the Ph.D. can be granted, she or he may repeat the defense if the initial defense is unsatisfactory. See also the Graduate School’s information on doctoral dissertations.

Time to Degree and Satisfactory Progress

The time required for the degree will vary according to students’ research interests and the advice of their initial advisors then their supervisory committee, once established. However, the expected outline is as follows:

  1. Core Courses and Advanced Courses in Specialization: Students; first two years in the program, approximately six quarters
  2. General Exam: usually held in Spring quarter of the student’s second year or Autumn Quarter of the third year, as determined by students’ supervisory committee
  3. Research Proposal: generally held within a few weeks of the General Exam in order not to delay progress on dissertation research
  4. Dissertation Defense/Final Exam: as determined by students’ supervisory committee

Satisfactory progress in the PhD in the Built Environment program requires meeting Graduate School requirements as outlined on their website and (1) satisfactory scholarship, (2) satisfactory progress towards degree completion, (3) continued demonstration of scholarly ability. Should these requirements not be met, students will be reviewed and should the situation warrant it, they will receive an official warning and provided with a written explanation of performance expectations and a timetable for correction of deficiencies. Should the timetable not be met, students will then be placed on probation then final probation then will be dropped by the program following the Graduate School’s policy and procedure as outlined in Graduate School Memo 16: Unsatisfactory Progress.

(1) As per Graduate School guidelines, students are expected to maintain a GPA of 3.0 in their coursework. Should a student’s cumulative or quarterly GPA falls below a 3.0, they will be reviewed and provided with a written explanation of performance expectations and a timetable for correction of deficiencies.

(2) Students are expected to continue to make timely progress toward completion of their degree, completing requirements in the timeframe as outlined above with reasonable allowances made for academic leaves, personal circumstances, and academic circumstances as judged by their advisor(s) and the program director, then, when established, their supervisory committee and the director of the program.

(3) Students’ written and oral work must demonstrate a solid capacity for graduate-level work at the PhD level, as determined by their coursework, their General Examination, their Research Proposal, and their final Examination.

Sample Programs of Study

These are examples of how students, with differing backgrounds, might typically move through the program toward completion of their degree. The differences among the three specializations are significant enough that no attempt has been made to make the same assumptions in each case about student background or needs. Because each student’s work will be unique, and developed by the advisory committee and student, the following are meant to be examples only, to give an idea of the sorts of work that might be undertaken.

Sustainable Systems & PrototypesTechnology & Project Design/DeliveryHistory/Theory/Representation

Possible course sequence in Sustainable Systems and Prototypes

Hypothetical area of specialization: Environmental Hazards: Construction and Engineering Challenges, with for example a dissertation on “Silica Dust Control Strategies in the Construction Field” (assumes Masters in Engineering and previous mastery of most research methods allowing 9 credits from prior graduate studies counted toward Ph.D.)

Year 1:
Autumn
B E 551 Contemporary Built Environment – 3 credits
CM 535 Research Methods – 3 credits
B E 600 Directed Study with advisor – 1 credit
CEE 560 Risk Assessment for Environmental Health Hazards – 3 credits

Winter
B E 552 Theories of Knowledge – 3 credits
Research Methods II – 3 credits
B E 600 Directed Study with advisor – 1 credit
CM 525 Cost Analysis and Management – 3 credits

Spring
B E 553 Ethics in Practice, Research, and Teaching – 3 credits
B E 550 Colloquium/Practicum – 3 credits
CM 500 Design and Construction Law – 3 credits

Year 2:
Autumn
ENV H 570 Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology – 3 credits
CM Independent Study – 3 credits
B E 597 Directed Readings – 4 credits

Winter
CM Independent Study – 3 credits
B E 597 Directed Readings – 4 credits
EdPsy 588 Survey Research Methodology and Theory – 3 credits

Spring
B E 550 Colloquium/Practicum – 3 credits
CM Independent Study – 3 credit
B E 597 Directed Readings – 4 credits

General Examination
Year 3
Dissertation Credits & Final Defense

Possible course sequence in Technology and Project Design/Delivery

Hypothetical area of specialization: Human Interfaces with Embedded Computing
(assumes 9 credits from prior graduate studies counted toward Ph.D.)

Year 1:
Autumn
B E 551 Contemporary Built Environment – 3 credits
Arch 587 Theory of Design Computing – 3 credits
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
HCDE 455 User Interface Design – 3 credits

Winter
B E 552 Theories of Knowledge – 3 credits
EDPSY 501 Human Learning and Educational Practice – 3 credits
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
CSE 510 Advanced Topics in Human-Computer Interfaces – 3 credits

Spring
B E 553 Ethics in Practice, Research, and Teaching – 3 credits
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
HCDE 517 Usability Testing – 4 credits
CSE 500 Computers and Society – 2 credits

Year 2:
Autumn
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
URBDP 591 Advanced Research Design – 3 credits
EDPSY 501 Human Learning and Educational Practice – 3 credits
Arch 588 Research Practice – 3 credits

Winter
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
B E 600 Independent Study – 3 credits
B E 597 Directed Readings – 6 credits
General Examination

Spring
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
B E 600 Independent Study – 3 credits
Dissertation – 6 credits

Year 3
Autumn
Dissertation – 10 credits

Winter
Dissertation – 10 credits

Spring
Dissertation – 4 credits

Final Defense

Possible course sequence in History/Theory/Representation

Proposed area of specialization: Modern Architecture in Latin America
(assumes appropriate language ability on admission)

Year 1:
Autumn
B E 551 Contemporary Built Environment – 3 credits
Research Methods – 3 credits
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
ARCH 457 – Twentieth Century Architecture – 3 credits

Winter
B E 552 Theories of Knowledge – 3 credits
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
ARCH 488 – American Architecture – 3 credits
LARCH 500 – History of Modern Landscape Architecture – 3 credits

Spring
B E 553 Ethics in Practice, Research, Teaching- 3 credits
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
ARCH 444 – Ibero-American Seminar: Ibero-American Modernity – 3 credits
HSTAA 383 – Modern Latin America – 5 credits

Year 2:
Autumn
Research Methods – 3 credits
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
ARCH 560 – Graduate Seminar on Architecture Theory – 3 credits
URBDP 598 – American Urban History – 3 credits

Winter
B E 550 Colloquium – 1 credit
ART H 504 – Methods of Art History: Faculty Research – 2 credits
C LIT 530 – Cultural Criticism and Ideology Critique I – 5 credits
ARCH 600 – Independent Study or Research – 2 credits

Spring
Colloquium – 1 credit
ARCH 558 – Seminar on Twentieth-Century Architecture – 3 credits
ARCH 600 – Independent Study or Research – 3 credits
ARCH 600 – Independent Study or Research – 3 credits
General Exams in Major and minor areas

Year 3 & 4:
Dissertation:
Research Proposal approval
Research and writing
Final Defense

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