Interdisciplinary Studies Doctorate

In response to emerging interest in studies that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and increasing national demand for interdisciplinary approaches to research and education, the WMU Graduate College has developed the Interdisciplinary Studies Doctorate. This degree offers flexibility to students with interests outside existing boundaries and established programs by allowing them to combine coursework and research in two or more disciplines/programs from across the university. This is a self-designed program that is developed by the student with input from faculty champions from the chosen disciplines. This option is only for students whose needs cannot be met by one of our existing graduate programs.


The Interdisciplinary Studies Doctorate degree makes it possible for graduate students interested in combining disciplines to create a degree program to suit their needs, when no existing graduate program does. The program of study for each student will be designed by the student and the faculty mentors.

This degree supports the learner-centered, discovery-driven, and globally engaged missions of WMU by meeting individual student needs, promoting academic collaboration across the university, and producing scholars with a global approach to solving problems.


Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. To start your graduate application click here.

The following application materials are required for regular admission to the Interdisciplinary Studies Doctoral degree program: 

  1. Bachelor’s or master’s degree with a minimum grade point average of 3.25 out of 4.00.
  2. Completion of the general Graduate Record Examination.
  3. Current curriculum vita.
  4. Statement of purpose outlining the proposed study plan reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the degree. The student must consult faculty members in the disciplines involved for guidance. The program of study must justify the need for an interdisciplinary studies program and should address potential career placement after degree completion.
  5. Names of at least 2 faculty members in the areas of proposed study who have agreed to participate must be listed in the statement of purpose; at least one of these faculty members must consent to serve as dissertation chair. Student must get consent from these faculty members before listing them and these faculty members must obtain the consent of their department chair before agreeing to participate in the supervision of an interdisciplinary studies doctoral student. All faculty must have or obtain graduate faculty status.
  6. Three letters of recommendation that address the academic qualifications of the applicant for the degree program.
  7. Copies of all transcripts as required by Western Michigan University.

Admission decisions will be made by a committee consisting of the graduate dean or designee, at least one faculty member from each of the areas of proposed study, and the department chairs from the areas of proposed study. If an applicant has been dismissed from another doctoral program at WMU prior to applying for the Interdisciplinary Studies Ph.D. degree, a review of their credentials will include evaluation of evidence of personal and academic improvements since dismissal.

Program requirements

  1. The Interdisciplinary Studies Doctorate requires at least 60 credit hours, with a GPA of 3.25 or better. Students with a relevant master’s degree may petition the Graduate Dean to transfer some credits on their permanent program of study form, but no less than 30 credits plus dissertation credits are taken after admission to the Ph.D. program. At least half of the credits must be at 6000-level or above. At least 6 hours of 6000-level coursework in each of at least 2 departments is required. The coursework must include the following:
    • A minimum of 32 credit hours of subject knowledge, including at least 2 classes from each of 2 or more disciplines/programs.
    • At least 1 credit hour of ethics, which may be offered through an online module.
    • At least 15 credit hours of training in research methodology, including research methods courses, graduate research credits (GRAD 7350), and demonstrated proficiency in two research tools.
    • 12 hours of dissertation credits (GRAD 7300).
  2. Supervision of the program of study and research project by a dissertation committee consisting of at least 4 members from at least 2 different disciplines/departments, including the dissertation chair or co-chairs. An external member from outside WMU may be included. The dissertation chair or co-chairs and committee will ensure that the standards for their disciplines are met. All must have or obtain graduate faculty status.
  3. Successful completion and defense of a research proposal, and other requirements for a comprehensive exam as determined by the disciplines, for advancement to candidacy. The dissertation chair or co-chairs and committee will ensure that the standards for their respective disciplines are met.
  4. Completion of a dissertation involving original research that crosses disciplinary boundaries.
  5. The student and the dissertation committee will meet at least annually to review the student’s progress.
  6. Successful oral defense of the dissertation and approval by the dissertation committee. ISDD Handbook

Additional information for prospective students, current students, or faculty involved in mentoring ISDD students can be found in the program handbook.

Contact Dr. Christine Byrd-Jacobs, Dean of the Graduate College at (269) 387-8212.