About the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation Program

FountainVision and mission

The mission of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation program at Western Michigan University is to develop evaluation scholars and practitioners who have deep knowledge of evaluation theory, methodology and practice as well as superior critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The program is, therefore, designed to develop and nurture evaluation thought leaders who have superior skills in designing, conducting, reporting and critiquing evaluations.

This is the only program of its type in the world. As an interdisciplinary program, it is housed in The Evaluation Center and offered by the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education and Human Development, Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Health and Human Services. Each student’s doctoral degree is conferred by the home colleges rather than by a department in a college or The Evaluation Center.

The program requires 90 credit hours of coursework and is structured around three competencies:

  • A substantive/cognate area (18-21 credit hours)
  • Research methods (12-18 credit hours)
  • Evaluation (35-39 credit hours)

Students also must pass written and oral comprehensive examinations, participate in one or more practical field experiences (nine credit hours) and successfully complete and defend a doctoral dissertation (a minimum of 12 credit hours) that is a unique, meaningful contribution to the theory, method or practice of evaluation. To accomplish this mission, the program’s vision includes, but is not limited to:

  • Being a competency-based program of study, where each student’s program of study is individually tailored to develop the competencies necessary for becoming a highly skilled evaluator and to address individual professional goals.
  • Being a truly multidisciplinary program, where students are exposed to a variety of disciplinary traditions, problem-solving strategies and methods of inquiry.
  • Preparing students to engage in critical thinking, challenging discussion and debate.
  • Exposing students to many of the field’s leaders and pioneers, through direct interaction and instruction as well as through frequent opportunities to personally engage and work with these influential scholars and practitioners.

To succeed in the program, applicants should have a tolerance for ambiguity and be self-motivated. Additionally, the program is based on the premise that the best way to learn evaluation is by engaging in a wide variety of evaluation experiences. To accomplish this, students in the program obtain hands-on learning experiences by being immersed in a real-world learning laboratory from the beginning of their training. Faculty and students have been involved in evaluations and research across a variety of sectors (e.g., business, education, health and medicine, human and social services, international development, philanthropy, and science and technology) in Asia (China, Nepal, Japan, and Thailand), Africa (Cameroon, Kenya, and Tanzania), India, Europe (Albania, France, Kosovo, Macedonia, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), South America (Honduras, Peru, and Brazil), United States and New Zealand.

Graduates are prepared to assume positions in business, consulting, government, higher education, international development, nonprofits, elementary and secondary education, and other public and private sectors. Collectively, alumni and current students have published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles since the program’s inception in 2003. In cooperation with The Evaluation Center, the program publishes the peer-reviewed, open-access Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation (JMDE; originally modeled after the Harvard Law Review), which has become one of the field’s most subscribed to, widely read and cited professional publications.


The core values of the program are excellence, integrity, teaching, practice, innovation, diversity and scholarship.


Through research, education, service, and leadership, the long-term goals include, but are not limited to:

  • Contributing to the empirical knowledge-base of evaluation theory.
  • Developing and testing innovative methods for designing, executing and reporting evaluations.
  • Improving evaluation practice though example.
  • Increasing appropriate uses of evaluation.


In the short-term, the program will:

  • Secure one additional tenure-line faculty position at the assistant professor level devoted to the program by 2018.