FAQ for Prospective Students

The Ecological-Community Psychology program welcomes applications for graduate study from all individuals interested in pursuing a research-based PhD in Community Psychology. We are committed to cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment for community-based research and action, and particularly encourage applications from members of historically under-represented and marginalized groups. Our past graduates have gone on to diverse careers as academic faculty, consultants, practitioners, and evaluators.

What makes the MSU Ecological-Community Psychology program unique?

There are many great Community Psychology graduate programs around the country, but there are a few things that we think really sets our program apart:

  • We are the oldest continuously operating community psychology program in the country, with a long-standing commitment to our community partners.

  • Our faculty have won many awards, and are routinely recognized as among the best in community psychology and in their respective specialty areas.
  • Our students get involved in the community early, through the first year Practicum Experience.
  • Our alumni have had an excellent track record securing employment in both academic and practice settings.

What do students do in the program?

All students begin the program with a temporary advisor. During the first year, students select a more permanent advisor from the core Ecological-Community faculty, usually based on intellectual and personal fit. In some cases the same person will advise a student through the whole program, while in other cases a student may change advisors when transitioning from one project or program milestone to the next.

Incoming PhD students usually follow a standard course sequence:

  • Year 1, Fall: Community psychology theory (PSY871), Practicum (PSY873), Statistics (PSY815)
  • Year 1, Spring: Field research design (PSY870), Practicum (PSY874), Elective/Thesis
  • Year 2, Fall: Qualitative methods (PSY872), Elective/Thesis, Elective/Thesis
  • Year 2, Spring: Psychometrics (PSY818), Elective/Thesis, Elective/Thesis
  • Year 3+ students select additional courses in consultation with their faculty advisor(s)

All students complete the same basic program milestones:

  • MA Thesis – A research paper developed in collaboration with a faculty advisor, evaluated by a three-person committee and often completed in Year 2 or 3. Applicants who have completed an MA in a related field can apply for a waiver.
  • Comprehensive Exam – This can take multiple forms, including a written exam, writing a literature review or grant proposal, or developing a new course.
  • PhD Dissertation – An independent research project, evaluated by a four-person committee. You can see some of the recently completed dissertations on our recent alumni page.

Along the way, our students participate in a wide range of other experiences:

  • Teaching – Many students serve as a TA in a course led by a faculty instructor, and some students teach their own course, often in the summer.
  • Research – In addition to their MA and PhD projects, all of our students work in close collaboration on faculty-led research projects.
  • Community Engagement – Starting with the Practicum Experience, and continuing throughout their time in the program, our students are directly engaged in the communities they aim to serve through their research.
  • Conferences & Publications – Students regularly attend regional, national, and international conferences to present their own work and work conducted in collaboration with faculty. Students also regularly publish their work in top-tier research journals.

For a detailed description of all the program's course and degree requirements, please take a look at the current program handbook here. You can also view syllabi for past graduate courses in the department here.

What do you consider in admissions decisions?

The admissions committee, in consultation with the full faculty of the program, consider a wide range of factors when making admissions decisions, including:

  • Commitment to research, particularly community-based research
  • Commitment to advancing a diverse, inclusive, & intellectually engaging environment
  • Intellectual fit with the program and current faculty research interests
  • Program's ability to provide funding
  • Recent GPA and GRE scores

How are students funded?

Depending on the availability of funding, students often receive funding by working as research assistants on faculty-led projects or as teaching assistants in psychology courses. In addition, a number of competitive fellowship opportunities are also available through Michigan State University. Fellowships provide a monthly stipend, tuition waiver, and health care, but do not require service as a Teaching or Research Assistant. You can find additional information about fellowships here. Some of our students have also secured funding from external sources including the National Institutes of Health.

How do I apply?

Application to the Ecological-Community Psychology graduate program requires an online application to Michigan State University. You can find a link to the online applications here.

More Frequently Asked Questions

Where do graduate students live? Most graduate students rent apartments or homes in Lansing within biking distance of campus. Real estate is affordable in the area, so some graduate students have also bought homes.

How long does the program take? It depends on a lot of factors. Students entering without an MA often complete their MA by year 2 or 3, their comprehensive exam by year 4, and their PhD by year 5 or 6.

What questions should I be asking about programs? There are a lot of different factors to consider when trying to decide which Community Psychology program is the best fit for you. But, here is a list of questions you might want to think about, and to ask faculty and students in the programs you are considering.

Helpful Links

Ecological-Community Psychology Welcome Guide – A brief guide to the resources in the ECO program and at MSU.

Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA, APA Division 27) – The division of the American Psychological Association that represents Community Psychology.

Lansing Visitor's Bureau and Pure Michigan – Cool things to do in the area...with all that spare time graduate students have ;)

Council of Graduate Students (COGS) – Lots of helpful information for MSU graduate students, on topics ranging from health and wellness to career development opportunities.