Civil Society and Community Research

Graduate Students

Picture of Kellen Sheedy Studying.Graduate students are the heart of the Civil Society and Community Studies department. Their dynamic ideas, experiences, and research enhance the department’s distinctive and exceptional qualities. The UW-Madison School of Human Ecology offers exciting opportunities for graduate studies in Human Ecology. Our new graduate curriculum allows students to specialize in Civil Society and Community Research. Through interdisciplinary coursework and research in community settings—often in collaboration with community organizations or coalitions—students have opportunities to become participant-scholars in change processes, and learn human ecological theory and participatory and application-focused research methods in the process.

Degree Requirements

Students entering the CSCR program without a master’s degree will earn a Master of Science degree in Human Ecology before progressing to the PhD option in Civil Society and Community Research. Master’s degrees require a minimum of 30 credit hours, of which at least 16 must have been taken as a graduate student at UW-Madison. In addition, students must complete an empirical master’s thesis under the supervision of their master’s degree committee.

To obtain a Ph.D. in Human Ecology with a named option in Civil Society and Community Research, students must also be able to demonstrate a high level of competency in the field as well as their specialization(s). Doctoral students will be required to complete a qualifying exam and a dissertation, as governed by the rules established by the Graduate School.

Focus Area and Course(s)M.S.Ph.D.
Introductory Courses (taken in first two semesters of full-time doctoral coursework)

• INTER-HE 801 Professional Development Seminar (1 cr)
• INTER-HE 801 Human Ecology Theories and Perspectives (2 cr)
• INTER-HE 793 Research Methods in Human Ecology
6 credits6 credits
II. Theoretical Foundations

• CSCS 775 Building Civil Society (3 cr)
• CSCS 785 Civic Development Across the Life Span (3 cr)
• CSCS 795 Community Power and Collective Action (3cr)
6 credits9 credits
III. Methods and Applications of Community-Based Research

Applications of Community-based Research:
• CSCS 811 Community-Based Research: Theory and Practice (3 cr)
• CSCS 812 Mixed-Methods and Community-Based Research (3 cr)
• CSCS 813 Transformative Evaluation in Practice (3 cr)

Research Methods:
• Qualitative Data Collection & Analysis (3 cr)
• Quantitative Designs & Statistical Methods (3 cr)
• Methods Elective (3 cr)
9 credits18 credits
IV. Community Innovations for Civil Society (Topics vary)

• CSCS 501/801 Organizational and Community Learning (3 cr) ... or ...
• Community Innovations elective (Approved by advisor)

3 credits3 credits
V. M.S. Electives or Ph.D. Minor

M.S. students are required to take 3 elective credits outside the department. Ph.D. students are required to create a "minor specialization" (9 credits) in an outside field.
3 credits9 credits
VI. Research and Thesis

M.S. students must enroll in 3 credits of Research and Thesis to complete thesis or professional project. Ph.D. students are required to enroll in 6 credits of Research and Thesis to complete the dissertation.
3 credits6 credits
Minimum Required Credits30 credits51 credits

What Makes this Program Unique

Ranging Topics of study within Civil Society, including:

  • Community Leadership
  • Community Organizing
  • Program Evaluation
  • Voluntary Associations
  • Youth Civic Development
  • Adult Learning
  • Community Development
  • Social Change

Rewarding Career Opportunities for Graduates

Graduates of Human Ecology: Civil Society and Community Research are well prepared for careers in academic settings, as well as in non-profit organizations and government agencies. There is a high demand for action-oriented researchers who are able to use analytic and writing skills to help build a civil society. Students who receive a doctoral degree are competitive for positions in a range of disciplines including human ecology, community research and action, human and organizational development, adult education, and community leadership. This specialization also prepares students who aspire to be program officers in foundations, senior staff in foundations and national nonprofit organizations, and senior scholars in national research and demonstration organizations. Students who receive a master’s degree (offered as a non-transcripted specialization) are well prepared as action researchers and program planners who are able to apply their knowledge and skills to leadership positions within local associations and nonprofit, consulting, and technical assistance organizations.

Outstanding Education and Excellent Resources

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is well known for its dynamic research environment and graduate education. Graduate students in Human Ecology can benefit from coursework and other formal and informal interactions with leading scholars across a range of social science disciplines. Furthermore, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a longstanding commitment to research, teaching, and outreach that improves people’s lives beyond the campus. The Civil Society and Community Studies department and the School of Human Ecology are constantly working to put this idea into action. Graduate students in the School of Human Ecology (SoHE) have access to many resources and opportunities within SoHE and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and throughout the city of Madison and the state of Wisconsin. Campus-wide centers that are closely affiliated with SoHE include the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies, the Center for Financial Security, and the Morgridge Center for Public Service. Civil Society and Community Studies faculty also have research projects that involve community partnerships, interdisciplinary collaborations, and connections with the work of the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

SoHE's Philosophy

Our philosophy is that human development and well-being are promoted through the interactions between people and the ecological settings (organizations, social networks, communities) of which they are a part. Through many different avenues, our research, teaching, and outreach are directed toward positively impacting these settings and the patterns of human behavior within them.

Four Major Learning Objectives

Learning objectives will guide students' studies in this area of specialization in Human Ecology.

  1. Professional Development and Community Building
    • Be aware of, and able to analyze, issues and trends in civil society and community leadership.
    • Critique paradigms and prevailing approaches from theoretical, empirical and personal history perspectives.
    • Recognize the nature and significance of diversity and globalization in the study of civil society and community leadership.
    • Be a contributing member to a learning community of students, faculty, staff and civil society practitioners.
    • Gain a sensitivity to the challenges facing community leaders and gain a personal commitment, or an ethic of service, to help build civil society using one’s unique skills.
    • Develop clarity about one’s values, leadership competencies, scholarly abilities, and longer-term career aspirations.
  2. Theoretical Foundations of Civil Society
    • Critique major theories, approaches, concepts, and current and classic research findings in the cross-disciplinary field of civil society and community leadership.
    • Understand how the voluntary and nonprofit sectors of society contribute to civil society, with a focus on voluntary association and the establishment of “the commons”.
    • Acquire substantive knowledge of the scope and function of civil society, civic engagement across the life span, voluntary association, and collective action.
  3. Methods, Analysis, and Application of Community Research
    • Become critical consumers of research from methodological, civil society, and community leadership perspectives.
    • Become effective producers of research by identification of questions for meaningful inquiry, and employing appropriate designs, techniques, and procedures for data collection, processing, and analysis.
    • Build civil society by involving community members in research, evaluation, and community inquiry processes.
    • Synthesize research and practice-based knowledge to form valid and reliable conclusions.
    • Effectively communicate conclusions and implications to diverse stakeholders, using written, oral, and group participation methods appropriate to the audience
  4. Innovations in Civil Society
    • Gain a solid understanding of key strategies of community leadership within a civil society, with a focus on philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, organizational and community learning, and cross-national perspectives of social change.
    • Use the resources of the university to construct a concentration of one’s choosing such as community development/organizing or nonprofit management

Financial Aid

General UW-Madison graduate student funding information
Or, contact the Office of Student Financial Aid, 333 East Campus Mall, 608-262-3060.

Program Contacts

Brian McInnes headshotBrian D. Mcinnes | Associate Professor | 608-265-9160 |




Lauren Feiner headshotLauren Feiner | Graduate Program Coordinator | 608-263-5675 |