At UMKC we understand that each person’s academic, professional and career goals are unique. Our Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program enables students to work across multiple disciplines and develop an academic focus that is just as individual as they are. From the moment you enroll in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program, you begin to write your own personal story of the future.

The world of the future will require scholars with a global approach to problem solving. It will no longer be enough to know one area, one discipline, or one field of study. Inquiry and discovery are crossing disciplines. With this in mind, the mission of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program is to span traditional boundaries among disciplines while helping students develop knowledge and skills for independent research on the fundamental questions of the present and the future. Students must be admitted to at least two disciplines (Primary and Co-Discipline) by the end of their first semester.

Participating Disciplines:

Discipline NameCoordinatorNotes
Biomedical and Health InformaticsDr. Jenifer AllsworthAdditional information:
Cell Biology and BiophysicsDr. Karen Bame
ChemistryDr. Xiaobo Chen
Computer Networking and Communication SystemsDr. Sejun Song
Computer ScienceDr. Yugyung Lee
Curriculum and InstructionDr. Candace Schlein
EconomicsDr. Scott Fullwiler
Educational Leadership, Policy and FoundationsDr. Eric Camburn
Electrical and Computer EngineeringDr. Ahmed Hassan
EngineeringDr. Ceki Halmen
EnglishDr. John Barton
GeosciencesDr. Fengpeng Sun
HistoryDr. Matthew OsbornFaculty sponsor required - please contact the Coordinator.
Humanities ConsortiumDr. Larson PowellAvailable as a co-discipline only.
MathematicsDr. Liana Sega
Molecular Biology and BiochemistryDr. Karen Bame
Music EducationDr. Joseph ParisiAvailable as a primary discipline only, with a co-discipline of Curriculum and Instruction.
Oral and Craniofacial SciencesDr. Mary Walker
Pharmaceutical SciencesDr. Kun Cheng
PharmacologyDr. Hari Bhat
PhysicsDrs. Paul Rulis and Mark Brodwin
Public Affairs and AdministrationDr. Arif AhmedNOT accepting applications.
Social Science ConsortiumAvailable as a co-discipline only.

Coordinator Policy

Program Goals

Students in the Interdisciplinary PhD program will acquire:

  1. grounding in the primary and co-disciplines;
  2. the ability to integrate the principles and theories of each of the disciplines;
  3. the ability to effectively communicate findings and approaches to solving interdisciplinary research problems;
  4. research skills in each discipline such as approaches, methods, ethical principles, and tools to pursue a research line of inquiry;
  5. the ability to form effective teams with diverse scholars across disciplines to solve novel research questions

Mission and Philosophy

The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program at University of Missouri-Kansas City prepares the students to investigate some of the most complex and pressing problems of the world today through independent research that integrates two or more disciplines perspectives and methodologies. Because of its focus on collaboration, problem-solving, boundary-crossing, academic excellence, and innovation, the mission of this program reinforces the UMKC’s core values: Discovery and Innovation; Education First; Integrity and Accountability; Diversity; Inclusiveness and Respect; and Energized Collaborative Communities.

Program Core Values and Attributes

The core values and program attributes for the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program are:

Learning is enhanced by a search for knowledge across discipline boundaries. Therefore, the program:
• Is student-centered
• Enables students to acquire the skills of interdisciplinary scholarship and research
• Broadens students’ exposure to multiple academic fields.

Interdisciplinary research draws on discipline-based knowledge, generating integrated solutions to problems that cross discipline boundaries. Therefore, the program:
• Is problem-oriented
• Integrates the attributes of a broad-based interdisciplinary approach with the grounding of a traditional academic focus
• Provides a solid grounding in theories, concepts and methodologies of two or more disciplines

Learning thrives in an environment open to a diversity of ideas, cultural backgrounds, discipline perspectives, and approaches to problems. Therefore, the program:
• Instills an appreciation of different disciplines
• Integrates the disciplinary perspectives to give students the methodological and theoretical tools to thrive in a wide range of scholarly and professional environments

Society derives great benefit from collaborative efforts that transcend discipline boundaries to solve problems. Therefore, the program:
• Prepares individuals to be multi-functional; to combine disparate skills to solve problems
• Provides opportunities for individuals to gain skills in working within a collaborative environment

Student Learning Outcomes

Student performance in the program will measured by the following learning outcomes:

• Students will demonstrate a thorough degree of knowledge in the primary discipline and co-discipline.
• Students will demonstrate interdisciplinarity in their writing by integrating methods, theories, paradigms, concepts, etc. from more than one discipline.
• Students will demonstrate an ability to use proper investigation techniques for their chosen disciplines.
• Students will effectively use oral and written forms of communication to convey their ideas.

Flowchart through the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program

Satisfactory Progress Policy for Interdisciplinary Ph.D. students

Success Stories from the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program

Joe Seabrooks

Urban Leadership and Policies Studies and Education
Graduated: May 2001

There were several factors that encouraged Joe Seabrooks to earn his doctorate from the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at UMKC. Convenience, location and financial support all played a role in convincing him to attend the University. Ultimately, though, it was the faculty and staff that influenced his decision most.

With the goal of one day becoming a university or college president, Joe was looking for access to leaders in higher education that would share their experiences and knowledge with him. At UMKC, he found faculty that showed a true interest in his research and administration officials that continue to help him along his professional path, even after graduation. Joe served as the director of Minority Student Affairs at UMKC before moving onto a position as assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Arkansas. In August 2007 he was named president of the Blue River campus of the Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City. He believes the education he received in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program has given him a unique and extensive perspective on higher education that is leading him to his goal of becoming a president.

Pearlie Mae Johnson

History and Art History with Anthropology and Black Studies

Pearlie Mae Johnson was attracted to Kansas City because of its cultural heritage. When she first moved here from Dallas, however, she never imagined just how important it would be to her future.

It was that multicultural environment, combined with the Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies program at UMKC that influenced Pearlie in her ambition to teach African, African American and Native American Art History.

The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program provides her with the ability to learn various approaches in art, history and sociology that will be needed in her teaching. Pearl recently accepted a Visiting Assistant Professor position in Africana Studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio.

Paul Rulis

Physics and Computer Networking
Graduated: December 2005

For Paul Rulis, the decision to pursue a doctorate through UMKC’s Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program was an easy one. The program has enabled him to continue researching his primary interest, physics, while incorporating the use of cutting-edge computer technology and techniques.

The multi-discipline approach has not been the only benefit in attending UMKC for Paul. This 1998 Virginia Tech graduate also cites Kansas City’s unique metropolitan advantage for research and professional networking opportunities that cannot be found in most college towns. Earning a Ph.D. in the sciences has been a long-time dream of Paul’s. With the assistance from his faculty and peers in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at UMKC, he is turning that dream into a reality.

Lavon Tonga

Molecular Biology & Biochemistry with Cell Biology & Biophysics
Graduated: December 2006

Moving from Hawaii to Kansas City was a big change for Lavon Tonga; one that she knows is for the best.

The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at UMKC gives her the opportunity to develop both intellectual learning and hands-on preparation. Being located in the heart of one of the Midwest’s major metropolitan cities enables Lavon to make connections and gain invaluable experience that build her professional future.

Best of all, by creating an academic approach that is unique to her career goals, the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program gives Lavon the competitive edge she needs to be successful.