Doctoral Program Overview

Ashley Taconet, Ph.D. Student in Special Education.

Ashley Taconet is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in special education at UConn’s Neag School of Education.

Pursue a Ph.D. at UConn’s Neag School

There has never been a better time to pursue a Ph.D. in special education.

Immersion in research. Gain hands-on research experience working alongside special education faculty who are among the nation’s top experts in the field.

Career opportunities. Shape your professional future, whether conducting research at a major research university, influencing policy, or teaching the next generation of special educators.

Sought-after expertise. Acquire in-demand knowledge and skills in the most critical areas in special education including literacy, behavior supports, and transition.

National reputation. Join an outstanding special education program ranked consistently in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report.

Funding for full-time students, including tuition and a generous stipend, are now available.

Apply to the Neag School by Dec. 1

Check Out Our Informational Webinar on the Special Education Ph.D. Program

Hosted by Devin Kearns, associate professor of special education, in the fall of 2019, this webinar is accessible at any time in mp4 format. Learn more about the Neag School’s special education doctoral program as well as numerous current opportunities for scholarship and fellowship support:

Get access to the archived webinar.

Overview of the Special Education Ph.D. Program

Special Education Faculty

Ph.D. students in Special Education engage in a highly individualized program of study that includes coursework and applied competencies in four broad areas:

a) Knowledge and Content
b) Research and Scholarship
c) University Teaching and Professional Development
d) Service

Ph.D. students focus their studies in one of four primary areas of emphasis.

Ph.D. Program Funding Opportunities

CURRENT FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS — Application Deadline to be considered for any funding opportunity is Dec. 1

Dean’s Doctoral Scholars Program — Individuals who are admitted to Neag School doctoral programs and who express a clear interest in becoming a faculty member of a research intensive university may be nominated by current Neag School faculty for the Dean’s Doctoral Scholars program, which provides four years of full tuition and a generous stipend to recipients.

Graduate Assistantships — Special Education faculty earned over $11 million in federal and private foundation funding over the past 12 months, which allows for additional funding opportunities for PhD students. Additional funding opportunities are available through faculty research projects. Connect with a potential advisor among our faculty for more information about Graduate Assistant opportunities.

PREVIOUS FUNDING OF CURRENT STUDENTS - How some of our current PhD students receive funding:

    Project NeXus II Doctoral Fellowship — Four years of full-time study with our nationally recognized faculty in the areas of literacy supports, positive behavior supports, or postsecondary transition through a new doctoral leadership grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Fellowships include tuition, a generous stipend, health and dental insurance, and funds for travel and research. The definition of “nexus” is a “means of connection.” Therefore, the goal of Project NeXus II is to serve as a means of connection between the most promising future scholars and the field of special education.

    National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention Training Grant — The Neag School has received funding for four doctoral students with specific interest in intensive intervention.

    Preparing Scholar Leaders to Study Interventions and Complex Systems Shaping the Lives and Outcomes of Students With Disabilities: A Special Education Leadership Preparation Program (Ps-LINC) — This leadership grant, in partnership with Boston University, will fund five doctoral students in special education with specific interest in education policy, mental health services, and related areas affecting schoolchildren with disabilities.


    Areas of Emphasis

    Dr. Michael Coyne
    Professor Michael Coyne

    Literacy Supports (Reading & Writing)

    Ph.D. students focusing on Literacy Supports collaborate with faculty on research and study related to theoretical perspectives of reading and writing development, designing and evaluating effective instruction and intervention for students experiencing literacy difficulties, and supporting school and state efforts to implement effective reading and writing practices

    Affiliated faculty

    Michael Coyne
    Devin Kearns
    Natalie Olinghouse

    Positive Behavior Supports 

    Brandi Simonsen
    Professor Brandi Simonsen

    Ph.D. students focusing on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports collaborate with faculty on research and study related to behavioral theory, designing and evaluating effective instruction and intervention for students experiencing behavioral difficulties, developing and implementing effective classroom management supports for teachers, and supporting school, state, and regional efforts to implement effective multi-tiered systems of support for behavior.

    Affiliated faculty

    Jennifer Freeman
    Brandi Simonsen
    Susannah Everett

    Postsecondary Transition

    Ph.D. students focusing on Postsecondary Transition engage in research and practice related to effectively supporting students with disabilities in their transition to, and success in, post-secondary life. Coursework and research experiences emphasize collaboration between secondary schools and postsecondary institutions and between Offices for Students with Disabilities and other campus services. The program also emphasizes person- centered planning, self-determination, the legal aspects of postsecondary services and secondary transition, and assistive technology.

    Professor Joseph Madaus
    Associate Dean and Professor Joseph Madaus

    Affiliated faculty

    Allison Lombardi
    Joseph Madaus

    Early Childhood

    Ph.D. students focusing on Early Childhood Intervention engage in study, research, and practice related to effectively supporting infants, toddlers and preschoolers with disabilities and their families.  To this end, students participate in doctoral coursework, interdisciplinary seminars, supervised and individual research opportunities, individual mentorship, and internships in federally funded centers including the A.J. Pappanikou Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Research, Education and Service (UCEDD).  Areas of emphasis include personnel preparation, research, scholarship, policy application, and community engagement.

    Affiliated faculty

    Mary Beth Bruder

    Our commitment to doctoral education is to inspire and prepare professionals in special education to create and broaden opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Students are encouraged to develop their interests in educating learners at risk across a wide range of disabilities incorporating a lifespan perspective. The Doctoral Program is designed to enhance independent thinking and leadership qualities through an individualized program embedded in a thorough knowledge of theory and the existing literature and culminating in active research to guide, direct, and inform the field.

    To Learn More

    • Email a special education faculty member (see areas of emphasis and faculty member names above)
    • Visit the UConn Graduate School website for information about how to apply and financial aid 
    • Review the Ph.D. Handbook