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Point Park University's low-residency doctorate in community engagement is a unique social lab designed for working professionals who want to improve their effectiveness as leaders while gaining a broad understanding of public policy, program development, community psychology and best practices in leadership and engagement. 

The community engagement program prepares leaders for outreach and partnership work in civic, business and community organizations. Students can expect to complete the program's coursework in two years, followed by dissertation. The cohort takes two online courses per semester. Courses are offered during three terms a year: fall, spring and summer. Students will participate in a four-day residency in Pittsburgh, Pa., every August for three years.

Pictured is Atiya Abdelmalik. Photo | Jim Judkis

"I enjoy a fulfilling career in the field of community engagement. The Ph.D. program was not only a great fit for my work professionally, but it also resonates in my personal life." - Atiya Abdelmalik, Ph.D. candidate

Low-Residency Program Details

The Ph.D. program is comprised of four blocks of study:

  • Block 1: Community Engagement core (15 credit hours);
  • Block 2: Research and Practicum core (18 credit hours);
  • Block 3: Proseminars/Electives (choose 6 credit hours) and;
  • Block 4: Dissertation core (15 credit hours).

The following options can help you afford your Ph.D.:

Learn more about tuition and fees

* With its already affordable cost, the Ph.D. program is not eligible for tuition discount programs.

What the Ph.D. in community engagement program offers:

  • Gain a broad understanding of public policy, program development, community psychology and best practices in leadership and engagement.
  • Be prepared to conduct research and build partnerships with civic, business and community organizations. 
  • In this unique social lab, engage with communities as part of the coursework.
  • Work with the Luma Institute, using human-centered design thinking for the greater good.
  • Be part of a small student cohort from diverse sectors. 

Upon completion of your Ph.D. in community engagement, you will be able to:

  • Explore sociological, business, communication and environmental factors that contribute to a community’s success.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply ethical leadership principles to community-based issues.
  • Demonstrate the ability to utilize public policy to bring about social change.
  • Develop and evaluate programs for use in business, government or nonprofit sectors.
  • Explore the psychological and sociological factors that impact communities.
  • Utilize theory and research to guide community change and progress.

In this active doctoral program, work closely with community partners on research and hands-on projects. Examples of the partners and projects our doctoral students have worked with include:


  • Allegheny Conference on Community Development
  • Allegheny County
  • City of Pittsburgh
  • Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
  • The Luma Institute
  • Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education
  • POISE Foundation


Research in Action

The low-residency program allows working professionals to balance family, personal and career commitments while completing all required courses online - as well as a dissertation - in three to four years, depending on timing of dissertation work.

Take a look at our three-year program schedule. Courses in the program run year-round and are divided into eight-week sessions. Students will typically take one online course each eight weeks, earning you 18 credits per year for a total of 54 credits. Residency is met by participating in a four-day residency in Pittsburgh, Pa., every August for three years

Work with Diverse Faculty

Learn from faculty with a range of scholarly expertise and leadership abilities in this interdisciplinary program.

Faculty & staff
Pictured is Heather Starr Fiedler
  • Chair, Department of Community Engagement
  • Professor of multimedia 
  • Director, Wood Street Communications

Who Should Apply

Individuals in leadership positions, in particular nonprofit leaders, social change activists and people involved in the national service-learning movement.

Learn More

Tom Higgins, assistant director of graduate admission

Robert Ross, Ph.D., graduate director