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Low-Residency Ph.D. in Community Engagement

Rowland School of Business

Develop Your Leadership Skills and Effect Positive Change

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 complete two years of topic-based coursework, followed by one year of dissertation courses, plus any additional time needed to complete and defend the dissertation. Students typically complete the program in an average of three to four years. The cohort takes two online courses per semester in the fall, spring and summer. Students will participate in a three-day residency in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania every August for three years.

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
  • Luma Institute
  • 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

Who Should Apply

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

Meet Our Faculty

Learn More in Our Virtual Open House Video

News & Features

Learn More

Nicholas Poprocky, assistant director, Office of Graduate and Online Admissions

Robert Ross, Ph.D., graduate director