PhD Workshop Detail
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Hosted by the ACSP Doctoral Committee and the University of Massachusetts Amherst

August 1 & 2, 2018  ~  Amherst, MA
Link to Workshop Registration Form

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and the Doctoral Committee of ACSP invites doctoral students of planning working on their dissertation research to attend the 2018 ACSP PhD Workshop, to be held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, August 1-2.

This year’s summer workshop will attract PhD students from planning programs from around the world to gather and discuss the practical details of creating, producing, distributing and consuming planning knowledge among scholars. Participants will work on conceiving, designing, and presenting PhD-quality research to multiple audiences, including, most centrally, their peers. Students will advise one another as scholars pursuing unique research paths within a community of shared inquiry. The faculty work jointly as teachers, advisors, and coaches.


Participants & Faculty

The workshop is oriented toward planning doctoral students who have passed their qualifying examination (or equivalent) and will be defending, or have recently defended, their PhD dissertation proposal within about six months prior to or following the workshop (i.e., between approximately February 2018 – January 2019). Students will have multiple opportunities to present their work to their fellow students and workshop faculty in smaller breakout sessions. Students will be expected to submit a synopsis of their dissertation proposal about one month before the workshop. The workshop will be limited to approximately 20-25 students to ensure adequate time for participation and feedback. Workshop faculty will be drawn from several institutions. All have extensive experience advising PhD students in multiple domains.


Workshop Facilities & Housing

The workshop will be hosted on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The Regional Planning Program in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning has just moved into a new and beautiful facility making it a terrific venue. The workshop will be hosted in the new Design Building, which is fully accessible and has seminar rooms, conference rooms, a large lecture hall and exhibition area, and a teleconference room. The building has been written up in architecture journals numerous times for its beauty and innovative use of structural timber as its main building component. Housing will be at the Camus Center Hotel for faculty and at dormitories for students.



Amherst is located in western Massachusetts, two and a half hours west of Boston, one hour east of the Berkshires, one hour north of Hartford, one hour south of Vermont. Accessibility is very good. The Peter Pan bus line comes directly to campus and provides service to much of the East Coast. The most convenient airport is Bradley International in Hartford, CT. The workshop will provide two vans for those arriving and leaving from Bradley. Additional information about methods of transportation will be provided to workshop attendees.


Fees & Costs

The workshop registration fee is $125/person. The workshop fee will cover most food and beverage, housing, and transportation from the airport to Amherst (airfare or other modes of transportation are not covered).


Workshop Scholarships

A limited number of scholarships are available from ACSP to assist with the workshop fee. Students are encouraged first to request funds from their universities to help offset travel and workshop-related expenses. Those requesting assistance from ACSP should do so as part of their application in the form of a brief statement describing the reasons for requesting financial support. Applicants may ask the faculty advisor writing the letter of recommendation to address his or her need for financial assistance as well.


Workshop Themes

The workshop will include both plenary and small-group sessions. Each student will make at least two presentations about his or her research during the course of the workshop. The workshop organization will be based on four questions about dissertation research: Who, Why, What, and How?

  • WHO: Who is the audience for your research? Will it be undertaken and presented in a manner that is understandable to your audience?
  • WHY: What purpose does your inquiry serve? Why should others care about your research? What difference will your inquiry and results make?
  • WHAT: What is your central hypothesis or proposition, or argument? What knowledge claims do you expect your research to support? What questions do you hope to answer?
  • HOW: How do you expect to conduct your inquiry? How will you organize your inquiry (Research design)? What tools do you need to answer your major questions (Methodology)?


Tentative Workshop Agenda

Wednesday, August 1


Travel to Amherst




Overview & Introductions


Presentation: Research Audience, Goal, Question, & Design


Coffee Break


Breakout Exercise: Research Questions & Design (Facilitated by Faculty)




Dinner & Panel Discussion: Getting through the Dissertation

Thursday, August 2


Breakfast / Recap for the Day


Group Discussion – Report Out on Research Design & Pandora’s Box*


Presentation: Strategies for Selecting Appropriate Research Methods, Presentation
of Findings


Coffee Break


Breakout Exercise: Student Discussion of Research Proposals (Facilitated by Faculty)
Session 1

Noon – 1:30



Breakout Exercise: Student Discussion of Research Proposals (Facilitated by Faculty)
Session 2


Coffee Break


Group Discussion – Report Out & Pandora’s Box*


Panel Discussion: Life After the Dissertation


Dinner on Your Own

* Pandora’s Box = Discussion allowing students to express and discuss concerns and anxieties as they conceive of or undertake their research.


Key Dates

Application Deadline: Monday, April 30

Notification of Acceptance: during the week of May 21st

Synopsis of Dissertation Proposal Due: Monday, July 2

Workshop: Wednesday and Thursday, August 1 and 2


How to Apply- Two Parts

Part One
Applications must be submitted on-line using the form below. The form is only one part of the application process! Application materials to be submitted using the form include:

  1. A current resume or CV
  2. Completion of a short – no more than 500 word abstract of the applicant’s dissertation project
  3. The name and email address of the applicant’s principal academic advisor. The advisor will be required to respond, see part two below.

Part Two
Before your application will be reviewed by the ACSP Doctoral Committee, your faculty advisor must send an email directly to Donna Dodd,, before April 30 including responses to the following questions:

  1. Name of the workshop applicant
  2. Has the applicant advanced to PhD candidacy (or equivalent)? Yes or No. If yes, on what date?
  3. Has the applicant defended his/her dissertation proposal (or equivalent)? Yes or No. If yes, on what date? If no, approximately when do you expect the applicant to defend his/her dissertation?
  4. Please provide any thoughts on the significance of the applicant's proposed dissertation research and how he/she might benefit especially by participation in this workshop.
  5. Please address the need for financial assistance for the applicant to attend this workshop.


Application Review

Applications will not be reviewed without both parts as described above: the form AND the email from the advisor. Applications will be reviewed by the ACSP Doctoral Committee. Previous years’ workshops have been able to accommodate about 50-60% of those who applied.


Dissertation Proposal

All those selected to participate must submit a four-page (single-spaced) summary of the student’s dissertation research proposal no later than July 2, 2018. These will be distributed among participating students and faculty prior to the workshop. In addition, all participants will be expected to make an 8-minute, 5-slide presentation of their research during the afternoon of the workshop.


For More Information


Workshop Registration Form



The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.


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