The Korbel doctoral program provides an interdisciplinary curriculum to prepare for research and educator training on global interactions. Students explore issues of sustainable development, peace and security, global economic trends, and international human rights, and work toward solutions to some of the world's most pressing questions. While we offer extensive training in conventional fields of politics, economics and society, much of your work in this PhD program is conducted outside of the classroom, with faculty mentorship.

Close mentorship from faculty ensures your time at Korbel is enriching and career-specific, regardless of whether your career development is aimed at teaching at the collegiate level or in research, government or nonprofit organizations. In recent years, our doctoral graduates have gone on to teach and research at leading universities in the U.S. and abroad and pursue non-academic careers at the Ford Foundation, Carter Center, American Red Cross, RAND, and the U.S. government. 

Opportunities at Korbel

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Research Centers

The Josef Korbel School is home to many research centers that add depth to the school's commitment to integrating teaching, research and practical problem-solving.

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Financial Assistance

The Josef Korbel School provides a three-year full tuition waiver and living stipend for most candidates. Doctoral candidates also can take advantage of opportunities to serve as research assistants at the Josef Korbel School.

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Degree Requirements

  • Areas of Study

    The Josef Korbel School of International Studies doctoral program provides an advanced learning environment centered on research on the world’s most pressing global challenges and opportunities, with a central focus on four themes in contemporary international studies: sustainable human development, global governance of economic and environmental interactions, human rights issues, and the management of conflict without violence.

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  • Research Colloquium

    The doctoral program research colloquium is offered each fall term. You must take two research colloquium courses.

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  • International Studies Core

    These four courses include: 

    • INTS 4324 International Political Economy
    • INTS 4501 Governance, Development and Peace in the 21st Century
    • INTS 4900 International Politics
    • INTS 4301 Introduction to Political Theory
    • INTS 4822 Contemporary Political Theory

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  • Field Specialization

    To specialize your coursework, we allow you to choose two fields and take five courses in each. Specialization options include:

    • International Relations: Global Interactions and Economic Governance
    • Comparative Politics: States and Societies in Global Perspective
    • Contemporary Political Theory

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  • Written + Oral Exams

    A student advances to PhD candidacy after passing the written and oral comprehensive and after successful completion of an accepted dissertation prospectus. Students will take written and oral comprehensive exams in two of the three fields.

    PhD Handbook

  • Methodology

    Doctoral students at the Korbel School take the following courses:

    • INTS 4500 Social Science Methods
    • INTS 4010 Epistemology or INTS 4522 Philosophy of Social Science

    Methodology training beyond these required courses is a matter of individual needs and interests, and you should consult your advisor or potential dissertation committee chair and members about available options. Support is typically available to fund students for advanced methodological training outside of DU.

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  • Non-native Language Proficiency

    The Korbel doctoral program encourages a multi-lingual environment. Furthermore, knowledge of a non-native language increases understanding across cultural divides beyond the actual language-learning process, which is invaluable insight when dealing with international affairs.

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  • Electives

    You're free to choose among the full range of graduate-level courses offered at the Korbel School in development, human rights, political economy, governance, and international peace and security. Courses may also be taken outside Korbel.

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  • Extended Research Paper

    The extended research paper is a required step to prepare students for demonstrated capacity in independent research and writing. Ideally, your extended research paper allows you to work toward research-oriented publication while pursuing your degree. INTS 4327 is an advanced doctoral program seminar designed to afford students a forum and opportunity for crafting and refining the extended research paper.

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  • Thesis Dissertation and Defense

    Upon completing your thesis, you will defend your dissertation before a faculty panel, defending your work from critique and highlighting the strengths of your writing and research abilities.

Featured Faculty

Deborah Avant

Deborah Avant


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Timothy Sisk

Timothy D. Sisk


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Martin J. Rhodes

Professor; Director, PhD Program

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Micheline Ishay


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PhD Candidates

  • Dogus Aktan

    Studying: Contentious Politics, Repression and Dissent, Formal Models, Civil Resistance

    Dogus Aktan focuses on using formal theory to parse out different mechanisms through which mass movements and political violence work, with a goal to develop links between theory and empirics. Put differently, Dogus is interested in how social movements and governments achieve their goals when pursuing contentious action or violence.

  • Susan Cossa

    Studying: Sustainable Development in Africa; Sino-Africa Relations; Finance and Development

    Susan Cossa is a PhD candidate at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Economics and Government at Smith College, Massachusetts. Susan’s research focuses on the implications of Sino-Africa relations for inclusive growth and inequality in Lusophone Africa. She is currently working on two primary research projects. The first is a co-authored project examining grand strategies in Sino-Africa relations and the implications for attainment of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 aspirations. The second paper evaluates the spillover effects of Chinese investments in Angola and Mozambique, with a focus on the effects of technology transfers on poverty reduction. Susan has worked as a teaching assistant for the ‘Contemporary Issues in the Global Economy’ course as well as the ‘Introduction to International Politics’ course. Susan is currently a Teaching Fellow at the Korbel School. In this role, she teaches the ‘Contemporary Issues in the Global Economy’ course. Susan is also a research scholar in the Korbel School’s Institute for Comparative and Regional Studies (ICRS).

  • Audrey Elliott

    Studying: Migration and Gender Politics

    Audrey researches migration and gender politics, with a focus on the immigration detention experiences of LGBT people. She received her Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Arts in German and International Affairs from the University of Georgia. Elliott is a teaching assistant and research assistant on the Ethics of Engagement project at the Sié Center.

  • Paul Kemp

    Studying: llicit International Political Economy (IIPE) and Monetary Politics

    Paul Kemp's research focuses primarily on Illicit International Political Economy (IIPE) and monetary politics. His dissertation in progress investigates the policy choices of the US Treasury with respect to the regulation of illicit financial flows. 

  • Louis Pascarella

    Studying: Policing, Protest, and Conflict.

    Louis Pascarella is a PhD candidate and research assistant at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. His research focuses on policing, protest, state repression, and state-society relations. Louis possesses extensive research experience in many diverse areas, with experience in qualitative and quantitative methodologies. 
  • Sinduja Raja

    Studying: Gender, State, Social Movements, Violence

    Sinduja Raja is a Doctoral Candidate in International Studies from India at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. She is also Project Manager of Women’s Rights After War, a project jointly funded by the UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund and the National Science Foundation. She was one of ten awardees of the Sie Fellowship and scholarship from the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at the Korbel School. Prior to this, she obtained a Master of Arts in Development Studies from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. Her dissertation research focuses on the impact of radical and anti-institutional social movements on state-society relations.

PhD Students

  • Sevde Acabay-Ögüç

    Studying: Political Economy of Sovereign Wealth Funds

    Sevde is a first-year Ph.D. student at Josef Korbel. She obtained her BA and MA degrees in International Relations at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. Her master’s thesis looks at Turkey’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and its implications on state-business relations in Turkey. Sevde works as a Teaching Assistant for various undergraduate classes at Korbel, including the Contemporary Issues in Global Economy course.


  • Kelci Burckhardt

    Studying: Democratization, Political Elites, Political Psychology

    Kelci Burckhardt is a doctoral student in international studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Her research focuses on elite theories of democratization and democratic backsliding. Kelci currently teaches courses on political leadership and intelligence and national security policymaking at DU and CSU-Pueblo. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Kelci spent ten years as a foreign policy analyst in the federal government, focused primarily on Sub-Saharan Africa.  

  • Aaron Pilkington

    Studying: Iran, Middle East Security, US Foreign Policy in the Middle East, Armed Groups, Civil Defense, Strategy

    Aaron Pilkington is a Doctoral Student at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Aaron is an Air Force analyst of Middle East affairs, a General George W. Casey leadership scholar, and a recipient of the U.S. Air Force Academy Faculty Pipeline PhD scholarship and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force PhD scholarship. Aaron holds a Master of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University and a Master of Arts in Middle East Security from the Naval Postgraduate School. Aaron’s doctoral research seeks to assess the impact of post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East on Iranian defense strategy and foreign policy. 

Application Information