Doctorate in Special Education


The purpose of the doctoral program in special education is to prepare national leaders who wish to do research and prepare personnel at colleges and universities. The program is designed to develop the expertise needed to develop, examine and disseminate sustainable practices that result in high achievement and successful independent living for children and adolescents with special needs. We expect to prepare individuals to become faculty members who can:

  1. Evaluate the existing research special education literature in assessment, instruction, service delivery, and technology;
  2. Design research to develop, evaluate, or extend these practices;
  3. Prepare teachers who value and use evidence-based practices to address the needs of all students in special education, including those who are culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse, and;
  4. Become leaders in the field of special education within institutions of higher education.

The entire program works as an apprenticeship for a career in higher education. The goal is for graduates to leave the program with the skills necessary to be competitive in the job selection process among institutions of higher education.


While completing the doctoral program of study, doctoral students develop knowledge and skills in four major areas.

  1. Foundations of evidence-based practice in special education. Doctoral students will recognize, evaluate, and sustain practices that are unique to different types of disability and those that are applicable to all types of exceptionality.
  2. Research. Doctoral students will design and implement ecologically valid research, develop a research agenda, work with practitioners to introduce and sustain evidence-based practices in schools, and disseminate new research among scholars and practitioners.
  3. Teacher preparation and personnel development in evidence-based practices. Doctoral students engage in effective teaching within teacher preparation and personnel development programs at institutions of higher education and in schools. They engage in teacher preparation that includes knowledge of National and State Education Standards evidence-based practices pertaining to basic academic and functional skills, assistive and adaptive technology, accommodations, learning strategies, positive behavioral support, and knowledge of how to teach in a variety of service delivery models.
  4. Higher education. Doctoral students will have concrete and critical opportunities for research, teaching, and service, during their program allowing them to immediately translate knowledge into practice.


Prospective doctoral students should contact a faculty member and complete the application to the doctoral program in special education. Decisions about acceptance are made by the special education faculty. Typically, students start the doctoral program in the Fall semester.

Admission Requirements

Application information, degree and admission requirements can be found at the Department Application page.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available through doctoral grants from the Office of Special Education Programs, tuition support through the university, graduate assistantships, and graduate college scholarships.


The faculty in special education are well known for their research and teaching in various areas of exceptionality. See and search all faculty here.

  • Dr. Shirin Antia specializes in education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and youth
  • Dr. Jane Erin specializes in education of Blind and Visually Impaired children, youth, and adults
  • Dr. Todd Fletcher specializes in bilingual/multicultural special education
  • Dr. Carl Liaupsin specializes in education of children and youth with emotional and behavioral difficulties, positive behavioral support and behavior analysis.
  • Dr. Nancy Mather specializes in learning disabilities with an emphasis on reading and written language
  • Dr. C. June Maker specializes in the education of gifted children and youth.
  • Dr. Stephanie McFarland specializes in education of children and youth with severe and multiple disabilities
  • Dr. John Umbreit specializes in positive behavioral support and behavior analysis

Student Documents & Materials