PhD Program

PhD Program


The doctoral program, the first of its kind in the United States, provides advanced study for students in the fields of conflict and conflict resolution. Students are prepared for careers as researchers, theoreticians, and teachers in higher education, and as policy administrators, analysts, and consultants in both the public and private sectors.  The program stresses a close link between knowledge of theory and of process in the resolution of conflict. For this, training in the methods of research and analysis is necessary and is emphasized. In addition, students are expected to obtain a background in a substantive area of conflict, usually related to the topic of the dissertation.

Printable PhD Requirements Flyer

Printable PhD Plan of Study Form

Printable PhD Dissertation Process Handbook

Printable S-CAR Student Handbook

PhD Admissions Information

Degree Requirements

For students with a master's degree, a total of 57 credits are required.

Required Core Doctoral Courses
CONF 801 Introduction to Conflict Analysis and Resolution - 3 credits
CONF 900 Integrating Theory/Practice/Method in Conflict Analysis (Final Spring) 3 credits

Foundation Courses
Students take 15 credits of required foundation coursework with student options in areas of theory research and practice; each class is 3 credits:

Theory (6 credits)
Any 2 of the following 3 classes:
CONF 802 Micro Theories - 3 credits
CONF 803 Macro Theories - 3 credits
CONF 804 Alternative Theoretical Foundations - 3 credits

Research (6 credits)
Any 2 of the following 3 classes:
CONF 811 Quantitative Foundations - 3 credits
CONF 812 Qualitative Foundations: Social Sciences - 3 credits
CONF 813 Qualitative Foundations: Humanities - 3 credits

Practice (3 credits)
Any 1 of the following 2 classes:
CONF 713 Interpersonal and Intergroup Conflict - 3 credits
CONF 890 Applied Practice & Theory- 3 credits*

Specialization Courses: Students take 9 credits of graduate level specialization courses, evenly distributed across the areas of theory, research and practice. The program director must approve courses.

Elective Courses: 15 elective credits must be completed prior to comprehensive exams (credit for prior relevant graduate level degrees).

Dissertation: Students are required to complete 12 combined units of CONF 998 (Dissertation Proposal- up to 6 credits) and CONF 999 (Dissertation Research- up to 12 credits). Students must have a signed dissertation proposal in order to register for CONF 999.  The student's dissertation chair is the instructor of record for CONF 998 and CONF 999.

*see APT description below

Applied Practice and Theory (APT)

The APT program is a six-credit course running yearlong. It is designed to take the concepts presented in class and practiced in labs into real situations with conflict and consequences. Students work in teams integrating research and practice with theory development and applied ethics.

Doctoral students should register for CONF 890.

Fall 2014 - Spring 2015 APT's

The Role of the Private Sector in Peacebuilding in Fragile, Conflict Affected States
Instructor: Dr. Dennis Sandole
Schedule: Tuesday, 4:30-7:10 p.m.
CRN#: CONF 690 - 78161, CONF 890 -
Course Credit: 690 /890 (3 credits Fall 2014, 3 credits Spring 2015)

S-CAR Professor Dr. Denis J.D. Sandole will be guiding an APT starting in the fall on 'The Role of the Private Sector in Peacebuilding in Fragile, Conflict-Affected States'. Given a series of meetings with S-CAR's Africa Working Group, the primary emphasis of this APT will be on the role of the private sector in peacebuilding in violent conflict-affected African states. Africa has been selected for this initial launch of the APT because the "Mother Continent"is the location of most of the world's "new" (internal) wars and fragile states. Nevertheless, S-CAR students other than members of the Africa Working Group are welcome to participate in the APT. Dr. Sandole is also open to explorations of the role of the private sector in peacebuilding in fragile conflict-impacted countries elsewhere in the world (e.g., Israel/Palestine).


South Caucasus Conflict Resolution: Implementing, Evaluating, and Innovating in Reconciliation Programs
Instructor: Dr. Susan Hannah Allen
Schedule: Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 1:10 p.m.
CRN#: CONF 690 – 81551, CONF 890 - 81552
Course Credit: 690 /890 (3 credits Fall 2014, 3 credits Spring 2015)

Building on grants from USAID and the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office in support of Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian confidence building measures and people-to-people reconciliation, this APT team will engage directly in conflict resolution reflective practice. While some parts of the project are already underway (see website:, APT team members will have opportunities to explore potential innovations in the practice, while learning through doing. Each team member is encouraged to bring his/her preferred theoretical lens to the course, and to examine the utility of that lens in supporting conflict resolution practice throughout the course.

Each team member will take on a unique role in the overall conflict resolution initiative, and will engage in reflective practice in a mentored context with the larger project team. For example, one team member may work with the project evaluator. Another team member may assist a distance education program with Georgians, Abkhaz, and South Ossetians. Another team member may support a joint Georgian and South Ossetian web forum. Another team member might be part of organizing Georgian-South Ossetian dialogues. And, another team member may identify a complementary activity to add to the overall project, and take on responsibility for planning and implementation of that new activity.

The team will engage in the conflict resolution practice together, with weekly reflective sessions, peer-to-peer mentoring, and ongoing consideration of the theory of conflict resolution practice. By the end of the two-semester course, participants will have learned the theory and practice of reconciliation programs in the South Caucasus, the range of abilities required to implement and evaluate long-term conflict resolution efforts, the skills of reflective practice, and, together, will have contributed to conflict resolution in the South Caucasus. By May, participants will write publishable quality articles based on their conflict resolution action research.

The course meets Mondays 10:30 am- 1:10 pm on the Arlington campus from late August 2014 through mid May 2015, throughout the fall and spring semesters, with project work required outside of class time. Students register for 3 credits of 890/690 in Fall 2014 and 3 credits of 890/690 in Spring 2015. Some activity may be required during the semester break to ensure continuity of the conflict resolution practice. Some travel may be required for individual team members, depending on the roles and responsibilities they take on for the project.

To express your interest in joining the team, please contact team leader Susan Allen at Individuals with knowledge of Russian, Georgian, Abkhaz, and/or Ossetian languages are strongly encouraged to join the team.

Credit for Prior Study

Students with an M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University may have the course total required for doctoral degree, reduced by up to 15 credits. The actual number of the credit reduction is determined in consultation with the student's advisor and the program director, after a review of courses taken.

Students entering with graduate credit or degrees (M.A., M.S. or J.D.) may have required course load reduced by up to 15 credits. The actual number of applied credits is determined in consultation with the student's advisor and the program director, after a review of courses taken.

Foreign Language Requirement

Every doctoral student must show competence in a foreign language (that is, a language other than the native tongue), preferably before taking the comprehensive field paper examination. This requirement must be completed before beginning the dissertation. On no account are dissertations accepted without evidence of meeting this requirement. Overseas students may use English as their foreign language and the TOEFL examination as a demonstration of competency. The Department of Modern and Classical Languages has ruled that American Sign Language or computer languages cannot be used to fulfill this requirement.

Advancement to PhD Candidacy

Upon completing course work (except dissertation) listed under Degree Requirements and passing the  comprehensive field paper examination, students will be advanced to candidacy. A candidate is permitted five years from the advancement date to complete the dissertation.

Details on the comprehensive field paper examination, dissertation and other writing resources, please visit the: Student Services Page.

Printable S-CAR Dissertation Process Handbook

Doctoral Funding Possibilities

Each year S-CAR is able to offer funding to a limited number of PhD students. Applications are reviewed carefully for funding decisions. Once the initial offers go out, students offered funding have until April 15th to accept. Any funding packages that are not accepted at that point will be offered to other admitted PhD students.

Students who do not receive direct funding from S-CAR have in the past used the following other sources of funding to support their study:

Each year S-CAR hires a number of students in part time administrative roles. As these opportunities open they are circulated to the entire graduate student community with information on how to apply. These appointments are not set aside ahead of time but are done through matching of needs of the position and student experience and skills.

Each year S-CAR faculty hire a number of students in research assistant positions on grants they receive. These positions are at the discretion of individual grant holders and vary in length. Application for these positions is done through the faculty grant holder.

Students are eligible for a variety of on-campus positions. In the past students have worked at :

  • University Information for the Arlington campus
  • Arlington Campus Library
  • University Life
  • Other administrative offices

Most on-campus positions are listed through HireMason, a service available to active students and alumni

Students can look for opportunities teaching as adjunct professors at both S-CAR and other relevant Mason departments. PhD students are eligible to teach at the undergraduate level. Adjunct faculty are hired on a department by department basis so to apply for these position requires contacting specific departments that seem to be a good match

Off-campus employment- Washington, DC still enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Relevant off-campus employments has regularly been found at organizations such as the United States Institute of Peace, Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, various International Development agencies and many others. Several websites are particularly good sources for finding positions including:

  • Peace and Collaborative Development Network
  • Idealist.Org
  • S-CAR Community Network and Forum (open to current students and alumni)

Financial Aid- The financial aid office at George Mason processes both grant and loan assistance requests. They also maintain a database of scholarship opportunities. In addition, the office of Post-Graduate Scholarships and Fellowships maintains a list of additional opportunities and offers assistance with applications

For more information on career delvelopment, vist our site here.


Students are required to complete 12 combined units of CONF 998 (Dissertation Proposal- up to 6 credits) and CONF 999 (Dissertation Research- up to 12 credits). Students must have a signed dissertation proposal in order to register for CONF 999. The student's dissertation chair is the instructor of record for CONF 998 and CONF 999.

All theses and dissertations submitted to UDTS on or after Tuesday, January 22, 2013 will be submitted under the Mandatory Electronic Submission Policy. Starting on that date, all theses and dissertations will be placed in our Institutional Repository, MARS. We will no longer be requiring students to turn in cotton copies of their theses and dissertations, and we will no longer place bound copies of theses and dissertations in Fenwick Library.

You will still need to submit to S-CAR's John Burton Library a copy of your original proposal; one (1) paper copy (unbounded is acceptable) of your final dissertation two weeks before your defense; and a pdf. copy of your final dissertation with all corrections after your defense (to be email to

With this change to Mandatory Electronic Submission, Mason will be introducing an embargo policy, which will enable students to make their work available in MARS immediately, or to delay availability of their work for 6 months, 1 year, or 5 years. All students must complete the embargo paperwork even if they choose not to delay the work.

Full details of the dissertation submission process can be found on the UDTS web site. Book your UDTS review appointment early and watch for GMU deadlines in order to graduate on time.

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