Doctoral Interdisciplinary Studies Program

The D.I.S. is not focused on combining disciplines as the M.I.S. program, but in allowing the student to bring forward a problem or series of problems to research. This degree has a different application process than other degrees at the university; prospective students must schedule an appointment with the Director or Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs before beginning the application process. Then, the student must seek out faculty with the resources and expertise to assist them in defining and executing the research goals, and designing a curriculum to acquire the skills and competencies needed to reach those goals. The D.I.S. requires a student who is highly motivated, has a focused goal/research project in mind, and is able to actively participate in his or her educational process. Please contact the Graduate School at 406.243.2572 or at for more information. This is not an online degree. 

Quick links: Deadline    DIS Checklist    Application Packet    Plan of Study    Committee Requirements     Committment Letters    Required Meetings   

1)    Doctoral program requirements

Prospective students will need 45 credits of G- and UG- coursework beyond the master’s degree; UG- classes have to be taken with the graduate increment; some of the coursework might be in the form of independent study, internship and seminar credits; and at least 10 of these credits will be dissertation or research. Students must satisfactorily complete:

a)     Comprehensive exam, format to be determined by the student’s graduate committee, AND

b)    A dissertation and oral defense

2)    Admissions requirements

a)     Deadlines: Complete application packet must be received in the Graduate School by April 15th for Fall semester deadline, and by November 15th for Spring semester deadline. Committee Chair will submit the complete application packet.

b)    How to apply: Instructions for applying to the Graduate School are in the Applying for Admission section on this website. An overview of the application process for the D.I.S. is found in the Programs section on this website. Please note the two meetings taking place a month and two weeks prior to deadline.

  • Specific instructions for D.I.S. application are in the section 3 below.

c)     Expectations for admission:

i)      Applicants must have a master’s degree or equivalent degree program of study that includes at least 30 credit hours of graduate work and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

ii)    GRE score with a test date that is within the past five years OR verifiable GRE scores if the test date is over five years old.

iii)   The TOEFL, IELTS or MELAB are also required of international applicants whose native language is not English and who are not graduates from an English-speaking university.

iv)   The prospective student must develop a plan of study in consultation with their prospective graduate committee. Details of such plan of study is found in sections 5 and 6.

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3)    Application requirements

Prospective students are required to seek out and identify a prospective graduate committee of at least five university faculty who are willing to serve in the D.I.S. committee, after consulting with the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs. Eligibility for membership can be found at the Qualifications of Graduate Committee Members on this website. Instructions for establishing a graduate committee are in section 4 below. Please download the D.I.S. checklist.

4)    Establishing a graduate committee for the D.I.S. program

a)     After the initial consultation with the Director or Coordinator for the Interdisciplinary Programs, seek out and identify at least five university faculty who are willing to work with you to develop a unique plan of study. Each discipline in the proposed interdisciplinary program will be represented in the committee.

b)    Faculty do not officially become members of the student’s graduate committee until the Graduate School admits the student.

c)     All members of the D.I.S. graduate committee must hold a doctoral degree or the equivalent of the terminal degree in their fields; one member must be from a doctoral granting department from UM. The Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs or the director’s designee will serve as an ex-officio (non-voting) member of the committee.

d)    The prospective chair/co-chairs of the student’s graduate committee will be the principal advisor(s) throughout the program, and must be from a discipline that offers a graduate degree. Chairs must be proactive in keeping the collaborative function of the committee together, they serve as a student advocate and must clearly understand the D.I.S. process.

e)     It is highly recommended that the prospective student spend at least a term of enrollment at the University of Montana either as a non-degree graduate student or as a student admitted to an existing graduate degree program. Experience has shown that it is nearly impossible for a student to find members of a committee and negotiate a program of study from a distance.

i)      The graduate non-degree status allows students to get to know professors and the departments of the disciplines he or she wishes to combine for the D.I.S. degree, thus building their academic network.

ii)    Financially, if students would be paying out-of-state tuition, and wish for in-state tuition, they can start the Montana Residency process. Please go to New Students for information on Montana residency. Note that registering for more than 6 credits per semester (including summer school) creates a strong presumption the student is here for educational purposes and will likely disqualify them from achieving in-state status.

iii)   The graduate non-degree status allows students to receive graduate credit for course work. Up to nine non-degree credits may be applied toward a subsequent degree program upon approval by the student’s graduate committee's Chair. You can find more information about this at Apply

  • Please note that applicants admitted as graduate non-degree students are NOT ELIGIBLE for financial aid. Graduate non-degree students are assessed the graduate level tuition and fees at the master's level rate for all credits taken.

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5)    Creating an D.I.S. proposal and Applying

a)     In consultation with the full committee, the prospective student will develop a plan of study and D.I.S. proposal. An D.I.S. proposal will include: 

i)     Academic and professional goals with articulation of skills and competencies that match the stated goals. The prospective committee will work with the applicant to develop a list of objectives, that is, skills and competencies needed to meet the research or professional goals of the student.

ii)    Relevant research plan with a statement of the research problem(s), review of literature, and methodology. For prospective students who have a professional degree or non-thesis masters, the methodology section should describe preliminary ideas, research methodology coursework and timeline, and anticipated semester to propose and defend methodology; prospective students who have a thesis masters must have a comprehensive description of anticipated methodology. 

iii)   Curriculum plan with proposed courses, their description and relevancy to the D.I.S. Half of the credits (excluding at least 10 semester credits for dissertation or research courses) must be at the 500 or 600 level.  The curriculum plan will likely contain enrollment in existing courses, independent studies, internship, and research credits.  

The curriculum plan must include two seminars that may not be taken in the same semester:

(1)  D.I.S. Seminar (2 credits) – Topical subjects selected by D.I.S. students and faculty, to build an D.I.S. cohort

(2)  Campus seminar (2 credits) – Offered by any graduate program on the UM – Missoula Campus

iv)   Assessment plan that will have the indicators of achieving the objectives of the program. The prospective committee will help the prospective student develop a comprehensive exam format appropriate to his/her goals and plan of study. A dissertation and oral defense must be included, format to be determined by the prospective student and committee. See Resources page.

v)    A bio sketch of each prospective committee member and their contribution to the plan of study.

b)     Each prospective graduate committee member must write a letter of commitment agreeing to serve on the student’s graduate committee. The letters should include a) a statement about the value and rigor of the  student's proposal, b) an indication of willingness to participate in the collaborative effort, c) a discussion of their specific areas of expertise, and d) how this expertise strengthens the student’s D.I.S. program of study and dissertation project(s).

c)     Meetings: Prospective students should have as many meetings as necessary with all prospective graduate committee members (individually and as a group) to craft the proposal before the application deadline.

i)      One month before the application deadline, a meeting between the prospective student, the full prospective graduate committee and the Director or Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs must occur with a final or near final draft of the proposal.

ii)    Two weeks before the application deadline, a meeting between the applicant, the prospective graduate committee chair/co-chairs, the D.I.S. Admissions chair, and the Director or Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs must occur with the final draft of the proposal.

d)    Submitting an application: A complete application packet will include (1) submission of the D.I.S. checklist, (2) Curriculum Vitae, (3) letter of intent, (4) official standardized test scores, (5) official transcripts, (6) letters of commitment from members of the proposed committee, (7) three recommendation letters, either from members of your proposed committee or from others who know you well, and (8) the D.I.S. proposal.

i)      All required information for applying to the D.I.S. constitutes the applicant’s admission file and must be made available to all prospective graduate committee members before submission, with the exception of the commitment letters and the third page of the D.I.S. checklist. The prospective graduate committee will meet and discuss the student’s application materials before writing their commitment letters; they may meet with the student and the IGP director or coordinator before filling out the third page of the D.I.S. checklist.  

ii)    The prospective graduate committee chair or one of the co-chairs will submit the complete packet to the Graduate School by the deadline.

e)    The prospective committee members will become the de facto department for the student's D.I.S. degree. The Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs is the department chair. Once admitted, the student and his or her committee should meet regularly; any changes to the plan of study should be communicated to the Director via a memo from the committee’s chair/co-chairs upon agreement from the whole committee.

6)    Transfer to the D.I.S.

The Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs’ Director or the Graduate Dean’s Designee will meet with the UM Graduate Program Director/Chair or Graduate Committee Chair of potential applicants who desire to transfer from an existing UM doctoral program before the potential applicant can proceed with the pre-application process. Students wishing to transfer from an existing UM doctoral program will be considered on an individual basis, taking into account the nature of the D.I.S. as an interdisciplinary degree that cannot be accomplished through a traditional PhD program.

Note: The information on this website was edited May 2016.

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Financial Assistance

Students in the interdisciplinary programs may apply for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship from the Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs at the Graduate School. Preference will be given to D.I.S. students who have teaching as one of their goals. Program personnel will have more information on availability.

For additional information about financial assistance, see the Financial Information section on this web site.

Program Limitations

  • More recognizable traditional degree programs may provide the opportunity to bridge over into other disciplines through electives.
  • There may be interdisciplinary areas where the expertise and resource support is not available.
  • The IIP is not a substitute for a disciplinary doctoral program not available at UM.

Campus Location
Graduate School - Lommasson Center Room 224

Please send inquiries and questions to 
or call (406) 243-2572.