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. 

Program Information

Coursework - To graduate, a student needs at least 45 credits beyond the master’s degree. Credits may include regular courses (G or UG with the graduate increment), independent study, internships and seminars. In fulfilling that credit requirement, students must take:
  1. At least 10 credits of dissertation research.
  2. At least 18 credits at the 500 or 600 level.
  3. At least 2 credits of D.I.S. Seminar (when offered; students can substitute a department seminar in consultation with their advisors); seminars may not be taken in the same semester.
  4. At least 2 credits of seminars offered by any graduate program on the UM – Missoula Campus; seminars may not be taken in the same semester.

Dissertation proposal – Students must submit a formal dissertation proposal to their committee in their second year in the program (or on a mutually agreed upon timeframe upon admission). This proposal should be approved by the doctoral committee, prior to the student’s advancing to the comprehensive exam.

Comprehensive exam – Students must pass a comprehensive exam. The exam generally includes a written and oral portion, although the specific format will be determined by the student’s graduate committee and agreed upon prior to admission to the program.

Dissertation / Oral Defense – In line with Graduate School policy for all doctorates (LINK to D5.0000: Dissertation Defense), students must submit and receive formal approval of their doctoral dissertation and must pass an oral defense of their dissertation prior to receiving their degree.
Deadlines: Complete application packet must be received in the Graduate School by April 1st for fall semester deadline, and by November 15th for spring semester deadline. Committee Chair will submit the complete application packet.

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 section 4 below.

Expectations for admission:

  1. 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.
  2. 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; petitions for exceptions to this rule will be considered on an ad hoc basis, but should be based on some proven ability or professional experience that substitutes for the skills tested by the GRE.
  3. The TOEFL, IELTS or MELAB (ONLY required for international applicants whose native language is not English and who are not graduates from an English-speaking university.
  4. A plan of study developed in consultation with their prospective graduate committee (see section 4 below).


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. The process of establishing a graduate committee include:

  1. After the initial consultation with the Director of the Interdisciplinary Program, seek out and identify at least five university faculty who are willing to work with you to develop a unique plan of study. One of these faculty members must be willing to serve as the committee chair and your primary advisor. Each discipline in the proposed interdisciplinary program must be represented on the committee.
  2. 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. In addition to the 5 voting committee members, the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs or the director’s designee will serve as an ex-officio (non-voting) member of the committee.
  3. The prospective chair of the student’s graduate committee will be the principal advisor throughout the program, and must be from a unit on campus that offers a graduate degree. In some cases, student graduate committees may have 2 co-chairs rather than a single chair. At least one of the co-chairs must be from a doctoral-degree-granting unit. Chairs (and co-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.
  4. 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. The graduate non-degree-seeking status [LINK] 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. Up to nine non-degree credits taken in graduate non-degree seeking status may be applied toward a subsequent degree program upon approval by the student’s graduate committee's Chair.
  • 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.
  • Students who seek to establish residency before beginning their graduate education are encouraged to explore that at the following link:

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

  1. 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.
  2. Relevant research plan with a statement of the research problem(s) that will be addressed, review of literature and articulation of the gap in knowledge (i.e. the context of the proposed research with respect to previous literature in the field), general approach to the methodology, and expected format of the dissertation (i.e. chapters to be submitted). After admission, students must submit a formal dissertation proposal that includes additional detail on the methodology for each component of the dissertation research. 
  3. Curriculum plan with proposed courses, their description and relevance to the D.I.S.  (see requirements, Section 1, above)
  4. Assessment plan that will have the indicators of achieving the objectives of the program.  The following assessments must be included in the plan, along with others: a dissertation proposal and defense of the proposal, a comprehensive exam, and an oral dissertation defense.  The timeline, expectations and format of each assessment will be developed in coordination with the prospective committee and will be appropriate for the student’s goals and plan of study.  See Resources page.
  5. A bio sketch of each prospective committee member and their contribution to the plan of study.

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

  1. One month before the application deadline, a meeting between the prospective student, the full prospective graduate committee and the Director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program mustoccur with a final or near final draft of the proposal.
  2. 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 of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program must occur with the final draft of the proposal



Instructions for submitting the packet can be found on the Applying for Admission section of our site.

A complete application packet will include:

(1)  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 (see below)
(7) Three recommendation letters, either from members of your proposed committee or from others who know you well addressing your preparation and suitability for completing a doctoral degree
(8) D.I.S. proposal. (See Section 4, above)

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 before filling out the third page of the D.I.S. checklist.  

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).

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

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.

The Interdisciplinary Graduate Program Director or the Graduate Dean 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.

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.