Admission Committee Handbook


According to the Ph.D. Program Faculty Constitution and By-Laws, The Ph.D. Program Admissions Committee has the responsibility for admissions through the acceptance, requests for further information, or rejection of applicants for admission. The Admissions Committee is advisory to the Office of the President. It is also the faculty’s primary deliberative and consultative body on admissions policies and practices. 

The Admissions Committee consists of five members–three doctoral faculty members, one current Ph.D. learner and one Intercultural Open University Foundation Ph.D. graduate. There is a change in membership of the Committee every January, when faculty members who have completed their two-year terms rotate off. The learner representative and the alumni/ae representative terms are usually one year with an option to renew. A current meeting schedule and Committee member list is sent to all members.

The Committee meets monthly to consider complete applications. Applications are sent to Committee members approximately one month prior to the meeting date. A Committee member must notify the Committee chair if the meeting schedule conflicts with other obligations. 

The Committee only considers applicants during the monthly meeting. General Committee issues and policies are addressed at meetings of the Committee held three to four times per year. A Committee member can place an item on the agenda by notifying the Committee chair.


Representatives from the Ph.D. faculty, learner body and alumni/ae association compose the voting members of the Admissions Committee. Nominees from each group are secured in the following manner:

Faculty: Faculty members, representative of the diversity of the Ph.D. Program community, are nominated and are approved by the full faculty. Terms are for two-years, with an option to renew for an additional two-year term. Terms run from January 1 through December 31.

Alumni/ae: Appointments are made by the IOU Foundation Alumni/ae Association. Terms are for one year, with an option to renew for additional years, i.e. there is no term limit.

Learners: Appointments are made by the Learner Association. Terms are for one year with an option to renew for one additional year. 

The Committee is committed to a diverse learning community that reflects Intercultural Open University Foundation’s policy not to discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, or physical impairment. The Committee is also committed to a learner community which reflects geographic diversity and diversity of fields of expertise.


The Admissions Committee has determined that a quorum of voting members of the Committee should be present for policy decisions. However, the Committee will act on applications regardless of whether a quorum is present.

Consequently, it is crucial that all members participate in monthly meetings. If you find that you cannot attend a meeting, it is the responsibility of any member who cannot attend a meeting to inform the Committee Chair before the application packet is sent. (See the deadlines listed on the meeting schedule.)

Note: If an unscheduled circumstance prevents a Committee member from attending a meeting, the member may email her or his votes on applicants with supporting comments to the Admissions Chairperson.


At each meeting the Chair provides the members’ voting order for the consideration of applicants. Committee members vote on each applicant, without discussion, and Committee votes are recorded. After the voting is completed, the Committee discusses those applicants where the votes are not unanimous. In the course of the discussion, Committee members may change their initial votes.

Possible votes are as follows:

ADMIT: The applicant shows strong evidence of both being prepared to undertake Ph.D. work in her/his field of study and of being well-suited to work in a person-centered program. The applicant is prepared to obtain maximum benefit from the Entrance Colloquium.

PEND: The applicant may be a promising candidate but has not provided sufficient information to allow the Committee to make a decision about whether s/he is admissible. The applicant is asked to rewrite parts, or all, of the application by providing an addendum to the original application narrative covering Committee-requested information. Every pended applicant is required to interview (in person or by phone) with a faculty member, selected by the Committee, who explains the Committee’s specific concerns. An applicant may be placed in the “pending” category after the first reading of an application. With submission of the addendum and the second Committee reading of the application, an “admit,” or “deny” decision is made. The applicant can not be re-pended.

DENY: The applicant is not, as far as the Committee can determine, prepared to undertake quality Ph.D. work in a self-directed program at this time. The “deny” letter may suggest that the applicant reapply after receiving a M.S. degree, if the lack of that degree contributed to the deny decision. All denied candidates may reapply after one year.

Note: In some cases the Committee votes to admit an applicant who meets admissions criteria, but who, in Committee’s view, would benefit from special attention at the entry colloquium. The Chair notifies the colloquium convener regarding such applicants and reports on the Committee’s discussion.


The information included in applications and their accompanying narratives is extremely confidential, as are the Committee conversations regarding each applicant. After each Committee meeting, applicant files are to be destroyed, and further elaboration with outside parties is prohibited. Admission members are asked to delete files with the candidate’s materials.


Emphasis on learner centered programs of study, interdisciplinarity and relevance of study to social change, as well as institutional commitment to experimentation in higher education and working with underserved populations, are all criteria utilized in the admissions process.

The Admissions Committee is thorough and exacting in its review of applications. Its task is to assure the appropriate match between the mission, resources, and program of the Intercultural Open University Foundation  Ph.D. Program and the qualifications, motivation and vision for Ph.D. study articulated by the applicants.

Committee Criteria for Assessing Applications

  • Explicit interest expressed in intellectual exploration
  • Evidence of creativity and imagination in application narratives
  • Shows openness to new ideas/new knowledge and commitment to contributing to knowledge
  • Identifies specific field(s) of study
  • Expresses willingness to embrace personal change that comes with new learning
  • Evidence of interdisciplinary work/ideas/interests
  • Cognizant of how proposed Ph.D. program may be related to social change
  • Understands that the internship is concerned with the combining of theory and
  • Practice in a supervised, collegial setting
  • Evidence of capability to design own program
  • Demonstrates writing and conceptualization skills
  • Basic understanding of the doctoral program and how the applicant fits the program
  • Evidence of proficiency of field of study at M.S. level (degree or M.S. equivalency)
  • Record of academic achievement/evidence for intellectual achievement


The Admissions Committee does not normally admit applicants who do not hold a M.S. degree. To be admitted without a M.S. degree, the applicant’s task is to convince the Admissions Committee that the applicant has, essentially, the equivalent of a M.S. degree in the individual’s proposed Ph.D. field of study, or a closely related field. To accomplish this task, the applicant needs to convince the Committee that he or she possess (1) a strong experiential and theoretical background in the proposed doctoral field, and (2) that sufficient information is provided about the proposed field of study to assure the Committee that the applicant can design a Ph.D. program and carry it out with the assistance of the learner’s Ph.D. Committee.

The Admissions Committee makes its judgment about the applicant’s admissibility to the Ph.D. program by carefully considering (1) the written narrative, especially the part which discusses proposed doctoral study plans; (2) the master’s equivalency statement prepared by the applicant and submitted as part of the Ph.D. Program application; (3) college and university transcripts covering prior study; and (4) the applicant’s recommendation letters, with special attention given to commentary regarding the applicant’s preparation and readiness for Ph.D. study. Copies of all supporting and supplementary materials provided by the applicant are shared with the Admissions Committee.

The Committee requests that the following information be provided in applicant statements regarding M.S. equivalency:

FORMAT: Make a separate section entitled “M.S. Equivalency.” 

LEARNING EXPERIENCES: Describe learning experiences beyond the B.A./B.S. degree level that relate to the proposed field of Ph.D. study. Document learning experiences; official transcripts should be forwarded separately.

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: An applicant’s experiences, and written reflections regarding them in the M.S. equivalency statement, provide information about accomplishments and experiential learning. It is appropriate to send photocopies of certificates and/or letters from instructors involved in experiential learning, as well as printed descriptions of the program.

INDEPENDENT LEARNING EXPERIENCES: Describe subjects studied independently, include the titles of books read, participation in workshops, and identify experts who may have discussed independent learning. It is appropriate to include a copy of any papers written to verify independent learning.

WORK EXPERIENCE: Applicants discuss work experience in sections A and B of the admissions narrative, but this section of the M.A. equivalency statement includes the additional specifics of how work has prepared applicants to undertake proposed Ph.D. study. Research experience, in particular, is important to note.

INSTITUTION BUILDING: Applicants who have been a successful and effective innovator in some field should document this achievement. For example, some have started a program or developed an organization. Others have been in the forefront of new developments in various fields. Describe and document leadership activities and accomplishments.

PUBLICATIONS: Applicants who have publications may demonstrate field proficiency at the M.S. degree level. Include relevant information (publisher, date, and place) about books, articles, videos or other multimedia, in the equivalency statement.

Applicants are encouraged to provide any other information the Committee might find valuable in assessing potential for Ph.D. study. M.S. equivalency is judged on a case-by-case basis, with particular attention given to baccalaureate degree study, research experience, and scholarly potential.


Individuals write about their personal histories in a variety of ways. The Committee rarely rejects an application because it considers the autobiographical narrative to be inadequate. Nevertheless, some applicants are placed in the “pend” category partly because their autobiographical section of the narrative is too brief and does not inform Committee members about the applicant’s personal history. An example is the submission of an applicant’s resume, or curriculum vita, with no accompanying narrative.

A second part of the admissions narrative is focused on the applicant’s current professional, personal, and work related activities. The Committee reviews this material to determine if the applicant is actively engaged in experiential learning and if there are resources at hand that might assist in developing and executing a Ph.D. program.

The final part of the admissions narrative addresses the proposed field of study, proposes methods of achieving field proficiency, and describes an internship that combines theory and practice, with special attention given to the proposed PDE to assure that, regardless of its final form, the PDE includes the provision for Ph.D. level research. The Committee expects references to scholarly works in applicant’s proposed fields of study and PDEs. 

The Admissions Committee does not insist on an explicit interdisciplinary statement in applications; however, it does assess each application in terms of supporting interdisciplinary study. Applicants who propose programs in fields of study not covered by present Ph.D. faculty resources are denied admission.

College and university transcripts covering all prior academic work are included in Ph.D. applications. These are reviewed along with the two letters of reference that accompany applications. At least one of the letters must be from an individual holding a Ph.D. degree. When applicants submit supporting documentation, such as scholarly papers, multimedia products, and other documents, they are shared with Committee members.

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