HDFS Curriculum

During a typical semester, most full-time graduate students who are also employed as a TA, PA, or RA take three courses, for three credits each, for a semester total of nine credits (according to SoHE policy, 8 credits are the minimum if you hold an appointment through SoHE or HDFS).

Selecting and Registering for Classes

Students register for courses using the Course Search and Enroll app in MyUW. We strongly recommend that you communicate with your advisor before registering. Using your check sheet and the course search available through MyUW, you and your advisor can plan a course schedule for your first semester, and begin to plan for the future.

Although many graduate-level classes do not fill early, registering early is very important. Your registration is what establishes your continuance in the program and it is essential for such things as loan deferment, immigration, disbursement of scholarship awards, assistantship eligibility, and so on.

Prescribed coursework for the first few semesters: There are several courses that are typically prescribed or recommended within the first few semesters. This course progression is summarized in the table below. Additional coursework (to reach full-time status) should be selected in consultation with your advisor, consistent with your individual goals and guided by the degree checklist.

Semester Prescribed coursework
Fall, Year 1 Inter-HE 792 Theories and Perspectives in Human Ecology (2 credits)

Inter-HE 801 Professional Development Seminar (1 credit)

HDFS Core Course* (Even Years: HDFS 761 – Human Development I (Childhood and the Family); Odd Years: HDFS 763 – Human Development II (Aging and the Family))

Spring, Year 1 HDFS Core Course*: HDFS 865 Family Theories
Fall, Year 2 Inter-HE 793 Introduction to Research Methods*

HDFS Core Course* (Even Years: HDFS 761 – Human Development I (Childhood and the Family); Odd Years: HDFS 763 – Human Development II (Aging and the Family)

Spring, Year 2 and beyond Additional coursework towards completion of the degree checklist

*students who have completed a similar course at the graduate level, see below for course substitution instructions and considerations

Registering as a New Student

Graduate students new to UW-Madison will register for Fall Semester in early July. Once you have informed the UW of your intent to enroll, the Graduate School will send you an ID number and information on how to register.

Registering for Independent Study or Research & Thesis Credits: Before you may register for Independent Study (HDFS 699 and 999) and Research & Thesis (HDFS 990) you must obtain the instructor’s permission, and this must be entered into the UW computer system by the SoHE Graduate Program Coordinator. To enroll, give the instructor your name and UW student ID number, and they will see that you are authorized to go online and register. If you have problems getting into a course, call or email the department or the instructor of the course. Be sure to note any error code that you receive while trying to register.

Summer Courses

Any student who has a PA or TA during the previous academic year may take summer classes without paying tuition. Registration for summer courses, including Independent Study (699/999) or Research & Thesis (990), is encouraged. Indeed, if you expect to do any work with your advisor over the summer, course registration should reflect this work commitment.

HDFS Degree Checklists

The HDFS Checklist (MS/PhD or PhD) is your “snapshot” guide to the requirements in the department. It specifies the credits and courses you need to complete degree requirements. You may also access on the “Forms and Documents” page of the HDFS website.

Your checklist is your guide, your worksheet, and ultimately a departmental record. Your completed and signed Checklist becomes an official record documenting your completion of departmental and Graduate School requirements. A 3-person faculty committee (your Master’s or Prelim committee) reviews your coursework and signs the Checklist indicating that you have completed the necessary coursework and are ready for the next hurdle—in the case of the MS student you are ready to defend your thesis and in the case of the PhD student you are ready to start work on preparing for your preliminary exam. Checklists must be completed, signed and placed on file with the department in order for the SoHE Graduate Program Coordinator to order the “warrant” that is necessary for the defense of a masters’ thesis, dissertation, or prelim.

It is recommended that your committee meet to discuss the Checklist and “sign off” during a face-to- face meeting. In the case of the MS student, the thesis proposal meeting is often a convenient time to do this; in the case of the PhD student, it is often done at the time of the initial organizational meeting to discuss the parameters of your Preliminary Exam (see below). However, it is highly recommended that your committee meet prior to these customary “final hour” time periods to discuss your coursework and plans, and this is particularly important if you or your advisor have any questions or concerns about the potential acceptability of the courses you plan to take or use on your Checklist. Any substitutions to the requirements as specified on the Checklist require approval (see below).

Course Substitutions

In certain circumstances, a student can request that a similar course they have taken (or want to take) be substituted for a required course using the “Course Substitution Form”. The student’s committee (Master’s or Prelim), or in the event a committee is not yet formed, the student’s advisor and 2 members of GPC, will review the substitute course and determine whether the substitution is approved. The committee (or student) may also request input from other HDFS faculty—for example, the faculty member who teaches the required course, a faculty member who has expertise on statistics courses in other departments, or the Chair of GPC who may have experience with other requests.

A syllabus may be requested to accompany the form. If a course from another University is being substituted, documentation that the student took the course (a transcript) must be in the student’s file. (Previous coursework is generally part of the student’s application materials, so it is likely that this documentation already exists in the file; if not, it should be included with the form). Approved forms are passed to the GPC Chair, a copy is given to the student, and one goes in the student’s file, maintained by the School’s Graduate Program Coordinator. Only approved course substitutions should appear on the student’s completed Checklist.

Course substitutions can be requested only when a substitute course meets the objectives of the requirement. For example, if you took a graduate-level “family theory” class at another university, it would be appropriate to request a course substitution for the “HDFS 865: Family Theory” requirement. Other courses covering the “family” that do not focus explicitly on theory (e.g., Family Relationships, Families in Context, Stress and the Family, etc.) would not be seen as fulfilling the requirement, nor would theory classes that do not focus on the family (Dynamic Systems Theory, Group Theory, Community Theory, etc.). Similar standards are applied to the Research Methods course and Theories of Human Development course.

No substitutions are possible for the required first year Inter-HE coursework (Inter-HE 792 and 801), since a primary objective of these two courses is professional socialization within our department and SoHE. Similarly, if the Checklist specifies an “HDFS” content course, content courses from other universities or departments can usually not be substituted. The purpose of the content requirement is establishment of your expertise within the HDFS field, thus HDFS courses are generally the only means of meeting this requirement. Any course cross-listed or designated as “meets with” in HDFS automatically counts as an HDFS course and would not require a course substitution form.

Methods and Statistics

A range of courses are suggested on the Checklists for fulfilling methods and statistics requirements, however, the list of “approved” courses at any given point may not be complete as new courses are always being offered. If you find another course on campus similar to those listed, you can request a course substitution and the course will be evaluated for equivalency. This process will allow us to gradually enlarge the list of accepted courses on the Checklist. It is important to request this evaluation and get approval prior to taking the course.

Graduate Courses from other Universities

In general, if you want to use a graduate level course that does not appear on your UW transcript to meet a requirement (elective, minor, stats, methods, etc.) you should complete a course substitution form.

CITI Training

In addition to required courses, all HFDS graduate students are required to complete the online CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) Human Subjects Protection training course by the end of their first semester of graduate studies.


School of Human Ecology Graduate Programs Handbook Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Holland. All Rights Reserved.

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