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Cultural Foundations - M.A., M.Ed. and Ph.D. PDFDownload to print

College of Education, Health and Human Services

School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration

300 White Hall
Tel: 330-672-2012


The field of cultural foundations of education understands education to be a broad and complex undertaking. Our program brings the foundational disciplines of philosophy, history, sociology and anthropology together with various established and emergent fields of study to bear on the study of education at all levels, in multiple locations, both within and beyond formal schooling. Our students explore education from normative, interpretive and critical perspectives with a view to discerning the transformative potential of education in contexts characterized by unequal access to both the political process and educational institutions.

Our faculty specializes in the normative and critical dimensions of education, including the challenges of marginalization and inequality, girls' and women's empowerment in relation to schooling, contemporary school reform, religious pluralism in public and parochial settings, and place-based education in the rural U.S. We also explore issues of identity formation and transformation in relation to education, with a particular focus on narratives of academic success among African-American students, religious identity formation and transformation in pluralistic contexts, and teacher identity and agency.

While many of our students are drawn to our program because of the particular expertise of faculty, we also attract students with academic foci that do not mirror our faculty expertise but appreciate the field's ability to cross disciplinary boundaries and wrap around our students' individual interests.

Most of our students are already engaged in satisfying work and plan to use their advanced degree in the Cultural Foundations to open up new opportunities for themselves within their current setting or to move their organizations and institutions in new directions. Others see an advanced degree in the Cultural Foundations as a way of opening up new avenues in their professional lives while contributing also to their communities. In short, our students seek to bring a scholarly orientation to their educational, activist and entrepreneurial endeavors.

Graduates of the Master of Arts program will have the knowledge and skills to critique and interpret educational theories, programs and practices and to promote innovation in education in a range of settings and social contexts. The M.A. program has a thesis component which is tailored to individual research interests.

Graduates of the Master of Education program will have the knowledge and skills to critique and interpret policy and practice and to promote innovative practices in educational settings.

Graduates of the Ph.D. program will have the knowledge, critical understandings and interpretive skills to analyze and assess educational policies, theories and practice and to lead and promote innovation in education in a range of settings and social contexts.

Recent Master's and Doctoral graduates have enjoyed success in positions in foundations and think-tanks, non-governmental organizations, public and government agencies, K-12 school systems and higher education, both nationally and internationally.

Admission Requirements

The Cultural Foundations program will assess its applicants holistically, considering academic credentials, related professional experience, academic or professional references, scholarly activities, and professional activities, among others. Requirements: official transcript(s), statement of purpose and two letters of recommendation. Admission into the Ph.D. also requires an earned master's degree from an accredited institution, recommended graduate GPA of 3.50, GRE with recommended scores at the 50th percentile or higher, resume or vita and an interview.

For more information about graduate admission, please visit the Graduate Studies website.

Graduation Requirements

M.A. and M.Ed.: The degree requires a minimum of 30 semester hours of graduate coursework including at least 16 semester hours at the 60000 level or above. At least 18 credit hours must be in the major. M.A. and M.Ed. students have six years from the term of first enrollment to complete the program. M.A. requires 6 credits of thesis.

Ph.D.: After admission to the Ph.D. degree program, students plan a program of study with their respective faculty advisory committee headed by their advisor. A midpoint formative review presentation and comprehensive exam are required (see faculty advisor for details).

Program Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the M.A. and M.Ed. programs will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the social, cultural, economic, and political assumptions shaping educational policies and reforms in the U. S. and other societies.
  2. Understand the nature of the democratic challenge for schooling in answering such foundational questions as:  "What should be taught?", "Who should be taught?", and "Who should teach?"
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the convergence of social class, race, gender, and disability as barriers to and opportunities for educational change.

Graduates of the Ph.D. program will be able to:

  1. Analyze the social, cultural, economic and political conditions that shape education in domestic and international contexts. 
  2. Analyze pressing social issues related to education from a foundational point of view. 
  3. Critically engage a range of theoretical approaches to understanding education. 
  4. Examine dynamics of social differentiation, power and injustice related to education in and out of school.
  5. Theorize education’s contribution to social justice.  
  6. Develop facility with the range of social science and humanities-oriented research methods and modes of analysis in the field of social foundations of education.  
  7. Conduct independent research resulting in an original contribution to knowledge in the field of cultural foundations of education. 
  8. Bring foundational research to bear on the intellectual and organizational aspects of their professions, schools, and communities.
Thesis/ Dissertation

M.A.: Six hours of Thesis I are required.