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Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG)

Global events have fueled a growing demand for social scientists with truly global perspectives on government, corporate and non-profit sectors. Globalization has restructured our society, resulting in a need to redefine and redirect governance strategies in areas like the workplace, the neighborhood, municipal or state government, nation-states or non-governmental organizations. Likewise, problems of urbanization, democratization, and non-sustainable practices in land and resource use have not been resolved and there is impetus to transform domestic and global trends toward more sustainable economic development, environmental protection, and social equity.

The doctoral program in Planning, Governance & Globalization (PGG) takes a multidisciplinary approach to pursuing these areas of inquiry, utilizing two tracks rooted in different disciplines: Urban & Environmental Design & Planning (PGG-UEDP) supported by faculty in Urban Affairs & Planning (UAP) and Governance & Globalization (PGG-GG) supported by faculty in Government & International Affairs (GIA). Applicants to the program should have master’s degrees in closely allied fields, such as Planning, Political Science, Sociology, International Relations, Geography and Economics among others.


Governance & Globalization track, supported by faculty in Governance and International Affairs (GG):

  • Governance, Institutions & Civil Society
  • Globalization, Identities, Security, & Economies

Urban & Environmental Design & Planning track, supported by faculty in Urban Affairs and Planning (UEDP):

  • Metropolitan Development
  • Community & Economic Development Planning
  • International Development Planning
  • Environmental Planning & Sustainability
  • Landscape Planning & Analysis
  • Transportation Planning
  • Physical Planning & Urban Design

PGG welcomes full- and part-time students to either track at both the Blacksburg and the Washington, D.C. campuses.

Test Drive this Degree

Are you uncertain about enrolling in this program but would be interested in trying a class?

Many of our doctoral students, especially part-time students who are working professionals in the Washington, D.C. area, start the PGG program as a non-degree Commonwealth Campus student.

Commonwealth Campus status is open to an applicant who holds an earned bachelors or higher degree from a regionally accredited U.S. university. Examples of students who seek admission into the Commonwealth Campus program include those who may qualify for regular admission but do not currently wish apply immediately for a graduate degree or need to update their academic credentials after several years of professional experience.

If students perform well in the courses they take, they can build a case for admission into the PGG degree. Students can take up to twelve credit hours (typically four classes) as a non-degree Commonwealth Campus student.

PGG has established a highly selective Ph.D. program drawing students in the 60th percentile or higher of peer institutions based on GRE scores, GPA, and other measures. Applicants should have master’s degrees in closely allied fields, such as Planning, Landscape Architecture, Political Science, Sociology, International Relations, Geography, and Economics, among others.  Applicants without a conferred master’s degree will be directed to apply for one of our master’s degree programs.

Admission to PGG program is based on a combination of four criteria:

  • Performance in Master’s program/Academic Transcript
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose/interest in program
  • Professional background and experience

The PGG degree has a ‘rolling admissions’ policy. Application deadlines are in the table below.

A limited number of Graduate Teaching Assistantships are available each year. Students wishing to be considered for one of these assistantships should apply by February 1st.

Students can be admitted to the PGG degree program in the Fall, Spring, and Summer. However, it is recommended that students enter in the Fall or Spring semesters as our foundational courses are taught face to face during the Fall and Spring semesters

The graduate admissions committee will carefully screen all applications, and all admissions decisions will be made by consensus of the faculty. At least one faculty member from this program must agree to supervise any applicant whose record meets admissions requirements before they will receive a formal offer of admission. All incoming students will be assigned a “provisional” advisor who will work with the student until the student establishes a formal advisory committee of four members.

Information about the tracks and their thematic areas, process for transfer courses, and more, can be found in the current PGG Handbook.


Students apply online through the Graduate School website. If applying online is not an option for you, you may request paper application materials through their site as well.

What to Prepare

  1. Prospective student need to prepare a statement of interest, detailing their proposed area of research, their professional background and experience (if applicable) and their interest in pursuing a doctorate at Virginia Tech. They should include a professional resume.
  2. Academic Transcripts – Master’s and undergraduate
  3. Three letters of recommendation from a mix of former professors and others who have had the opportunity to observe the applicant in an academic and professional capacity.
    1. Report of the TOEFL test (if applicable); Virginia Tech’s code is #005859. The Graduate School requires official test scores sent directly from ETS.
    2. Because we require that students have an awarded master’s degree before beginning their studies in PGG, we do NOT require GRE scores.
    3. Transcripts: see more important information about providing transcripts on the Graduate School’s application site.While completing your online application and prior to submitting it, you will be required to upload one copy of your scanned official transcript from each institution from which you have earned or will earn an undergraduate or graduate degree. Do not send transcripts for community college attendance or from any institution where you enrolled in classes but did not earn a degree.Please do not mail your official transcripts to us until you have received an offer of admission from Virginia Tech. Please note that non-legible scans will not be accepted. Make sure your scanned documents are legible before uploading, as non-legible documents will result in processing delays.You may scan a copy of your official paper or electronic transcript provided to you from your institution’s Registrar. Do NOT upload your institution’s web-based academic record or a document stating it is not an official transcript. Make sure that all critical and identifying marks have been scanned and are legible.
    4. Three letters of recommendation (these may also be submitted online).
    5. Resume and Personal Statement (see below for items to include in the statement).

Whether you’re applying to the Blacksburg or the Arlington campus, please direct any questions you have to:

Kelly Crist
Manager of SPIA Faculty and Student Affairs
Planning, Governance, and Globalization Ph.D. Program
School of Public and International Affairs (0113)
140 Otey Street SW / Room 110
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
telephone: 540-231-2291

You may also direct questions to the Graduate School:

Graduate School
Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown (0325)
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Graduate School – Graduate School admissions, application, and other information.

Applicants may use the space provided in the online application for their resume and personal statement. The online application form will ask you to state your reasons for pursuing a graduate degree; this section may be used as the personal statement.


Items to include in your statement:

  1. Indicate which track (UEDP or GG) and the theme within the track you are interested in pursuing. Information about the tracks and themes can be found in the PGG Handbook.
  2. Include a brief research proposal.
  3. Identify faculty you would like to serve as your major professor and why.


Students applying to the PGG program should meet the following academic standards:

  1. A “B” overall grade point average (3.1 on a 4 point scale)
  2. TOEFL: minimums internet-based: 100; computer-based: 250; paper-based: 600.
    IELTS: minimum 6.5
    (Neither TOEFL nor IELTS is required of US permanent residents or US naturalized citizens; can be waived by the Graduate School if student attended a university where English is the language of instruction.)


The PGG Admissions Committee begins reviewing applications in early February, so students who wish to be considered for graduate assistantships should have a complete application submitted by February 1 for the upcoming fall term. Graduate Assistantship decisions are made by the end of March.

The following application and decision deadlines have been established for the upcoming entry terms:

Deadlines for each entry term Fall* Spring Summer I Summer II
Domestic Applicants apply by August 1 December 1 May 1 June 1
Department decision by August 15 January 15 May 15 June 15
International Applicants apply by April 1 September 1 January 1 February 1
Department Decision by May 10 October 10 February 15 March 15

*Students seeking departmental funding should submit all required admissions materials by February 1st for full consideration. Funding decisions are generally made by the end of March. We will continue to welcome applications after this date on a rolling basis and these applicants will be considered for any funding that may still be available after the first round of decisions.

* Please also see the Graduate School’s site for other available funding.

International Students

Please allow plenty of time for the review of your application based on deadlines above. Any decisions made after these time frames need to be approved in advance and on a case-by-case basis, by the Graduate School’s International Graduate Student Services staff.
The contact email for those applying to the Blacksburg campus is
The contact email for those applying to the Arlington campus is

Evidence of English Proficiency: International applicants are exempt from demonstrating English proficiency if they have graduated from an accredited university where English is the language of instruction or if they are U.S. permanent residents (“green card” holders).

International applicants may demonstrate English proficiency by submitting scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) using the minimums listed under Academic Standards above.

International students in F-1 or J-1 status who obtained admission into a degree program are eligible for consideration by the academic departments for assistantships and in-state tuition scholarships.


All information can be found in the current student handbook. All forms must be submitted to Colleen Malley for processing.

Forms internal to PGG are below.  Other forms may be found on the Graduate School‘s website.

Suggested Milestone Timeline

Here is a suggested timeline of the major milestones that can also be found on page 9 of the handbook. Milestones are touched on briefly on pages 7-8 and in-depth descriptions begin on page 26 of the handbook.

Sample Plan of Study

Submit your plan of study with signature page (see next item immediately following) to Colleen Malley once complete.
Information about the plan can be found in the handbook beginning on page 16 and the sample plan is on pages 19 and 20.
Students create their plans based on the sample.
Courses listed on the plan should match those on your transcript*:
* be sure you list the correct term on the plan as well as the correct department and course number (be careful of cross-listed courses).
Note: if you don’t have items for a particular section you don’t need to include that section on your plan.

Plan of Study Signature Page

Signature page must be submitted with your plan. You can create your signature page when creating your Plan of Study or print this form.

PGG Exam Outcome Report Form

Use this form to record the results of each of your milestone exams (Qualifying Exam, Written Preliminary Exam, Oral Preliminary Exam, Proposal Defense, Final Exam).

The PGG doctoral program is a spin-off from the Environmental Design and Planning (EDP) Ph.D. Program in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Initiated in 1975, the EDP program has grown not only in enrollment but also in specializations or streams as the College has become more diverse through restructuring. Effective spring 2007, EDP spun off two separate Ph.D. degrees, Planning, Governance & Globalization (PGG) in the School of Public & International Affairs and Architecture Design Research (ADR) in the School of Architecture + Design.



Kelly Crist
Manager, Faculty and Student Affairs

Ariel Ahram
GG-track Director

Todd Schenk
UEDP-track Director


140 Otey St.
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Mail Code 0113

Washington D.C.
900 N. Glebe Rd., 6th Floor, VTRC
Arlington, VA 22203