• Leading the PhD in SHIE in UVM's Department of Education are (from left to right) Drs. Justin Garwood, Shana Haines, Colby Kervick, Bernice Garnett, and Jessica Strolin-Goltzman.


UVM's PhD in SHIE prepares highly trained experts with cutting-edge interdisciplinary methodological skills that address critical issues to enhance educational equity and inclusive education to promote the social, emotional, and behavioral health of children, youth, and adults (birth to age 21) impacted by adversity such as trauma, maltreatment, poverty, racism, and other forms of marginalization. Graduates will be highly skilled in conducting meaningful research and prepare resilient educators and leaders to ensure the social, emotional and behavioral health of future generations.

Drawing on the disciplines, frameworks and research modalities of special education, social work, and public health, doctoral scholars will engage in interdisciplinary collaborations, training, and methodological rigor in advancing equity and inclusive education. Scholars will participate in applied research teams working to develop and test programs and practices in school and community settings. 

Five core faculty members will lead the program, which places intentional emphasis on scholarship and activity and supports collaboration within the cohort and among the core faculty’s professional networks. Scholars will engage in in-person seminars, online learning, and professional conferences that support their success within the program while completing courses and fieldwork that prepares them to conduct rigorous and meaningful research.

Fulfilling a Critical Need

The American Association for Employment in Education indicates the need for specially trained practitioners in special education and social, emotional, and behavioral health exceeds the supply of specialists. The recent pandemic exacerbated longstanding shortages in university faculty with expertise in inclusive education. The overall result is diminished school capacity which challenges the wellbeing of children, youth, and their families that falls disproportionately on students of color and students with disabilities.

Meet Our Internationally Recognized Faculty

Shana Haines

Associate Professor Shana Haines, PhD

Faculty Profile

Dr. Haines' research focuses on improving meaningful family, school, and community collaborations in order to increase well-being and belongingness, especially for historically marginalized students and families.

Justin Garwood

Associate Professor Justin Garwood, PhD

Faculty Profile

Dr. Garwood's research and teaching focuses on students with and at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) across three specific areas: (1) pre-service preparation and teachers use of relationship-based pedagogy, (2) academic interventions, and (3) classroom management.

Bernice Garnett

Green and Gold Professor Bernice Garnett, ScD

Faculty Profile

Dr. Garnett is a public health prevention scientist interested in childhood obesity, bullying, discrimination and harassment, youth health disparities, food access and food security, community based participatory research, school climate and restorative justice.

Jessica Strolin-Goltzman

Professor Jessica Strolin-Goltzman, PhD

Faculty Profile

Dr. Strolin-Goltzman is an implementation scholar focusing on interventions to improve the resilience and social and emotional wellbeing of children, youth, and families across child welfare, mental health, and school settings, with specific expertise in trauma-informed practices.

Colby Kervick

Associate Professor Colby Kervick, EdD

Faculty Profile

Dr. Kervick is deeply committed to preparing future teachers who holistically support the academic and social-emotional needs of children through fostering inclusive, equitable and accessible learning environments.

Application & Admission Information

We welcome applications from professionals in education and related fields (e.g., social work, counseling, mental health) who have experience working with students with disabilities in applied settings. Applicants are strongly encouraged to identify at least one core faculty member as a potential advisor and explain the fit between yourself and the faculty member’s research interests. You are welcome to reach out to Dr. Garwood or Dr. Haines for more information.

Application deadline:  Application reviews begin on December 1st.  The final deadline for submitting an application is February 15, 2024.

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Requirements for Admission and Retention of Students

To be admitted, applicants must have the following:

  • Master’s degree in special education or a related field (e.g., social work, counseling, school psychology);
  • Two years of professional experience (special education teacher, social worker, behavior interventionist or related role);
  • Three letters of recommendation indicating excellence regarding potential for leadership and research;
  • Personal statement with a clear articulation of career goals as special education faculty or related discipline;
  • Writing sample providing evidence of excellent skills in scholarly writing, a commitment to social change and justice for students with SEBH needs, and the potential to conduct independent research.

Selection Process

Core faculty will use a common rating scale to evaluate applicants’ application materials. We will then conduct virtual interviews with top contenders. Applications are due to UVM by February 15 of each year, with notification made by mid-April.

Curricular and Comprehensive Exam Requirements

Curricular Requirements

Doctoral students will:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of practices and research related to culturally responsive family-school-community partnership aimed at supporting educational equity, inclusion, and social-emotional-behavioral health (SEBH).
  • Contribute to active research-practice partnerships and the reciprocal translation of applied, community-engaged research.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and skills in psycho-educational and relationship-based interventions with children and youth with and at risk for emotional-behavioral disorders.
  • Apply knowledge, skills, and methodological expertise to design, implement, evaluate, and disseminate theoretically-informed, applied and evidenced-based school and community practices that promote the SEBH of children and youth.
  • Design and deliver effective education to pre-service and in-service practitioners.

5-Course Core Curriculum:

  • EDSP 7110: Prevention Science Theory: In this class, they will learn about multi-level theories of child development, prevention science, organizational change, equity and social justice, public health and school-based education and prevention. Students will examine major theories of change (development, structural, school/community/contextual change), learn to place these theories in socio-historical contexts, examine efforts in theory integration, and assess the relevance of theories to posing and answering their own research questions and demonstrate application of theoretical models to research design and analysis.
  • EDSP 7150: Critical Issues in SEBH Policy:  The purpose of Critical Issues in SEBH Policy is to explore how interdisciplinary scholars and practitioners act on addressing educational and health disparities for students with social emotional and behavioral health challenges in the K-12 school and community policy arena. This class places a strong emphasis on interpreting and applying special education law with a critical examination of the degree to which special education legal requirements are effective in meeting the needs of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities in public school systems. This course will also engage students in a critical examination of the requirements and practice implications of social work, education and public health policies promoting youth SEBH. Students will also critically examine contemporary policy initiatives designed to improve outcomes for youth with SEBH needs who are currently at risk for school-drop out, incarceration, and underemployment. The course utilizes a race and disability intersectional lens to understand the impact of current policy initiatives on the health and behavioral outcomes for youth. Doctoral students will also investigate the key elements of effective policy development and will explore how practitioners and scholars engage in policy advocacy at local, state, and federal levels to advance equitable outcomes for youth with social emotional and behavioral health needs.
  • EDSP 7210: Family, School, and Community Partnerships for SEBH will build on the theories, policies, and critical issues learned in EDSP 401 and EDSP 402, to emphasize the interdisciplinary research base related to prevention practices that promote SEBH through family, school, and community partnerships. With professor facilitation, students will weave together content knowledge and critically understand the research base of multiple prevention-focused programs and practices in existing family, school, and community collaborations that are aimed at enhancing educational equity and SEBH for children and youth. Students will review a wide range of peer-reviewed articles focused on family, school, and community approaches to fostering SEBH, resulting in a robust understanding of the existing research base as well as the ability to identify gaps and articulate a need to conduct research to fill those gaps.
  • EDSP 7220 Research Practice Partnerships in Action will provide students the opportunity to engage in one of two CESS University research-practice partnerships (RPP; VT DCF/AOE) with community partners to respond to practice-research questions. Students will (a) examine ways RPPs can enhance critically conscious collaborative research, (b) learn research methods for conducting systematic scoping reviews of the literature for publication, and (c) develop applied tools for translating findings to families and practice community. RPPs provide an opportunity to engage in a “critical and racially-conscious approach to collaborative research” where the research questions are community-driven and university-supported, fostering equitable changes in practice. In this course, doctoral students will learn the history and purpose of RPPs in enhancing collaborative community-driven, university-supported research. Through direct collaboration with established UVM CESS RPPs, students will respond to a practice research question by conducting a scoping review and translating the findings into applied tools for families and the practice community. By the end of EDSP 404, doctoral students will have (a) expanded their collaborative professional networks, (b) learned a new method for conducting systematic scoping reviews of the literature, and (c) learned skills for creative translation and presentation of evidence back to RPPs.
  • EDSP 7250: Psycho-Educational Interventions and Single Case Research: Contextual factors and social determinants of health and education, including racism, poverty, trauma, and other adversities, place children and youth (most notably students of color and students with disabilities) at risk for emotional and behavioral difficulties (EBD), which furthers social marginalization and places some students on a pathway into the school to prison pipeline. To begin to address these inequities, this course has two overarching themes. First, the course addresses the psycho-education of children and youth with EBD. Focus is on developing relationship-driven interventions. The crucial foundations of a relationship-driven approach are the individual relationships between the teacher and the child and those among the children and the group or unit relationship. Emphasis is placed on the use of interpersonal relationships as a means of changing children’s behavior. Second, this course will introduce students to the process of analysis utilizing baseline logic and how it applies to single-case design methodology, which is a research design allowing the interventionist to establish a relationship with the student. The course will provide an overview of behavior measurement and recording, and visual analysis and graphing. Several single-case research designs will be discussed, including general characteristics, strengths, and considerations. General issues regarding internal and external validity will be discussed, as well as ethical considerations in research design and implementation.

Comprehensive Exam Requirements

  • Students will complete their comprehensive examination by the end of their third year.
  • After completion of all core courses, students will select 1-2 papers/assignments from one of the core seminars to scale up for publication for a practice and/or research journal.
  • They will submit this paper/these papers as their comprehensive examination submission by a small committee of core faculty members.
  • Students will also present their papers to their committee at an oral research colloquium.
  • Passing the comprehensive examination will be a requirement prior to registering for any dissertation credits.

Application Deadline is February 15

*See Application & Admissions information on this webpage before you submit an application.



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Doctoral Student Support


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Our co-directors would be happy to answer any questions you have about the program.

UVM is recognized as one of the Best Graduate Schools for Education and Social Work by U.S. News and World Report