May 17, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Management of Complex Systems, Ph.D.

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Program Description
Contact: John Abatzoglou, MIST Graduate Group Chair,

The Management of Complex Systems (MCS) program is designed to educate a new generation of management scholars with depth in analytical methods and a focus on complexity as the driving force behind issues in management of human-technology systems and in management of coupled human-natural systems. The program draws upon the multidisciplinary composition of MIST faculty and the interdisciplinary spirit of UC Merced to deliver a distinctive educational experience – one that provides students the flexibility to cross-breed coursework and mentorship with other domains of engineering, science, and social science. Likewise, the program does not require prospective students to have any particular undergraduate degree.

Courses are directly taught by MIST core faculty who have expertise in various facets of adaptive management of complex coupled human and natural systems, including for-profit and not-for-profit organizations and public and private enterprises. As such, coursework and thesis projects are aimed at developing management skills tailored for  ‘wicked problems’–those of indeterminate scale and scope requiring interdisciplinary collaboration–that that are so often encountered in complex adaptive systems. Both the sources and solutions to the grand challenges of the 21st century are at the intersection of people, organizations, information, technology, and the natural world. By focusing on this nexus, this program will prepare our students with a valuable skillset for working with other scholars, practitioners, and policy makers in order to address challenges of monitoring, analysis, modeling, entrepreneurship, adaptive management and change leadership that managers and leaders are faced with across a diverse array of public and private organizations.

Prospective applicants must hold the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree from a four-year accredited college or university.

Ph.D. Program Requirements

Ph.D. students holding an appropriate master’s degree must:

  • Complete 28 units of course requirements, i.e., a two-semester foundations program (MIST 252  and 253), the MIST 251  seminar during the four semesters in residence, 16 units of graduate-level courses, of which at least two courses must be in research methods. Courses from other Ph.D. programs can be substituted for MIST Methods and Electives courses with approval of a student’s faculty advisor and the Graduate Group Chair.  
  • Complete first- and second-year research projects
  • Complete a technical seminar
  • Pass the integrative review paper
  • Pass the Ph.D. candidacy exam
  • Successfully defend the dissertation 

Ph.D. students without an appropriate master’s degree must also complete the equivalent of the coursework requirements for the Management of Complex Systems, M.S.   degree, i.e., complete a minimum of 24 units of courses at the upper division and graduate levels with a letter grade of B or better, with at least 20 units of graded graduate (200-level) courses in the major subject.

To apply for the Ph.D. in Management of Complex Systems, applicants must follow the application procedure of the UC Merced Graduate Division.

Ph.D. Program Learning Outcomes

The goal is for the students to master cross-disciplinary management concepts and their application in a range of real-world problems, providing a solid basis for future academic and industry positions. There are five Program Learning Outcomes:

  1. Foundations. Students will apply disciplinary concepts and theories for framing and defining research questions and plans from business, management, economics, sociology, psychology, cognitive science, environmental science and engineering.
  2. Methods. Students will be able to apply contemporary social science and scientific methods needed to conduct rigorous research in their area of specialization.
  3. Communication. Students will communicate effectively to experts and non-experts, in professional (scientific and management) and community settings, preparing and delivering oral and written presentations using appropriate technologies.
  4. Research Practice and Independence. Students will be able to initiate and conduct independent research (e.g. review of literature, development of a research question and methodology, analysis, discussion, and conclusion) that makes an original contribution to knowledge, and which may be published in a peer reviewed outlet.
  5. Research ethics and societal context. Students will demonstrate familiarity with all aspects of research ethics and the societal context of their work.

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