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The Doctor of Education in Leadership Studies

The Dwight Schar College of Education

Ashland’s doctoral degree in Leadership Studies combines theory and practice with individual mentoring and applied research. The degree program is designed for working professionals with present or emerging leadership responsibilities within a range of professional settings, including education, health care, social services, church, government, law enforcement, non-profit organizations, business, and international agencies.

The Doctor of Education in Leadership studies is offered in both a Traditional and Executive format.

The Traditional Ed.D in Leadership Studies combines theory and practice with individual mentoring and applied research to train a new generation of reflective, ethical, and effective leaders in PK-12 schools, higher education, government, industry, and human service organizations. The Traditional Ed.D. Program is offered on Ashland University campus in Ashland. Class meetings are usually held on Wednesday evenings only.

The Executive Ed.D. in Leadership Studies is an interdisciplinary doctoral degree for working professionals and practitioners who would like to complete their doctorate within a condensed timeframe.  Through an executive delivery format, students can complete their doctorate within 2 years.  The Executive Ed.D. Program is designed to meet the needs of mid- to senior-level professionals who wish to extend their knowledge and expand their career opportunities. The Executive Ed.D. Program is offered at the Columbus Center. Courses are offered two weekends per month for the face-to-face component.

Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies (Ed.D) Admissions Requirements

The admission procedures for the Doctor of Education degree are designed to recruit the highest quality professional persons, representative of a culturally diverse population. A comprehensive system, including both qualitative and quantitative measures, will be used to assess personal characteristics, academic skills, communications, and leadership. Acceptance into the doctoral program is by cohort and is based upon a competitive evaluation of applications.

The Doctoral Admission and Retention Committee reviews the credentials of each candidate. Finalists who qualify will be invited for a Zoom video interview with members of the Admission and Retention Committee.

Application Options

All cohorts (Traditional and Executive) begin in May of each year; however, prospective students can apply when it is most convenient. Students are admitted on a rolling basis and may begin work on their cognate area coursework before beginning the core courses.

Admission Requirements

The Doctoral Admission and Retention Committee will review the credentials of each candidate. Applicants for the Doctor of Education degree must:

  • Possess a master's degree from an accredited institution;

  • Have a cumulative post-baccalaureate grade point average of at least 3.3 on a 4.0 scale;

  • Submit an online application containing the admissions portfolio items and application fee to the Graduate School.

The admissions portfolio for each candidate consists of six items:

  1. Two letters of recommendation, one from a person familiar with the applicant's academic ability and one which will describe professional performance citing specific examples of leadership ability;

  2. An approximately two-to-three page personal statement describing your past successful administrative experience and/or documented evidence of leadership activities, your career goals and reasons for wishing to undertake a doctoral program of study. Some examples of leadership competencies include:

    - peer leadership roles/positions

    - leadership in writing curriculum

    - leadership – supervising instruction

    - specific administrative assignments/positions/ committees/chair role

    - leadership in professional organizations

    - grant writing

    - program administration and/or administration of extracurricular programs

  3. A complete resume/CV which includes work experience, educational background, professional experience, professional activities, honors, professional publications or presentations, and other relevant information relating to the applicant's leadership background;

  4. Official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate study;

  5. A sample of writing ability approximately five pages in length;

  6. International Students must meet the following English Proficiency Entry Requirements:











The admissions interview for each chosen candidate consists of two items:

  1. A 30-minute online interview with the Leadership Studies doctoral program faculty.

  2. A timed writing sample wherein applicants are given one hour to compose a response, in writing, to a brief, general prompt related to leadership.

Admission Decisions

Decisions regarding the applicant’s admission to the doctoral program are usually made within a couple of weeks and on a rolling basis.

Schedule Changes

Students need to register for Doctoral classes at least one week prior to the beginning of the term. No registrations will be accepted after the first class meeting without the consent of the Director of the Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies.

GPA Requirement for Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Program

In order to remain in good standing and to graduate from the Ed.D. program, a student must demonstrate satisfactory progress toward completion of the degree. Students must be enrolled every semester from beginning the program through graduation and must maintain a 3.5 GPA in the Leadership Studies Program Core courses and an overall 3.2 GPA in all course work completed. If a student’s GPA falls below these minimums, the student will be placed on academic probation for two consecutive semesters. The student and the advisor will immediately meet and write a plan that delineates the expectations for the student’s improvement. This plan will be signed by the student, the advisor and the department chair. A copy of the plan will be placed in the student’s file. After two consecutive semesters, if the student has not improved as defined in the plan, the advisor and director, in consultation with the Doctoral Admission and Retention Committee, may determine that the student should not be allowed to continue in the program.

Transfer of Credit 

Upon admittance to the doctoral program, a student’s transcripts are evaluated on an individual basis. Up to fifteen semester credits from a recognized accredited institution may be accepted for post-master’s level courses not used toward another degree, but only in the cognate area and for courses taken within seven years of admission to the program.

Mentorship (Traditional Program Only)

The doctoral mentorship experience is a logical step in Ashland University’s commitment to enhance the relevance of leadership preparation programs by orienting the curriculum more explicitly toward problems of practice. Ashland’s philosophy at all levels of the study of leadership and administration emphasizes organizing subject matter around programs rather than presenting information in unconnected course segments. Learning is focused on an actual problem the student faces as an organizational leader. The various facets and dimensions involved in coming to understand the problem, identifying appropriate alternatives, and discovering solutions, require students draw upon the knowledge bases included in courses that form the leadership core of the doctoral curriculum. Thus, theory, research, and practice are united in an experience generated from the point of view of the professional practitioner. Collective problem solving is emphasized rather than competition for grades. Part of the uniqueness of Ashland’s doctoral mentorship is that through this approach, the program provides a viable mechanism for linking full-time clinical experiences with academic work.

Doctoral faculty advisors assume responsibility for assisting, advising, and guiding students as field-based problems are addressed. Coaching and observing at the work site are central to this concept.

Mentorship Plan (Traditional Program Only)

Doctoral students have the responsibility of developing a plan which will define the mentorship experience. The plan will describe an in-depth organizational action research project in which the student will be engaged.

Upon completion of the Mentorship course, the doctoral student will prepare his/her findings in a report and/or formal presentation to his/her employers, organizational personnel, interested doctoral and other graduate students, and the Doctoral Program Executive Committee.

The Leadership Examination (Traditional Program Only)

As the mentorship experience draws to a close and following completion of the Leadership Core courses, doctoral students prepare for the Leadership Examination. This examination conducted by the student’s program committee seeks to link the Leadership Core courses from the program with the actual on-site research and experience from the mentorship component. The Leadership Examination includes an assessment of the doctoral student’s knowledge of leadership and organizational skills, as well as the ability to integrate theory, research, and practice, both orally and in written form.

The Comprehensive Examination

Students are required to complete successfully a comprehensive written examination covering all course work. The examination is taken at the conclusion of the students’ individualized course of study. The examination is constructed, administered, and assessed by the student’s comprehensive examination committee.

The student discusses the components of the Comprehensive Examination in greater detail with the examination committee. This oral portion of the examination concentrates on areas of perceived weaknesses and strengths. A student who satisfactorily completes the examination is approved to move on to the dissertation project.

Doctoral Candidacy Status

A doctoral student reaches the stage of Candidacy or “All But Dissertation” (ABD) when they have: completed the residency requirement, completed the mentorship component of the program, passed the Leadership and Comprehensive Examination, and have an approved dissertation topic and proposal for completing the dissertation research.

The Dissertation

The purpose of the dissertation is to assure that the student will be capable of engaging in scholarly research and inquiry for the purpose of improving the practice of leadership. The dissertation is a comprehensive study incorporating several components of the doctoral program that demonstrates the application of knowledge in an organizational setting in such a way that other professionals can benefit from the project. A successful dissertation demonstrates the utilization of skills and knowledge from the candidate’s individualized program to address a specific problem. It also demonstrates the candidate’s knowledge of research design and the ability to interpret findings orally, in writing, and in application.

Program of Study

The formal course work supporting the tenets and goals of the Ed.D. program is organized around the components of an Organizational Leadership Core, Research Core, and a Cognate area of study selected by the student designed to complement the major area of leadership studies and, at the same time, satisfy the individual needs of the student.

Doctoral Program Coursework

A total of fifty-nine (59) semester hours beyond the master's degree are required for the doctoral degree. The areas in which course work must be completed are as follows:


*Leadership Core

*Research Core

*Cognate Area


Organizational Leadership

The Organizational Leadership Core focuses on the role of a leader as a professional in the human organization. Emphasis is placed on the importance of organizational culture and the development of support for a shared institutional vision among professionals.

Research Core

The Research Core consists of four courses, the mentorship project and self-directed dissertation research. Through doctoral coursework, students will recognize the importance of research and measurement and appreciate their function as underlying threads which connect all facets of the doctoral experience. The mentorship (Traditional Cohorts Only) course provides the opportunity to identify a problem in the actual practice, implement a solution and evaluate information collected from the study. The interpretation and evaluation of literature, both quantitative and qualitative in methodology, in the field of leadership studies are inherent in all coursework as well as essential to the completion of the dissertation requirement.

Cognate Area

The cognate is an individualized specialty area of study encompassing the student's interests and needs, yet related to the major area of study, Organizational Leadership. All students are required to complete a cognate area of study consisting of a minimum of fifteen (15) semester hours. Cognates are unique to each student based on area of interest and potential research agenda.

Previous cognates have included areas such as, but not limited to:

*Adult Education

*Business Management



*Gifted and Talented Education

*Higher Education Leadership/Administration

*Professional Development

*School Building Administration



As one option, courses applied to licensure in educational leadership may be taken as part of the cognate. The educational leadership licensure programs are described in this catalog within the section Master of Education (M.Ed.). Doctoral students must meet with their advisor to formulate the cognate portion of their program and to sign a program of study agreement.

Traditional Ed.D.


Course Number and Title



Leadership Core Coursework (15 hours):



*EDLS 9889 Organizational Development

3 hours


*EDLS 9881 Organizational Behavior

3 hours


*EDLS 9860 Institutional Effectiveness

3 hours


*EDLS 9880 Leadership Theory

3 hours


*EDLS 9887 Institutional Policy & Leadership

3 hours


Research Core Coursework: (19 hours):



*EDLS 9819 Becoming a Researcher

3 hours


*EDLS 9820 Quantitative Research Design

3 hours


*EDLS 9821 Qualitative Inquiry

3 hours


*EDLS 9823 Dissertation Proposal Development Seminar

3 hours


*EDLS 9829 Leadership Research

3 hours


*EDLS 9830 Mentorship Project

4 hours


*EDLS 9899 Dissertation

10 hours min.



15 hours


Total Hours

59 hours


Executive Ed.D.


Course Number and Title



Leadership Core (18 hours):



EDLS 9880 Leadership Theory

3 hours


EDLS 9889 Organizational Development

3 hours


EDLS 9881 Organizational Behavior

3 hours


EDLS 9860 Institutional Effectiveness

3 hours


EDLS 9847 Change Process & Professional Development

3 hours


EDLS 9887 Institutional Policy & Leadership

3 hours


Research Core Coursework (16 hours):



EDLS 9819 Becoming a Researcher

3 hours


EDLS 9821 Qualitative Inquiry

3 hours


EDLS 9820 Quantitative Research Design

3 hours


EDLS 9823 Dissertation Proposal Development Seminar

3 hours


EDLS 9825 Seminar in Leadership Research

1 hour


EDLS 9826 Seminar in Leadership Research

1 hour


EDLS 9827 Seminar in Leadership Research

1 hour


EDLS 9828 Seminar in Leadership Research

1 hour


EDLS 9899 Dissertation

10 hours min.



15 hours


Total Hours

59 hours


Degree Completion Time Limits

Doctoral students have seven (7) years to complete the doctoral degree. The seven years begins with the first core course that is taken. Depending upon special circumstances, a student may petition for an extension of up to two years provided all requirements of the degree except approval of the dissertation have been met. Students may submit an appeal in writing, stating the reasons for the request, as well as a timeline for completion of any requirements for the degree still to be met. The email should be forwarded to the Director of the Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies.

Courses and Descriptions

See EDLS Courses