Specialization in PK-12 Public and Private School Leadership

Ph.D. in Leadership Studies

Department of Leadership Studies

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The need for transformational leadership of public, private and charter schools has never been greater.

School leaders today must navigate the quest for adequate financing, the expectation for effective teaching and student learning, and the need to create equal access to educational opportunities for all students.

The PK-12 Public and Private School Leadership Specialization is designed to tailor our Ph.D. in Leadership Studies to the needs of those poised to create positive change in schools, as well as those who aspire to research and academic careers in educational leadership.



"The SOLES faculty make it their mission to provide doctoral candidates with a curriculum that is not only relevant, but also rooted in real world experience."

- Rich Newman '05

Our doctoral program empowers students to make a difference. Since graduating, Newman has worked on an education leadership initiative with the nationally recognized Wallace Foundation, served as principal of two elementary schools, and is currently Director of Learning Support Services at Poway Unified School District.

Other alumni job titles include:

  • Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum
  • Director of Assessment
  • Executive Director
  • Head of School
  • Principal
  • Professor
  • Superintendent
  • Teacher Education Department Chair

Program Overview

The Ph.D. in Leadership Studies in the Department of Leadership Studies offers students an outstanding foundation in leadership theory and practice, as well as in research methodology. Students also specialize in a particular area of leadership through elective coursework and research.

The PK-12 Public and Private School Specialization encompasses 18 units of coursework to be selected from a wide range of elective courses within SOLES and other divisions such as the School of Business Administration, the School of Law, the School of Peace Studies, and others. Students work closely with their faculty advisers to design a course of study that will serve their personal and professional growth needs. Our nationally recognized faculty are key contributors to cutting-edge research on educational leadership, policy, and practice. Our small class sizes and personal attention are part of SOLES' culture.

Distinguishing Features

  • Personalized faculty advising to tailor course selection to student needs
  • Opportunity for short-term coursework abroad, taught by Leadership Studies faculty
  • Interaction with students in other leadership disciplines, such as organizational leadership, higher education leadership, and nonprofit leadership, for a broader learning experience
  • Skill development in strategic planning, research, and evaluation of school data
  • Engagement with world-class educational leaders through our Spotlight on Education speaker series


In addition to the core leadership and research courses included in the doctoral program of study, students select 18 units of electives, which may include:

Course Number Course Title Graduate Units
LEAD 552 School Law 3
LEAD 573 The Economics of Education 3
LEAD 620 Seminar on the Law and Politics of Educational Policy Development 3
EDUC 511 Educational Reform 3
EDUC 581 Multicultural and Philosophical Foundations of Education 3
LWVL 520* Child Rights and Remedies 3

*School of Law

Students preparing for research careers are advised to take additional upper level research methodology courses.

Other electives may be drawn from SOLES, or coursework in other graduate divisions of USD such as the School of Business, School of Law, and Joan. B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.


The faculty whose primary area of research is in PK-12 Public and Private School Leadership include:

Cordeiro Gelb Hubbard Kemerer
Paula Cordeiro Steven Gelb Lea Hubbard Frank Kemerer

View all doctoral faculty biographies.


For information on how to apply to the Ph.D. in Leadership Studies with a specialization in PK-12 Public and Private School Leadership, visit the main Ph.D. program page.