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Department of Leadership Studies

The Leadership Studies Program offers a PhD program, master’s degree programs, a Preliminary Administrative Services Credential, and a Professional Administrative Services Credential. These credentials have been approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. A certificate program in nonprofit leadership is also offered to undergraduate students enrolled in qualified programs.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program

The University of San Diego’s PhD program in Leadership Studies seeks to educate “practitioner-scholars” to make significant contributions in a variety of organizational settings in higher education, K-12 public/private school leadership, public administration, organizational leadership and consulting, the military and nonprofit organizations, to name a few. The program also educates a number of students preparing to be interdisciplinary scholars of leadership; after graduation, these students may seek professions as university professors or work as policy analysts, evaluators, or consultants.

Exercising leadership effectively requires a framework of interpretation, a set of skills adequate to the task and a commitment to ongoing learning. Often it involves inquiry and critical reflection; it may require a shift in the basic assumptions that regulate and constrain the way we interpret, understand and manage our work and world. The Leadership Studies doctoral program provides conceptual and inquiry tools along with other leadership skills needed to accomplish these tasks. The emphasis is on both academic rigor and real-world relevance. This mix is accomplished through the use of a range of innovative teaching strategies (e.g. problem-based learning techniques, case studies, weekend conferences and other experiential teaching strategies) and context-specific, decision-oriented research projects.

The leadership program is also dedicated to providing a values-based education that fosters personal growth and moral development. It seeks to communicate to its students and the wider public an understanding of leadership that promotes justice and ethical behavior in our institutions, organizations and communities.

The 63-unit program includes six core courses, six electives consistent with the student’s career goals, a minimum of five research courses and credit-generating activities leading to a dissertation. The program is unique by virtue of its interdisciplinary approach, the diversity of the student cohorts, and its strong commitment to developing leaders who have the skills and inclination to make organizations not only effective and efficient, but also ethical and humane.

Program of Study

Upon admission, each student is assigned a program advisor, with whom he or she will develop a program of study. Students are required to complete a minimum of 63 semester-units beyond the master’s degree. Some students may qualify simultaneously for a Preliminary Administrative Services Credential from the state of California.

General Regulations

  1. Academic Performance Requirements
    Doctoral students are required to maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average in their coursework throughout the program.

  2. Maximum Load
    Doctoral students who are employed full-time may not take more than 6 units per semester unless the additional load is approved by the student’s advisor and the department chair. No doctoral student may take more than 12 units per semester without special approval of the student’s advisor, department chair and the associate dean.
  3. Transfer of Credit
    With approval, a student may transfer up to 12 units of appropriate post-master’s graduate coursework taken at an accredited and USD-recognized college or university up to five years prior to the student’s entry into the USD program (See Transfer of Graduate Credit, page 48). A student previously enrolled elsewhere in an accredited doctoral program recognized by USD may appeal to the faculty for the transfer of more than 12 units.
    Transferred credit must be for courses that are consistent with the goals of the Leadership Studies program. Transfer credit will normally not be substituted for either core or research courses. All core courses must be completed at USD.
  4. Advancement to Candidacy Process
    To advance to candidacy, students must complete a two-part process. Part A of this process involves the preparation of a qualifying paper that normally relates to a student’s dissertation topic. Part B of the Advancement to Candidacy process involves preparing and successfully defending a dissertation proposal. More detailed information about the Advancement to Candidacy process can be found in the Doctoral Student Handbook.
  5. Admission to Candidacy
    Admission to candidacy (not equivalent to admission to the program) is achieved when the student has successfully completed Parts A and B of the Advancement to Candidacy process. Next, the candidate will have the proposal approved by the Institutional Review Board, if appropriate. The candidate is then ready to focus completely on the dissertation, and is not eligible for a leave of absence.
  6. Dissertation
    Successful written and oral defense of dissertation is required for graduation.
  7. Time Limit
    A student must complete the doctoral program within seven years of the first semester of enrollment.

Requirements for the Degree

I. Leadership Component (18 units)
There are six core courses in the Leadership Studies doctoral program. These foundational courses are required for all students; courses taken at other institutions may not be substituted.
LEAD 600 Leadership Theory and Practice (3)
LEAD 601 Organizational Theory and Change (3)
LEAD 602 Leadership, Inquiry and Research I (3)
LEAD 603 Ethics and Leadership (3)
LEAD 604 Policy-Making Processes (3)
LEAD 605 Adult Development (3)

II. Research and Evaluation Component (15 units)
This component is designed to enable the doctoral student to develop research skills applicable to the successful completion of the dissertation.

Required Courses:
LEAD 606 Leadership, Inquiry and Research II (3)
LEAD 607 Applied Statistics and Quantitative Research Methods (3)
LEAD 608 Qualitative Research Methods (3)
Elective Research Courses (select two from below*):
LEAD 582 Survey Research Methods (3)
LEAD 612 Advanced Qualitative Research Methods (3)
LEAD 613 Advanced Quantitative Research Methods (3)
*Other courses approved by the department may be used to meet this requirement.

III. Area of Study (18 units minimum)
With the assistance and approval of their advisors, students select electives to acquire an area of specialization.

Examples of Possible Areas of Specialization:

  • Higher Education Leadership (community college, student affairs, general administration)
  • K–12 Public/Private School Leadership
  • Nonprofit/Philanthropic Leadership and Management
  • Organizational Leadership/Consulting
  • Individualized Option

IV. Dissertation Component (12 units minimum)
LEAD 610 Dissertation Seminar (3)
LEAD 695 Dissertation (9)

After completing 9 units of LEAD 695, candidates must register for 1 unit each semester to maintain candidacy until the final, approved dissertation is submitted to the Office of the Registrar.
Note: The doctoral program is currently being refined. Modifications to this process might be made in the future. Please refer to the program handbook for details.

Reservation of the Right to Modify

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