Specialization in Leadership for International School Leaders

Please take note of the following update to the hybrid cohort courses scheduled for summer 2021. The location and teaching modality for courses scheduled for this in summer 2021 are still under review due to pandemic related restrictions. The Leadership for International School Leaders cohort may be required to meet on online summer 2021.

The PhD in Leadership Studies with a specialization in Leadership for International School Leaders develops candidates with the knowledge and skills needed by educators to advance and excel in a career focused on international education. This hybrid specialization allows students to take courses online during the fall and spring terms, while studying face-to-face each summer at USD's Madrid campus. 

This specialization attends to the importance of understanding leadership from a global perspective. It recognizes the inter-connectedness of our world and the value that can be gained from learning how global educators address the academic needs of students. The program includes significant interaction with our full-time faculty, many of whom have held prior leadership roles within school environments and conducted educational research internationally. You will study among and learn from experts in the fields of economics, sociology, and organizational leadership.

With a PhD in Leadership Studies and a specialization in Leadership for International School Leaders, you will emerge empowered as a researcher, scholar, educator, and practitioner. You will be poised to make significant contributions to the field of Leadership Studies. You will:

  • Identify and respond to complex problems.
  • Develop critically reflective professional knowledge.
  • Link theory with systematic inquiry and practice.

As with all specializations in the program, students in this specialization will be required to complete and defend a dissertation.

Distinguishing Features

  • Hybrid format including online and in-person courses in Madrid, Spain.
  • Support from faculty for personalized advising.
  • An international educational experience. Students are provided opportunities to take short-term coursework abroad, taught by Leadership Studies faculty.
  • Opportunity to build knowledge and expertise in conducting research, analyzing educational policy and practice, and developing innovative educational practice.
  • Examination of educational outcomes with focused attention on the racialized, class-based and gendered school experiences on a national and international level.


Designed to promote aspiring leadership in the international school community, the 57-unit program begins with coursework at our adjunct/satellite campus in Madrid, Spain in the summer, and then blends conveniently into an online format during USD's fall and spring semesters. 

Students will proceed through this program as a cohort. Students are expected to take 2 courses per semester and coursework can be completed within 3 years.

Students in this specialization take a variety of elective courses in addition to the Leadership Studies PhD (doctoral program of study). At the completion of all coursework, students are expected to complete a dissertation under the advisement of a USD faculty committee of scholars.

Classes cover such topics as:

  • Research Methods in Intercultural Contexts.
  • Sociology of Education for International School Leaders.
  • Collaborative Leadership in International Contexts.
  • Global Research Challenges of Cognitive and Social Justice.
  • Educational Reform.
  • Applied Assessment and Evaluation in International Settings.
  • Restorative Justice in Global Educational Institutions.
  • Community Power, Decision-making & Collective Impact in Education.


For information on how to apply to the PhD in Leadership Studies with a specialization in International School Leadership, visit the PhD program requirements page.

Eligibility By State

Due to regulations from the Department of Education, the University of San Diego is unable to enroll students in its online degree programs who reside in Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. The restriction does not apply to applicants interested in a campus-based program. 

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Interested in pursuing a degree online?

Are you interested in pursuing a PhD in Leadership Studies with a Specialization in Leadership for International School Leaders? We invite you to explore our resource, “Should I Go to Grad School Online?” If, When, and How to Get a Graduate Degree from Home, to learn more USD-SOLES’ online programs and see if an online graduate degree is right for you.”