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Understand how to contribute more significantly to your profession in our collaborative learning environment.

There is an increasing emphasis on doctoral programs that leverage learning related to actual work activities, and practitioner expertise in the specific situations of employees and organizations.If you are an advanced practitioner currently working in a nonprofit, public sector or service organizations, or in higher education (teaching or administration, and seek to develop skill sets that will help to prepare you for a new or expanded role in that field, this program may be for you. Our degree will help to prepare you to contribute more broadly to your profession — in theory and in practice — with special attention to making a significant contributions to advancing your field, leveraging both your substantive professional experience and your eagerness to learn and grow as a professional.

What Our Program Offers You

What our students learn/Skills you will acquire

The program is organized around a core of leadership and research courses in your concentration, serving professionals the nonprofit, and public sectors or governmental organizations, and in higher education administration and student services It is geared toward those interested in the nonprofit, and public sectors or governmental organizations, and in higher education administration and student services.

You will be well prepared across essential skill s expected of those studying at the doctoral level, within a chosen field of practice. You will advance your knowledge on a foundation of critical thinking, social analysis, evidence-based practices, professional and social ethics and organizational and leadership theory. With research and structured learning as defining characteristics of the program, you will have the knowledge and skills to demonstrate autonomy, authoritative judgment, adaptability and responsiveness in your professional practice.

Our cohort program is designed to help you to make significant contribution to your profession: you can serve others by sharing your professional experiences and perspectives wit others, while tying those experiences to theory and scholarship in areas relevant to advanced study in ethical leadership (not “management”) and scholarly inquiry into the relationships among human, social, and structural aspects of the organizational environment and to policy and decision-making. We encourage you to create original knowledge for professional use through research and projects undertaken during the program.

Outcomes may include contributing to projects that have a direct impact on identifying emerging issues in the profession, issues of policy and programming, and the skills to develop change initiatives, find solutions to workplace problems and the needs to shift organizational strategy.

The dissertation is theory-driven and is expected to contribute broadly and significantly to your profession both in theory and practice. The dissertation reflects the application of theory to practice at a level expected of an academic doctoral program.

What kind of issues/problems does this major prepare you to solve?

Most of our students come from human services, public sector, higher education student services, public safety/security, and nontraditional developmental programs and organizations. Our ability to draw from a range of courses from all academic units within the university allows us to frame a body of knowledge that is inter- and trans-disciplinary, leading to unique approaches to programming and organizing services in nonprofit and public sector organizations.

Our program prepares you to develop innovative approaches to achieving the missions of your workplace, and enabling thoughtful responses to social change in innovative ways.

What makes our program unique?

Our program is unique in providing direct benefits to both employees and organizations.

The design flexibility in your concentration courses allows for optimal learning in your specific area of interest, leveraging your professional expertise to encourage linkages to theory and reflective practice. 

Shenandoah University seeks to create and leverage an intentional learning community. The cohort functions as an intellectual collaborative vs. a task-oriented work group. In our program, diversity and divergence of composition and perspective is critical to developing the ability to think well about problems, issues and theories. The university values the process of instruction (learning to learn) over the end product of education (learning facts). We implement the standards for professional practice in a learner-centered environment research has identified to be successful.

Course Requirements

The Doctor of Professional Studies in Organizational Leadership is a 66-credit program. 

Program Core

Leadership: Theory and Application Societal Factors
Organizational Theory and Behavior
Governance & Public Policy Contemporary Issues


Introduction to Research LiteracyAdvanced Research Methods
Quantitative Research Design and Data Analysis Advanced Quantitative Research Design and DatanAnalysis

Applied Inquiry

Quantitative Proposal & Pilot
Qualitative Proposal & Pilot

Individualized Concentration (18 credits total)
Electives (12 credits)
Directed Study (6 credits)

Dissertation (15 credits minimum)


H. Jurgen Combs

Professor of Education - Leadership Studies
Full Biography »