Students admitted into our program don’t simply hope for change, they are driven to make it happen. In fact, many of them are already leaders in their fields.

"I believe that if you stay only in your silo, it is harder to find a solution. To truly make change, you have to seek and build experiences outward." Dr. Lisette Nieves, Founding Faculty

We want every student to come to the program with ideas they believe can make a difference and have a lasting impact in their current and future organizations. The idea could address an issue they’ve struggled with for years — like how to reimagine a special-education program for an entire school district, or scale a boutique program sustainably — or it could be a new innovation they want to implement — such as how to design an institute for first-generation and transfer students at a university.

We call this idea the Problem of Practice (POP). Students use an academic lens to examine their problem and explore examples of research and solutions from a range of disciplines and industries.

The key objective of this program is to support school, nonprofit, higher education, philanthropic, and corporate leaders focused on education and learning to leverage their experience and skills to drive solutions and impact in their organizations. Using academic scholarship, research, and cross-sectoral exposure, students study organizations and change initiatives from various perspectives: conceptual, organizational, political, social, managerial, interpersonal, and technical. The EdD curriculum is grounded in interdisciplinary research, experiential practice, and problem-based learning.

The difference with our program is that your [capstone] project is a unifier. What is a challenge in your organization that you'd like to address? The goal is to help each student frame this challenge through an academic lens, then map a way to confront it.

Dr. Noel Anderson
Founding Faculty

A Problem of Practice Replaces a Dissertation

The EdD in Leadership and Innovation prepares students to create impact as senior leaders across all sectors. This program offers a rigorous academic curriculum, with courses – grounded in research – that examine existing problems encountered in an organization. Students develop research and analytical skills needed to make more informed data-based decisions and leverage their leadership skills to address an innovation or improvement in their organization. At the completion of this program, students possess a thoroughly researched and designed praxis-based POP and portfolio of work. Our EdD is designed to have an impact well beyond its academic relevance so graduates practice what they learn and increase organizational impact.

Problem of Practice Examples:

  • District: How do I create the culture that supports teacher learning and growth?
  • District/Researcher/Philanthropy: What are the best examples and metrics that can inform a successful and fair teacher evaluation system?
  • Pre-K-12: How do I implement strong employer and education partnerships that create meaningful pathways for high school students into careers?
  • Pre-K-12/Charter Management: How do we create a culture and systems that include parents as school leadership?
  • Pre-K-12: How can I impact racially disproportionate access to advanced high school courses and programs in my school or district?
  • Higher Ed: How can I pedagogically and operationally change a career training program to better prepare students for work and meet the needs of the field?
  • Higher Ed: Using technology, how may we coordinate student services to ensure effectiveness and affordability?
  • Corporate/Private: How can I effectively transmit organizational culture throughout a series of mergers?
  • Corporate/Private: What is the best delivery method for educating, retraining, and/or credentialing my industry's workforce?
  • Healthcare: How can my organization tackle long standing inequities around healthcare and develop comprehensive solutions which improve healthcare access for all people within my community?
  • Public/Government: As funding of public programs changes, what new funding streams and systems can I tap into that will support community programs?
  • Philanthropy: How do I use data to measure and analyze neutrality, efficiency, and effectiveness of funding from private foundations, philanthropy, and grants?
  • Performing Arts: How do we create a collective vision for a future in the arts through community and civic engagement programs?
  • Ed Tech: How do we use predictive analytics to help teachers personalize instruction for students with individualized education programs (IEPs)?
  • Ed Tech: How can we implement and scale a microcredentials and badging platform for high school students?

Organizational Impact

Students in the EdD keep working while obtaining their degree. This is one of the signature attributes of the program: students do not have to leave their careers behind while embarking on this degree of study.

To be successful in the EdD, students are in a position to influence decisions at their workplace. They are senior-level leaders who have access to other leaders within their organization, and are inquisitive, innovative, and determined to make transformational change in both their organization and their field. They also have access to organizational information – such as sensitive data, proprietary market research, and strategic plans – that helps guide the research of their POP and their ideas for innovation and improvement.

A student’s POP is central to the work they do on a daily basis. This real-world, application-aligned course work provides a level of relevance and impact to the student and their organization, unlike most traditional doctorate programs.

Rigorous Exploration and Research

In this EdD program, the POP is front and center. While taking courses, faculty and advisors help students shape, examine, and refine their POP, building upon its execution throughout each course.

There are three capstone seminars and four signature assignments that prepare students for their POP culminating project. Faculty work with students to develop research protocols that combine theory and practice to explore critical issues facing educational leaders and policymakers today.

In this iterative process, students conduct original research to further define their POP. With the guidance of faculty through course work and one-on-one advising, students explore findings and apply these reflections to their own POP.

Implementing Your Innovation or Improvement

Leveraging the guidance from faculty, cross-disciplinary research, other cohort members, and support from industry experts, students may implement solutions to their POP during the program, although most students implement these solutions upon completion of the program.

Students produce metrics upon which to measure the success of the innovation or improvement and build plans for further impact – all while learning and growing alongside their supportive cross-sector cohort. This thoughtful design underscores the application of the degree to real leadership and organizational challenges, and provides students access to the tools, resources, and relationships to make a profound impact.

Students’ culminating project is made up of four signature assignments that tie into the coursework:


Leadership I: Examines the student’s educational and leadership development – all milestones the student has achieved as a professional. Designed to set the foundation for professional goals, helping students draw links between their professional journey and goals over the course of the academic program.

Research Methods

Students are required to conduct a self-selected POP from their organization. Students assess their organization for strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats in its culture and overall functioning as related to their POP.

Capstone I and II

Students are asked to shape a research question; develop an Organizational Improvement Plan (OIP) proposal; develop a bibliography; conduct an action research project; and demonstrate the solution or impact of the proposed plan on their organization.

Capstone III

Students present their POP culminating project to their faculty committee and cohort classmates in the final semester of their program.