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The dissertation is the culminating project of the doctoral program. The successful completion of the dissertation and its defense is the last step before being awarded the doctoral degree.  

The dissertation is a representation of a student’s mastery of a topical area of interest related to the student’s career objectives, within the realm of leadership. The dissertation is a scholarly work that adds to the body of knowledge within a specific field of inquiry. As such, each dissertation is an independent endeavor that reflects the highest standards of academic research and exploration. 

Although the majority of the independent work on the dissertation occurs during the third year of the program, the development of the topic and the research plan begins during the first two years of the program, as both are integrated into two research courses as well as LLC discussions. This integrated approach will help ensure that the project is completed within the three-year program of study.  

Dissertation Options. To provide opportunities for candidates to complete a dissertation/project that best serves their career objectives, candidates will choose an approved research project of interest, including but not limited to the following: 

  • Traditional five-chapter dissertation. This option gives candidates the opportunity to conduct in-depth research on a specific topic, resulting in the creation of a full five-chapter dissertation. 
  • Two scholarly articles submitted for publication. This option focuses candidates on the creation of two scholarly articles suitable for publication in journals specific to their career areas. At least one journal article will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, with the second article to either a peer-reviewed journal or a reputable trade paper/magazine, and both must meet the requirements for acceptance for publication. The publications must be approved by the committee chair before the project commences. 
  • Development of a grant proposal. This option focuses candidates on the development of a proposal for grant funding related to a leadership need within the student’s area of interestCandidates must identify a problem area, conduct in-depth research to build a comprehensive rationale for funding, and develop an implementation plan and assessment protocol for the delivery of the project.  The proposal must be of a caliber to be submitted to a major national funding agency. 

Doctoral candidates must declare their intent by the end of the first fall of study in order to be completed within the three-year cycle.  

Dissertation Committee.  Each candidate must select a three-member dissertation committee to help guide the process. The committee includes a chairperson who will work closely with the student through the duration of the project, and two readers who will offer advice and counsel at key junctures as the project develops. The committee must be selected and approved by the program director during the summer of year 2. All of the dissertation options above comport to the three-member committee structure. 

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