Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Change

SUNY Empire’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership and Change (ELC) is designed to prepare mid-career practicing professionals to be successful in higher-education leadership positions. The ELC program uses a scholar-practitioner model, which supports self-directed, collaborative learning among researchers, practitioners, educators, and students. Scholar-practitioners tackle problems they identify in their own practice, apply their scholarship to study and solve these problems in collaborative ways, and include important stakeholders at multiple levels.

SUNY Empire's professional Ed.D. program is based on principles articulated by the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate. The program:

  • Is framed around questions of equity, ethics, and social justice to solve complex problems of practice in higher education
  • Prepares higher-education leaders who can construct and apply knowledge to improve the lives of individuals, higher-education institutions, and communities
  • Provides opportunities for candidates to develop and demonstrate collaboration and communication skills so they can work with diverse communities and build partnerships
  • Provides opportunities to analyze the problems of higher-education institutions and develop solutions
  • Is grounded in and develops a professional knowledge base that integrates practical and research knowledge of higher education and higher education leadership and that links theory with systemic and systematic inquiry
  • Emphasizes the creation, transformation, and use of professional knowledge and practice.[1]

Our program prepares students to develop knowledge and skills in six areas: effective communication, applied research and data-informed decision-making, leading innovation and change, overcoming institutional barriers to change, ethical leadership, and promotion of social justice.

Program Learning Outcomes

ELC graduates will be able to:

  1. Effectively communicate in oral and written form to a variety of stakeholders (e.g. students, employees, accreditors, and scholars) in both professional and scholarly settings
  2. Apply research and data analysis to make leadership decisions that guide an institution of higher education through the process of innovation and change
  3. Translate theories and principles of higher-education leadership, change management, and innovation to practice as a scholar-practitioner to make decisions that guide an institution of higher education through the process of innovation and change
  4. Overcome barriers to the implementation of strategic change in higher education institutions
  5. Make ethical leadership and management decisions to complex problems, in ambiguous situations, with multiple stakeholders
  6. Lead an institution of higher education to become more socially just through policies and strategies

Learning in a community of practice (CoP) is one of the central tenets of our program and is facilitated through a low-residency model. This model combines frequent online interaction among students and faculty with three focused residencies. Each residency (four throughout the program) is a two-day, intensive, in-person meeting with workshops, seminars and presentations focused on building a community of practice, sharing professional knowledge, celebrating group accomplishments, and framing/supporting major program milestones. Each cohort constructs its CoP throughout the program, learning together in embodied and integrated ways. The cohort of students enter the program together and become a CoP, staying connected between residencies via an innovative programmatic online space that helps sustain a sense of shared commitment over time. Students finish their program with a directed research project, generally based in their own site of practice, or directed at issues in their field.


This program is for higher-education professionals looking to advance into upper-leadership positions in higher-education institutions. Applications for admission are reviewed holistically, taking into account the totality of an applicant’s educational and professional accomplishments and potential for successful completion of the program and leadership in higher education. Applicants to the Ed.D. in ELC program are required to have a master’s degree in educational leadership, higher education administration, adult learning, student affairs administration, or a related field. At minimum, the master’s degree should include coursework in content areas recommended by the Council for the Advancement of Higher Education Programs (CAHEP) for master’s degrees in higher education administration:

  • History and Philosophy of Higher Education
  • Economics and/or Finance of Higher Education

Program Requirements

The Ed.D. in ELC involves a total of 54 credit hours beyond the master’s degree required for admission. The required prerequisite coursework in the areas recommended by the Council for the Advancement of Higher Education Programs provide the foundation on which the Ed.D. in ELC builds to prepare mid-career professionals to be successful leaders in higher education. The course work begins with 12 credits of core coursework in the fundamental areas of leadership and change, 9 credits of research coursework, and 12 credits of advanced coursework. Student’s then complete 6 credits of electives and the capstone sequence, which include both a comprehensive assessment and a dissertation. Students may transfer up to 6 credits into the doctoral program. To be eligible for consideration, transfer credits must be:

  • 7000-level or above
  • from a regionally accredited college or university
  • a final grade of B or better
  • no more than seven years old at the time of the student's admission to the graduate program

Approval occurs in consultation with advisor after admission.

The following section outlines the required courses as well as the interpersonal experience, which involve close mentorship, four short face-to-face residencies and access to an online community space that supplements the online coursework.

Course Requirements


EDLC 6000: Foundations of Doctoral Study: Critical Analysis and Communication

EDLC 6001: Principles of Higher Education Leadership

EDLC 6002: Organizational Change Theory and Practice

EDLC 6006: Ethical Leadership in the Academy



EDLC 6003: Research Methods in Education

EDLC 6004: Qualitative Research Analysis through Applied and Action Research

EDLC 6005: Quantitative Research Methods


Advanced Core

EDLC 7003: Models of Organizational Administration and Finance

EDLC 7005: Leading Change for Social Justice and Diversity

EDLC 7020: Perspectives in Higher Education Administration, Management and Leadership

EDLC 7021: Institutional Culture and Strategic Change Management in Higher Education


Electives (choose 2)

EDLC 7004: Leadership and Change in Local and Global Contexts

EDLC 7011: Understanding Adult Education Practice

EDLC 7012: The Changing Contexts of Adult Learning

EDLC 7022: Student Development and Administration in Higher Education

EDLC 7041: Leadership and Contemporary Issues in Learning and Teaching 

EDLC 7050: Assessment and Accreditation in Higher Education



EDLC 8000: Professional Portfolio Seminar

EDLC 8001: Advanced Research Methods

EDLC 8002: Dissertation 1

EDLC 8003: Dissertation 2

EDLC 8004: Dissertation 3


Total Credits



Typical Program Schedule

The Ed.D. in ELC is designed to be completed in four years. All courses are conducted online, but at four key points in the progression of the program students and faculty meet in person for weekend residencies, held in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Cohorts begin in the fall term only and meet at the initial Cohort Residency in the beginning of September preceding the start of year one. Thereafter, students meet for a weekend residency in June - at the end of years one, two, and three. Students may choose to hold their doctoral defense either in person or virtually.

While the program is designed for students to progress through as a cohort through the year three residency, there may be circumstances under which a student may not be able to progress with his or her cohort. In these rare instances, students, in consultation with their advisor, may drop down into a successive cohort or alter their enrollment sequence to stay with their existing cohort. Either option may involve taking some courses as independent studies to realign a student’s progress with the appropriate cohort.


The Program Experience

ELC is a low-residency, online degree program that meets professionals’ needs for flexibility and academic quality. Face-to-face meetings during three weekend residencies are supported by synchronous and asynchronous interaction online. SUNY Empire’s courses are offered in the Desire-to-Learn learning management system, but ELC cohorts also interact in a specially designed online community space (“EdD Home”) that helps keep students and faculty connected throughout the four-year program.


With the exception of the Fall 2021 September residency, which was virtual, ELC hosts four face-to-face weekend residencies over the four-year program. Students and faculty meet in Saratoga Springs for workshops and presentations relevant to the stage of study. These intensive residencies include faculty-led seminars, guest speakers, collaborative student presentations, and individual time with faculty to discuss program and dissertation processes. The first residency takes place in September, just before the start of first-year fall courses. The next three residencies take place in June, at the end of academic years one, two, and three.

[1] The CPED Framework©