Build on Your Leadership Experience with an Ed.D.

A leader with an Ed.D. working with her team
A leader with an Ed.D. working with her team

Toni Bissen has 20 years of leadership experience in the community non-profit sector. As an attorney, administrator, and executive director, one might think that Bissen has experienced all of the leadership development one could need to flourish in her field. But Bissen sees it differently. 

“I want to be better so I can serve better,” Bissen explains

For Bissen, becoming better in order to serve better meant honing her leadership and research skills through pursuing a doctorate of education (Ed.D.) focused on leadership development. She’s not the only one. Leadership professionals in schools, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and various business sectors find that an Ed.D. can significantly enhance their leadership experience to benefit their careers and those they serve through their professions. 

Bissen pursued an Ed.D. to learn how to better address issues of trauma underlying the disproportionate representation of Native Hawaiian women in prison while aiming to increase her effectiveness as a leader to serve justice to women in the correctional system. Alexander Gagnet enrolled in an Ed.D. program to obtain the skills necessary to excel as a stronger executive director for the staff and students at a school for underserved boys. Marie Gemelli-Carroll decided to spend her late 60s pursuing an Ed.D to improve her consulting practice tackling communications in large and small businesses. 

Bissen, Gagnet, and Gemelli-Caroll each represent the powerful, embodied outcomes of an Ed.D program for professional leaders. Their examples—and those of many others—reveal the profound positive benefits of earning a doctorate in leadership.


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5 Benefits of Earning a Doctorate in Leadership

Career advancement opportunities and the chance to be a lifelong learner are two of the many benefits of earning a doctorate in leadership. Individuals who earn an Ed.D. find themselves empowered to achieve their personal and professional goals, from developing the skills required to lead organizational change to securing a senior-level position. 


1. Career Advancement Possibilities 

As an advanced degree, the Ed.D. affords graduates various career advancement opportunities. Thanks to the skills developed in an Ed.D. program, including systems thinking, change management, and crisis leadership, Ed.D. graduates are equipped to serve in high-level management and strategic planning roles.

Many Ed.D. graduates serve as K-12 school leaders, such as principals or superintendents, or post-secondary administrators at colleges or universities. They may also work as consultants, corporate trainers, or curriculum designers in the private sector. In nonprofit agencies, Ed.D. graduates often serve as executive directors. Additional roles for Ed.D. graduates include education policy analysts, human resources managers, business leaders, and deans of students or faculty. 


2. Engagement in Lifelong Learning

An Ed.D. in leadership emphasizes the practical application of theoretical ideas. Throughout such a program, students consider how various theories and processes might affect the organizations they lead or aspire to lead. In an ever changing world, leaders must know how to adapt, be agile, and motivate their teams toward success. The practical learning model of an Ed.D. allows professionals to engage in the critical thinking and collaborative processes necessary to become lifelong learners who lead organizations successfully, applying these newfound skills effectively to their field of expertise. 

Ed.D. student Lisa Arthur, for example, says that enrolling in a doctorate leadership program has helped her discover how she can pursue her professional goals while continuing to learn more about how to lead in the field of education. Through implementing the knowledge she gained within the Ed.D. program, Arthur is now building upon two decades of learning experiences gained during her work in overseas education, forming habits that will keep her learning and growing for a lifetime while making her organization thrive.


3. Development of Leadership Skills

Social entrepreneur Alicia Hunter wants to shift the narrative regarding federal and state public school information governance. Rather than emphasizing “school quality,” she wants to see leaders and communities considering “school value.” To effect such a change, Hunter knew she needed to enhance her leadership skills, including practical research and intentional networking. 

In the Marymount University online Ed.D. program, Hunter has been mentored in conducting innovative research to enhance her transformative social entrepreneur capacity. “We’re really thinking about how are we responding to now,” says Hunter of the Ed.D. program. “How is our research relevant, and how are we continuously on the brink of innovation in all of our varied industries?” 

Growing in this way of thinking, problem-solving, effectively communicating, while gaining other key leadership competencies, empowers Hunter to achieve her professional goals.


4. Opportunities to Contribute to Research, Practices, and Theories

An online Ed.D. program can enhance the career of any leadership professional, often in specific ways that impact people’s lives directly. Consider Ed.D. student Courtney White, who has worked as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal, Title I Education Specialist, and Title I Coordinator for Fairfax County Public Schools. In addition to her professional experience, White’s personal life has greatly influenced her leadership goals. While in her first year of her EdD journey, her nephew passed away in an unfortunate college hazing incident; her professors and coursework ignited a fire within her which has motivated White to focus her studies on research into hazing practices; 

“Right now, I am part of a team of educators building a hazing curriculum for our high schools, universities and parents,” says White. “The curriculum should launch this August and we will measure the effectiveness and share results in my dissertation in practice next year.”

Even before she has graduated, White is contributing to a field of knowledge that stretches far beyond theory and into practical applications with significant influence on people’s well-being. She has also taken her work to the state level and has recently worked to enact Adam’s Law, which was passed in 2022. 


5. Support in Pursuing Your Passion

As a program focused on practical application, an Ed.D. in leadership allows professionals to enjoy collaboration and encouragement in cultivating their passions. Feedback from faculty members, discussions with classmates, and connections to alums join the academic curriculum to provide students with tools and knowledge for skillfully engaging their passions. 

The Marymount University Ed.D. features a dissertation in practice (DiP) that allows students to make their passion a direct part of their program. Each student is paired with a Lead Doctoral Faculty Mentor (LDFM) who guides them through the dissertation process. The LDFM is intentionally assigned based on the student’s interests, intended methods, work habits, passions, and goals. 

These effective mentoring relationships have helped produce dissertations such as:

  • “What Are The Barriers, Solutions, And Drivers Of Change For The Inclusion Of Students With Disabilities In Catholic Schools?” by Dr. Lisa D. Arthur
  • “Simulation and Improving Clinical Judgment in Prelicensure Nursing Students: A Mixed Method Approach” by Dr. Lizabeth Reents
  • “Leadership Matters: Affecting Social Transformation in Africa” by Dr. Baimba Yilla
  • “Empowering Leaders for Effective Organizational Change: Unveiling the Spy2 Methodology” by Dr. Pretty George 

“The biggest highlight of my experience with Marymount’s Ed.D. program is the focus on the dissertation in practice (DiP) starting in the first semester,” says Hunter. “Our professors have been so intentional in making connections and assigning coursework that will support our DiP.”


Prepare to Lead through Marymount University’s Online Ed.D. Program

If you want to become a change agent, Marymount University’s fully online Doctor of Education in Leadership and Innovation can enable you to spearhead meaningful organizational changes. Connect with an enrollment advisor to get started.


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