Educating leaders : executive Ed. D. program experiences
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In this dissertation, I present an investigation of higher education leadership doctoral programs for mid- and senior-level administrators, specifically executive education programs. I interviewed graduates and administrators of executive education doctorate programs as well as individuals with expertise in higher education leadership. I also collected 12 executive doctoral program descriptions from publicly available information. The 12 doctoral programs represent a cross-section of the programs available throughout the United States and include public and private universities. Through phenomenological inquiry, I found that graduates of executive doctoral programs felt transformed by the educational experience, citing leadership training and international exposure as highlights of their program. The cohort model had utility across all programs studied and remained a source of information and support for alumni long after graduation. I used Relational Developmental Systems Theory to combine Adult Development Theory, Adult Learning Theory and Critical Friends Theory into a cohesive framework to explain how students processed their program experiences. The research findings indicated that potential students considered program reputation, including the faculty and program ranking, in their university selection process. Graduate participants also explained that they valued the elements of the program that had direct relevance to their work activity, in particular, the dissertation experience. Program administrators stressed that the doctoral market requires continual assessment for their programs to remain relevant. I propose a theory of change that combines environmental factors, program attributes, administrator and student attributes, and program outcomes to explain the process of doctoral program change. The proposed theory explains the assessment mechanisms that program administrators use to evaluate program and graduate outcomes. While these results cannot be extrapolated beyond the sample, they can inform future doctoral education research and program design.