May 20, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Academic Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Organizational Leadership, Ph.D.

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Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Education Organizational Leadership

Center Leadership Studies
Academic Award Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Education  
Credits Required 72 semester credits; 60 semester credits
Faculty Lead Earl Creps
Concentrations Business Leadership and Consulting, Higher Education Leadership, Leading Ministry Organizations
CIP Code: 52.0213

The Center for Leadership Studies (CFLS) is home to Northwest’s interdisciplinary Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs in Organizational Leadership. These degrees prepare students to lead the leaders of our day across the fields of education, business, Christian ministry, and beyond.

The Center coordinates these programs and serves as a support base for our students, facilitating their success and dissertation completion.

Financial Support

The CFLS offers four types of financial assistance. In the first year, every student is eligible for merit-based funding. Non-profit employees can qualify for a discount matching their employer’s contribution. Also, grants are available for dissertation research and travel to professional presentations. View CFLS Scholarships

Two Degree Options

The Ph.D. focuses on scholarship, original research, and the generation of new theory. Our Ed.D. is shorter and more practical, helping students apply existing research to problems in the field.

Three Concentrations

Students have access to three concentrations: Leading Ministry Organizations, Higher Education Leadership, and Business Leadership and Consulting.


Our programs offer small, diverse cohorts. Students learn alongside peers who encourage and challenge each other to grow.

Hybrid Delivery

Students study in a mix of classes held on-campus, online, and “on the road” at major, field-specific professional conferences.

Distinguished Faculty

Our professors draw from both academic research and real-world professional experience to offer a holistic learning environment.

Integrated Faith and Learning

The programs integrate a Christian perspective that draws from the highest intellectual level and the depths of faith simultaneously.

Interdisciplinary Instruction

Bringing together diverse students with outstanding professors from a variety of disciplines produces a rich transformative learning experience.

Integrated Schedule

Each term features Core, Concentration, and Dissertation classes so students are working on their dissertation research and writing skills from day one.

Professional Experience

Designed for working professionals, the Center’s programs make it possible for Ph.D. students to graduate in four years and Ed.D. students in three years. Built to expand on previous and current work experience to prepare students for future leadership opportunities, such work experience is essential to program success.

Unique Learning Environment

Northwest is located among many of the most influential business and non-profit organizations of our time, such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, World Vision, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Admission Criteria

  • Master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • Grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Completed online application
  • Three references including one academic reference
  • Official (sealed) transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
  • GRE general test scores (taken within the last 5 years) for the Ph.D. program. Applicants to the Ed.D. are not required to take the GRE.
  • Current resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Writing sample answering the essay prompts available on the CFLS online application.

Once potential students have submitted their completed application along with all the application materials, each applicant will have an individual or group interview with the CFLS Admissions Committee.

Applicants who meet or exceed the above criteria must also exhibit qualities consistent with the ethos of the Center for Leadership Studies. The cohort model places great responsibility on faculty and students to work together to create a positive, supportive, and collaborative learning environment. Students must be committed to personal responsibility, time management, professional ethics, and interpersonal integrity to be successful in the program.

The CFLS Admissions Committee seeks to ascertain each student’s degree of readiness for this type of learning environment. It is the responsibility and authority of the Admissions Committee to determine an applicant’s degree of compatibility with the ethos of this program.

Credit Transfer

Students may be allowed to transfer a maximum of 12 graduate credits from other regionally accredited colleges and universities provided the CFLS can determine the credit equivalency of the coursework, the credits were earned no more than ten years prior to the student’s enrollment in a CFLS degree program, and the transfer credits are awarded prior to registering for NU courses. In special circumstances, student may file an appeal with the CFLS Director for waiver of the ten-year time limit. There is no charge for transferred courses and transferred credits do not apply towards financial aid awards. Students must initiate credit transfer by contacting the CFLS office.

Program Transfer

A limited number of Ed.D. students may qualify for transfer to the Ph.D. program each academic year. Transfer applicants must have demonstrated academic excellence, a positive contribution to their cohort, and overall program fit. Transfers will be approved by the CFLS Admissions Committee.

Student Assessment

The student’s academic development is assessed annually by the CFLS Director assisted by a faculty committee. These assessments evaluate a student’s adjustment to the program, working relationship with faculty and other students, academic progress, writing quality, function within his or her cohort, professional development, and personal challenges requiring assistance. However, successfully passing each annual assessment does not ensure approval of the student’s dissertation or continuation in the program. (See Probation under Academic Policy). Should a student’s annual assessment indicate an area of major concern, the CFLS Director will work with the committee to intervene in the student’s experience in ways that enhance the possibilities for a successful outcome.

The progress assessment is conducted during the summer semester and the results of this assessment will be given to the student.  If a student’s progress assessment indicates an area of concern, the CFLS Director will meet with the student to discuss the concern. A plan will be formulated to resolve the concern, and failure to successfully deal with the problematic area may result in dismissal from the program. 

Comprehensive Examinations

The Comprehensive Exam is designed to assess a student’s mastery of the program competencies. The exam is administered during the student’s second (Ed.D.) or third (Ph.D.) year. Furthermore, a student must successfully pass the research methods section of the Comprehensive exam before defending his or her dissertation proposal.

Completion of the Ph.D. will require comprehensive examinations over three areas: leadership theory, research methods, and critical issues related to concentration; the Ed.D. exams will be over two areas: leadership theory and critical issue related to concentration.

If a student does not pass one section of the comprehensive exam, he or she will be allowed to retake only that section. The retake will occur no sooner than 60 days after the date of the original exam. This waiting period allows the student adequate time to study for his or her retake. If the student fails the retake exam, he or she must retake the entire exam the following year. For this entire exam retake the student must pass every section of the exam. In other words, the student cannot fail one section (even if that section is different than the initial section failed) on the retake of the whole exam. If the student does fail any section of the retake of the entire exam, he or she will not be allowed to continue in the program. Additionally, the student will not be allowed to proceed with dissertation writing until he or she has successfully completed all portions of the Comprehensive exam.

Doctoral Dissertation

The dissertation component of the Ph.D. and Ed.D programs provides each student with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the literature in her or his subject field, knowledge and skill in research methodology, the ability to execute and report on original research, and a high capacity for scholarly writing.

Ph.D. dissertations will be original research resulting in theory extension and/or generation, while Ed.D. dissertations will center on application of existing theory to a current problem resulting in knowledge generation.

Academic and Professional Requirements

Grade Point Average 

Students must earn a grade of B- or above in all CFLS courses and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Further, students must successfully pass all sections of the Comprehensive Exam (a passing score is a minimum of 80%). Refer to the Comprehensive Exam section of this handbook for further information.

In addition to successfully passing course and examination requirements, students must successfully demonstrate proficiency on each program competency. These competencies are evaluated using a variety of methods throughout the program. Such evaluation methods include course work, Comprehensive exam, dissertation, course writing assignments, and annual evaluations by faculty. Competencies are evaluated on a 1 through 5 scale: 1=Below Standard, 2=Partial fulfillment, 3=Standard met, 4=Above Standard, 5=Excellent demonstration of competency. Students must achieve a score of at least 3 on all competencies in order to graduate from the program. Should a student’s performance fall below a 3 on a given competency, he or she will be notified that improvement is necessary and may be placed on probation (see Probation Policies within this handbook).

Students must continuously demonstrate professional ethics and conduct, interpersonal and relationship skills, emotional maturity and self-awareness expected of leadership professionals. Students’ demonstration of these standards will be evaluated annually. Failure to adhere to these standards may be cause for probation or dismissal from the program at any time (see Dismissal from the program).

Program Continuation

If a student is finishing degree requirements (e.g. dissertation) beyond the fourth year of the Ph.D. program or the third year of the Ed.D., the student is considered to be in continuation. The student must remain enrolled in the appropriate continuation courses (e.g. LDRS 8963 Dissertation Writing, etc.) each semester until the students complete the remaining degree requirements.

Should a student choose to not register for a semester while in continuation, the student will be considered on leave without permission and, therefore, will be unable to complete work for her or his dissertation (e.g. unable to seek Chair assistance, apply to the institutional review board, or defend a proposal or final dissertation). Should a student, after a leave of absence without permission, wish to continue in the program, he or she will need to apply for re-admittance and students will be charged the tuition for the continuation courses for the semesters the student was not enrolled.

Re-Admittance Procedure

In order to be re-admitted into the program after taking a leave of absence, the student will need to complete a re-admittance form and meet with CFLS staff or faculty to development a plan for program completion.

Students experiencing personal problems:

Students encountering personal problems are encouraged to seek out professional counseling support when appropriate. Northwest’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences staff (also located on the second floor of the 6710 Building) may be able provide information about possible low-cost counseling services available to students. Additionally, students are strongly encouraged to engage in regular self-care and stress management activities such: as taking days off from schoolwork, spending time with friends and family, fostering a support group, exercising, eating a balanced diet, and getting adequate sleep. 

Academic Probation

Students who fail to maintain satisfactory academic progress towards graduation are placed on Academic Probation by the CFLS Dean. Probation is a temporary status intended to help focus the student’s efforts while concentrating the program’s resources to address and remedy the causes of insufficient academic progress. Probation is not intended as a punitive measure but as a warning and a time for necessary improvement.

Students are placed on Academic Probation for a period of time set by the CFLS Dean if they are unable to reach the cumulative minimum GPA of 3.000 with fewer than 4 incomplete or failed courses. During Academic Probation students will not be allowed to register for any new classes.

If a student does not meet the terms of the probation period by the date agreed upon, the student will be asked to withdraw from the program. If the student does meet the terms of academic probation, they will be taken off this list and allowed to register for classes as normal. Students are only allowed to be put on an Academic Probation once, the second time the student will be dismissed from the program.

Dismissal from the Program

A student may be dismissed from the Program due to any one of the following factors:

  • Continual Poor Performance. Should the student be unable to achieve a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.000 the semester following being placed on probation, the student may be dismissed from the program. Furthermore, if a student fails to retake a required course within a time period determined by the CFLS Dean he or she may be dismissed from the program.

  • Placed on probation more than once. Throughout the course of the program, he or she may be dismissed from the program if requesting a second academic probation.

  • Professional Conduct. Students are expected to comply with the behavioral standards of Northwest University and the laws of Washington State and local government bodies. Should a student fail to meet the criteria of professional behavioral standards (including, but not limited to emotional stability, interpersonal skills, maturity, and ethical conduct), the student may be dismissed from the program.

Students dismissed from the program may appeal the decision to the Provost of the university. The reviewing personnel will be provided with all relevant information regarding the student’s academic performance and professional conduct.

Graduation Requirements

  • Completion of all required coursework for Ph.D. or Ed.D.
  • Director’s recommendation for continuation in the program after each annual review
  • Maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Passing grade for all required comprehensive examinations
  • Approval of dissertation proposal and dissertation final document by Dissertation Committee

Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership

Graduates of the Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership program are trained in research methodology and equipped to analyze literature, conduct and publish original research, and apply relevant theories to current issues and field practice. The curriculum for the Ph.D. requires a total of 72 credits. The coursework and dissertation process are structured for full-time students to be able to complete the Ph.D. in four years.

Graduates with a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership will be able to:

  1. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of competing leadership theories as applied to current organizational challenges.
  2. Conduct high-quality original research that expands organizational leadership theory.
  3. Demonstrate effective presentation skills.
  4. Cultivate positive interpersonal skills that promote healthy organizations.
  5. Articulate a compelling Christian perspective for addressing ethical challenges.
  6. Apply leadership theory to the challenge and opportunity of diverse perspectives in organizational settings.

Ph.D./Ed.D. Concentrations: 18

Concentrations are offered through the following Colleges:

Business Leadership and Consulting Concentration: 18

College of Business Concentration: Business Leadership and Consulting

The business concertation in the Organizational Leadership doctoral programs integrates business theory with practice. Graduates will be able to use their expertise to benefit companies they already work for or to assist organizations as consultants.

Graduate with a concentration in Business Leadership and Consulting will be able to:

  1. Apply critical thinking to address business problems and opportunities.
  2. Propose a strategic growth plan for an organization.
  3. Evaluate qualitative external and internal data to support business analysis.
  4. Construct a plan to resolve organizational conflict.

(select 18 credits from the following)

Higher Education Leadership Concentration: 18

College of Education Concentration: Higher Education Leadership

Graduates in a concentration in Higher Education Leadership will be able to:

  1. Gain a broad knowledge of higher education;
  2. Develop theoretical understanding and practical application of leadership as applied within the context of higher education.
  3. Contribute new insights to the body of knowledge surrounding higher education (Ph.D.)
  4. Apply Current theory and knowledge surrounding higher education to a real-worlds problem or situation (Ed.D.)

Leading Ministry Organizations Concentration: 18

College of Ministry Concentration: Leading Ministry Organizations

A comprehensive doctoral concentration in Leading Ministry Organizations taught from a biblical worldview.

Graduates with a concentration in Leading Ministry Organizations will be able to:

  1. Evaluate historical, theological and organizational theories related to ministry organizations.
  2. Create spiritual formation plans for those in ecclesial leadership.
  3. Analyze the distinctive elements of Christian spirituality in organizations.
  4. Conduct original research on ecclesial leadership as it relates to today’s ministry organizations.
  5. Evaluate the performance of ministry organizations based on data, to produce evidence-based conclusions, leading to the development of new theory and practice.

Interdisciplinary Leadership Concentration: 18

Center for Leadership Studies Concentration: Interdisciplinary Leadership

A multi-disciplinary doctoral concentration bridging diverse fields into a holistic application of leadership theory in a complex world.

Students will select 18 credits of coursework from current concentration courses in consultation with their advisor.

Graduates with a concentration in Interdisciplinary Leadership will be able to:

  1. Analyze the unique contributions of various fields to the study of leadership theory and practice.
  2. Apply the insights of different fields to leadership theory and practice in other fields.
  3. Synthesize new leadership practices from the combination of insights from various disciplines.
  4. Conduct original research on the relationship of various fields of leadership study to each other.
  5. Develop and apply data that can be used to evaluate the performance of organizations from a holistic perspective.

Total: 72 Semester Credits

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