Sep 28, 2022  
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Educational Leadership, Ed.D.

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Brandelyn Tosolt, Ph.D., Graduate Program Director



NKU’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership is unique in focus, format, and delivery.  Our Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program is designed to create transformational leaders who work in various settings. Our current students (whom we call learning associates) come from a range of professional backgrounds, including:

  • Higher Education Teaching and Administration
  • Principals and Superintendents in K-12 school systems
  • Public Sector
  • Corporate Training


The NKU Doctor of Education (Ed. D.) in Educational Leadership Program is designed to enhance leadership skills for instructional and administrative leaders in P-20 settings and other human services areas.  It is a practitioner-scholar degree designed to meet a set of “best practice” competencies/outcomes integrated with individual career and personal goals for leaders with significant professional leadership experience.  Northern Kentucky University is a proud member of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED).  Key elements of our program include:

  1. Practitioner-scholar focus designed to prepare leaders who can construct and apply knowledge to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals, families, organizations, and communities;
  2. A cohort model that provides opportunities for learning associates (what we call our students) to develop and demonstrate collaboration and communication skills to work with diverse communities and to build partnerships;
  3. Emphasis on enhancing existing leadership skills by integrating theory and practice through job-embedded and “puzzles of practice” learning experiences;
  4. Focus on the knowledge and skills component necessary for effective practitioners as well as on the human or dispositional qualities associated with transformational leadership;
  5. A set of “best practice” competencies/outcomes that integrates both practical and research knowledge and links theory with systemic and systematic inquiry;
  6. Civic engagement elements focusing on contemporary community challenges, often framed around questions of equity, ethics, and social justice to bring about solutions to complex problems of practice;
  7. Action research dissertation in practice (DiP) emphasizing the generation, transformation, and use of professional knowledge and practice.

The program generally admits one cohort of learning associates each fall. They discover that the cohort model creates a strong support system, helping each member balance work, family life, and coursework.


Learning in our Ed.D. program is approached through a hybrid instructional model. The learning associates experience their courses through a rich blend of face to face and online learning settings. Typically our learning associates attend face to face sessions one weekend per month with the balance of coursework online.

Contact Information

Educational Leadership Programs - MEP 209 or 859-572-7899

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the Ed.D. program, an applicant must have:

  1. A master’s degree or equivalent in an applicable field from a regionally accredited institution of higher education with a minimum graduate GPA of 3.25 (on a 4.0 scale).
  2. Evidence of significant professional leadership experience normally achieved over a minimum of five years.
  3. In addition to the two criteria above, applicants will be evaluated for their:
  • Level of organizational or civic ambition
  • Leadership trajectory
  • Timing for pursuit of an Ed.D.
  • Fit between the candidate’s hopes and aspirations and the features of our Ed.D. program

Application Process

The application process has two parts. The first consists of submission of required documents. The second part is an interview with educational leadership faculty and a writing evaluation, which includes an on-demand response to a case study or issue. Visit for more information.

Documents to Be Submitted

All materials for admission must be submitted to NKU’s Office of Graduate Education.  You may either mail application and supplemental materials to the Office of Graduate Education or scan and e-mail them to  A complete application for admission must include:

  1. Application and paid application fee for graduate admission, found at 
  2. All transcripts of graduate and undergraduate courses and degrees forwarded to NKU’s Office of Graduate Education.
  3. A letter of intent addressing candidate’s reasons for applying to the program.  In the letter, specifically address the following four prompts:
  • In your role as a leader, what do you hope is your impact in your community and/or organization?
  • Help us (the Ed.D. admissions committee) understand where you are in your leadership trajectory.  What leadership roles have you held?  What types of leadership roles do you hope to assume?
  • What makes this the right time for you to pursue an Ed.D.?
  • What makes NKU’s Ed.D. program the right program for you to pursue? 

 The letter should be addressed to the Admissions Committee

  1. A professional vitae/resume (including educational background, employment history, awards, and accomplishments).
  2. Recommendations on Ed.D. Recommendation Form.  When asking for recommendations, e-mail the Ed.D. recommendation form to three (3) people (e.g. colleague, supervisor, professor, mentor).  These people will submit the form via email to
  3. Leadership Situation Essay (500 words).  Describe a significant experience in which you played a leadership role.  Include as much detail as possible when answering the following questions:
  • Describe the situation as it occurred at the time.
  • What did you do in that particular situation?
  • How did you feel about the situation at the time you were experiencing it?
  • How do you feel about the situation now?
  • What would you change, if anything?
  1. If applying to the Nurse Educator Ed.D.:
  • A master’s degree in nursing from a regionally accredited institution of higher education with a minimum graduate GPA of 3.25 (on a 4.0 scale).
  • Five (5) or more years of nursing leadership experience.

Admission Interview

After a thorough review of the completed application materials, the admissions committee will select candidates to be interviewed. Interviews will be conducted in groups or individually and will take place at times that accommodate working applicants.  Following the interviews, the committee will review all available data to assess the fit and overall potential of the candidate for success in the program before making a final offer for admission.  Applicants will be notified of decisions via e-mail.  Questions? E-mail us at or call (859) 572-7899.

Initial Admission

Candidates are admitted to doctoral study on a probationary basis before being formally admitted to degree study. The decision to admit a candidate to doctoral work constitutes major commitments from the candidate, employer, and the university faculty who will advise, instruct, evaluate, and guide the candidate in the courses and dissertation studies. Candidates will take and successfully complete 18 semester hours in selected courses prior to gaining regular admission status.

Admission to Candidacy

Doctoral students will be admitted to candidacy upon completion of the following comprehensive assessment criteria*:

  1. APA Style Competency Assessment (EDD 810   )
  2. Review of literature with rubric (EDD 811   )
  3. Grade of A or B in EDD 812  Understanding Statistics (3 credits)  

The learning associate is then notified of admission to candidacy via e-mail and an original mailed letter. All three competencies must be successfully completed by the end of the third semester. Each assessment can be attempted twice.

*This applies to cohorts admitted starting in the 2014-15 fall semester.

♦ Indicates prerequisite.

Curriculum Requirements


To earn the Ed. D. in Educational Leadership, learning associates are required to complete a foundations core curriculum of 12 hours, research/dissertation core of 21 hours, specialization core of 12 hours, and cognate core of 15 hours of cognate curriculum for a total of 60 semester hours.

Cognate (Endorsements, Certificates, Themes) (15 credit hours)

The cognate is required for all students; these courses may be waived by the Ed. D. Admission Committee, after review of transcripts and consultation with the student if completed as part of a previously earned second Master’s degree, Education Specialist degree, or Certificate Program.  All coursework to be considered must meet all the other NKU graduate policies (originating from a regionally accredited institution of higher education; within the time limits as stated in NKU graduate catalog; earned B or better). Coursework taken at schools on other than a semester system will not be given one to one credit hour equivalency.

Total Credit Hours: 60

Exit Requirements

To be awarded the degree students must:

  1. Successfully complete all 60 hours of coursework listed above with a 3.0 or higher.
  2. Pass the comprehensive assessment process.
  3. Learning associates must apply to graduate through their myNKU adhering to deadlines and requirements of the university.
  4. Successfully complete and defend the dissertation. Specific policies, procedures, and standards must be met when proposing, defending, and submitting (uploading) the dissertation before the learning associate is cleared to graduate.

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