Higher Education, Ed.D.
Graduate Studies
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Immaculata’s doctoral program in higher education inspires and equips insightful, ethical administrators and faculty leaders.

The Doctor of Education in Higher Education is designed for college and university administrators or faculty members who seek to embrace or advance their career opportunities by expanding their knowledge of current trends in higher education and by developing their scholarship and leadership capacity.

The program is also designed for individuals working in fields related to higher education, such as nursing administration, law, and organizational or educational consulting, who seek career advancement through an appointment at a college or university.

If you aspire to be a leader who serves directly in an administrative role, or an educator with direct academic responsibilities, this program will provide the perfect balance of theoretical structure and application-to-practice.

Accelerated and Synchronous Online Format

Designed specifically for individuals who are working full-time, the Ed.D. Higher Education is delivered in an accelerated format. Courses offered during the fall and spring semesters are scheduled in a seven-week term, with a synchronous online class session held during weeks 1, 3, 5 and 7. Courses offered during the summer are scheduled in a five-week term, with a synchronous online class session held during weeks 1, 3 and 5.

This format eliminates time-consuming commuting while retaining the ability to network with peers in the doctoral program, building a strong learning community facilitated through synchronous sessions and other online course activities.

The curriculum assumes students will take two courses during each 14-week semester as well as two courses in the summer. During the semesters and summer courses are scheduled in tandem so students focus on a single course at a time.

Program of Study

Students begin their study through a core curriculum that focuses on topics vital to higher education today. These include:

  • History and philosophy of American higher education
  • Contemporary issues and challenges in higher education
  • Research-based analysis and strategic thinking
  • Higher education leadership and ethical decision-making
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education
  • Student access and success

Offering the opportunity for specialization within the broad field of higher education, you will select one of three concentrations:

Students also complete a four-course sequence in research methods and applications, assuring preparation for undertaking the dissertation as well as continuing research as a scholar-practitioner upon completion of the doctorate.

Throughout the entire doctoral program, students are mentored and guided in their course of study by program faculty and practitioners in the field. Using this academic guidance strategically, students uncover their unique areas of research interest, investigate relevant literature on the topic, and design a research plan, culminating in the completion and defense of the dissertation under the direction of a research advisor.

Applied Field Experience

An applied field experience, taken near the end of the course of study, allows you to sharpen the knowledge and skills you have developed in the program. Many students complete this experience at their higher education place of employment; you will be guided in placement selection and design. During this 90-hour field experience seasoned professionals offer you personalized professional development opportunities and guidance related to issues and trends impacting higher education.


The capstone of the higher education program demonstrates your successful completion of a research study in your area of interest. You will select a chairperson at the start of the dissertation writing process who will guide you until the completion of your study. As a culminating experience, you will formally defend your research study before a panel of experts. Dissertation topics explored by doctoral graduates include:

  • Diversity and Equity
  • Student Access and Success
  • Academic Leadership
  • Community Colleges
  • Faculty Development
  • Spiritual Formation
  • Nursing Education




Meet synchronously with expert instructors in alternating weeks



Engage regularly with cohort members, faculty, and advisors


Participate in courses conducted in accelerated, sequential sessions



Complete program of study in approximately 4 years

Course Preview

Seminar in Doctoral Studies

Course materials expose students to fundamental elements of scholarly inquiry and the research process including exploration of dissertation topics, ethics, and strategies for success.

Change and Innovation in Higher Education

An investigation of the processes of change and innovation through concepts such as analysis of context, relationship building, organizational culture, resistance, disruption, frameworks for innovation, accountability, design thinking, managing chaos. Current case studies inform discussion; projects focus on change initiatives.

Higher Education Administration and Leadership

This course provides an overview of the basic organizational structure of higher education and how leadership at every level must facilitate change and innovation. The role of each leadership unit (academic affairs, student affairs, enrollment management, finance, institutional advancement) is examined.

Diversity and Multiculturalism

This course emphasizes development of the awareness, knowledge, and skills necessary to be a multiculturally-competent higher education faculty member or administrator, through the lens of structural inequality and diversity. It emphasizes the practitioner’s responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities for creating and sustaining affirming, pluralistic, and inclusive campus communities for all students.


Program Faculty

Affiliated Faculty

The Higher Education Program is enhanced by the teaching and scholarship of affiliated faculty. This group is comprised of individuals currently serving in administrative and faculty appointments at colleges and universities in the Philadelphia region and beyond. Our affiliated faculty include:

  • Nancy Barker, Ed.D. – associate professor and assistant chair of nursing, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Christine Brown, Ed.D. – coordinator of the Brandywine Learning Center and co-coordinator of the Multilingual Student Course Cluster, Penn State Brandywine
  • Christine Cavanaugh, Ed.D. – president and executive coach, Pathseekers II, Inc.
  • John Cavanaugh, Ph.D. – past president and CEO of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, and past chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
  • Kim Cooney, Ed.D. – director, First Year Experience Program, Gwynedd Mercy University
  • Maria Cuddy-Casey, Ph.D. – professor of psychology, Immaculata University
  • Mark Hammons, Ed.D. – assistant dean, College of Graduate Studies, Immaculata University
  • Heeyoung Kim, Ph.D. – director of faculty development, Center for Teaching and Learning, Rider University
  • David Lovett, Ed.D. – past senior associate vice president for student affairs and student success, Shippensburg University
  • Marcia Parris, Ed.D. – dean, College of Graduate Studies, Immaculata University
  • Susan Petula, Ph.D. – nursing education advisor, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
  • Stefanie Schwalm, Ed.D. – associate provost of accreditation, assessment, and planning, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Angela Tekely, Ed.D. – provost and vice president for academic affairs, Immaculata University
  • Maria Toth, Ed.D. – associate professor of nursing, Immaculata University


Curriculum (54 total credits)

Foundational Core (12 credits)

  • HED 700 Seminar in Doctoral Studies (3)
  • HED 705 Foundations of American Higher Education (3)
  • HED 712 Higher Education Administration and Leadership (3)
  • HED 721 Diversity and Multiculturalism in Higher Education (3)

Research Core (9 credits)

  • HED 702 Methods of Research (3)
  • HED 703 Quantitative Research Methods (3)
  • HED 704 Qualitative Analysis and Mixed Research Methods (3)

Concentration (15 credits)

Administration and Instruction:

  • HED 715 Change and Innovation in Higher Education (3)
  • HED 725 Finance and Strategic Planning (3)
  • HED 732 Assessment of Student Learning (3)
  • HED 748 Enrollment Management (3)
  • HED 820 Applied Field Experience in Higher Education (3)

Community Colleges:

  • HED 715 Change and Innovation in Higher Education (3)
  • HED 725 Finance and Strategic Planning (3)
  • HED 732 Assessment of Student Learning (3)
  • HED 757 The American Community College (3)
  • HED 820 Applied Field Experience in Community Colleges (3)

Nursing Education:

  • HED 770 Program Development and Evaluation (3)
  • HED 771 Instructional Design (3)
  • HED 772 Learning Theory (3)
  • HED 773 Advanced Scientific Inquiry (3)
  • HED 820 Applied Field Experience in Nursing Education (3)

Dissertation Sequence (12 credits)

  • HED 794 Dissertation Research and Evaluation (3)
  • HED 795 Dissertation Design (3)
  • HED 798/799 Dissertation I and II (3)

Electives (6 credits)

  • HED 706 Adult and Student Development (3)
  • HED 711 Special Topics (3)
  • HED 715 Change and Innovation in Higher Education (3)
  • HED 725 Finance and Strategic Planning (3)
  • HED 731 Best Practices in Teaching and Learning (3)
  • HED 732 Assessment of Student Learning (3)
  • HED 735 Public Policy and Analysis of Issues (3)
  • HED 740 Academic Curriculum: Design, Delivery and Assessment (3)
  • HED 745 Strategies for Institutional Advancement (3)
  • HED 748 Enrollment Management (3)
  • HED 750 Student Services in Higher Education (3)
  • HED 755 Program and Institutional Evaluation (3)
  • HED 757 The American Community College (3)
  • HED 760 Current Issues in Higher Ed / Community College / Nursing Ed (3)
  • HED 765 Advanced Topics in Higher Ed / Community College / Nursing Ed (3)
  • HED 820 Applied Field Experience (3)

Program Outcomes

Area Student Learning Outcomes
Historical Foundations Apply information, principles, and references from the historical foundations of higher education to current issues and practices including the recognition that social and cultural systems develop out of adaptation to environmental and historical circumstances
Contemporary Global Issues & Challenges Apply theory to practice in analyzing potential solutions to contemporary issues facing higher education worldwide
Leadership & Ethics Evaluate and employ leadership values, beliefs, and styles in the context of ethical decision making; demonstrate acquisition of professional identity consistent with the goals of scholar and practitioner with a doctoral education
Strategic Thinking Illustrate strategic thinking in institutional planning, academic direction and programming,  organizational budgets, operations, and institutional assessment and evaluation at all levels
Equity & Diversity Articulate diverse perspectives and incorporate diverse viewpoints and cultural paradigms into program development, implementation, assessment, and personal interactions
Curriculum Evaluate and employ current paradigms of curriculum design, delivery and assessment
Student Development, Access, and Completion Evaluate and apply best practices in access, retention, and completion for all students in the context of student development theory and institutional environments
Administration & Operations Evaluate current administrative, operational, legal and public issues and trends in higher education
Use of Research Interpret with accuracy research in the field
Conducting Research Conduct and disseminate current research
Administration & Instruction Concentration
  • Evidence breadth of understanding of factors influencing and supporting higher education, its purpose, and its practices viewed from the perspective of administration and faculty
  • Evidence in-depth knowledge of the roles, responsibilities, and governance of faculty and administration in higher education
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the sciences of learning assessment and institutional effectiveness and best practices for institutional change and innovation in higher education
  • Contribute to the advancement of administration and/or student learning effectiveness in higher education through intellectual inquiry and scholarship
Community Colleges Concentration
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the profile, issues, strategies, and practices of two-year institutions reflective of the varied constituents impacting or impacted by this area of the higher education community
  • Evidence in-depth knowledge of the roles, responsibilities, and governance of faculty and administration in community colleges
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the science of learning assessment and institutional effectiveness and best practices for institutional change and innovation in community colleges
  • Contribute to the advancement of administration and/or student learning effectiveness at community colleges through intellectual inquiry and scholarship
Nursing Education Concentration
  • Evidence in-depth knowledge of the nurse educators’ roles and practices in higher education as faculty members and academic leaders.
  • Conceive evidenced-based strategies to design, implement, evaluation, and improve nursing education to reflect modern theory and trends in higher education, healthcare, and nursing practice
  • Design curriculum and programs in nursing education including planning for development, implementation assessment, and evaluation using 12st century delivery and assessment methodologies
  • Contribute to the advancement of the science of nursing education through intellectual inquiry and creative scholarship.

Future Careers

Recent graduates of the program, along with doctoral candidates, have received teaching and administrative appointments in numerous colleges and universities. Among these are the following schools:

  • Albright University
  • Alvernia University
  • Bloomsburg University
  • Bucks County Community College
  • California Lutheran University
  • Cedar Crest College
  • Central Pennsylvania College
  • Chestnut Hill University
  • Community College of Philadelphia
  • Delaware County Community College
  • Eastern University
  • Harrisburg Area Community College
  • Holy Family University
  • Georgia State University
  • Gwynedd Mercy University
  • Immaculata University
  • Kutztown University
  • Lincoln University
  • Messiah College
  • Montgomery County Community College
  • Pennsylvania College of Medical Sciences
  • Pennsylvania Institute of Technology
  • Penn State University – Brandywine
  • Penn State University – Harrisburg
  • Rowan University at Burlington
  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Ursinus College
  • Villanova University
  • West Chester University
  • Widener University

Applied Field Experience Examples

Examples of recent field experience engagements and their locations include:


Alvernia University Office of Student Support Services
Bloomsburg University Course Development, Teaching and Evaluation
Human Services on Boarding Practices
Boston College Spiritual Development of College Students
Central Penn College Business Accreditation
Delaware County Community College Multicultural Relationships: Hispanic and African American
Drexel University Multicultural Center
International Students and Scholars Services
Eastern University Coordination of a Student Success Conference
Georgian Court University Diversity Recruitment
Gwynedd Mercy University Academic Planning
Strategic Plan for Student Retention
Online Teaching in Nursing Education
Harrisburg Area Community College Human Services Self Study for Reaccreditation
Immaculata University Faculty Development for Online Teaching
New Faculty Orientation
Curriculum Development
Curriculum Revision
Human Services Program Accreditation
Online Nursing Education Curriculum Development and Implementation
Program Accreditation Readiness
Space Utilization
Curriculum Development for Master’s in Higher Education
Kutztown University Teaching and Learning Website Development
LaSalle University New Student Orientation
Lincoln University Community Outreach, Grant Writing, and Program Development
Market Analysis and Strategic Planning
Millersville University Transition Programs
Montgomery County Community College Adjunct Faculty Development
Student Affairs and Strategic Planning
Academic Department Marketing Plan
Faculty Development and Diversity
Student Support Programming
Articulation Agreements
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences Enrollment Management
Leadership Education
Funding Development Plan for Health Career Academy
Institutional Advancement
Pennsylvania State University Research Design in Early Learning
Course Development, Teaching, and Evaluation
Temple University Upward Bound Program
University of Pennsylvania Program Evaluation Research with the Penn CAP Program
Ursinus College Exploration of Academic Life
West Chester University Nursing Education Curriculum Outcomes Assessment
Associate of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties Labor Relations for Adjunct Faculty
Council for Standards in Human Services Education Accreditation Review, Process and Site Visit Teams
PASSHE Technology: PRR, SARA and Student Liability


Dissertation Topics

Diversity and Equity

  • A qualitative phenomenological study: Student involvement among students with an autism spectrum disorder in higher education
  • Understanding academic success and self-determination through the lived experiences of racial/ethnic BSN-prepared nurses
  • The impact of student engagement on retention among African American males at a predominately White institution
  • Voices of victory: Black student experiences at predominantly White Christian colleges and universities leading to graduation
  • Black male retention matters: A phenomenological exploration of those who do/lead the work
  • A qualitative investigation: Advising preferences of advisors and international Chinese students
  • Academic support services contributing to success in college for students with ADHD or learning disabilities
  • Re-conceptualizing the role of chief diversity officer within small, private, four-year colleges

Student Access and Success

  • Hearing their voices: A phenomenological approach to understanding transitional support services for students with specific learning disabilities as they enter
  • Female student persistence in STEM college programs
  • Parents as partners not pesters: Understanding the role of parents in new student success
  • A qualitative phenomenological study: Understanding the social integration experience of sophomore students
  • The academic learning perception gap: student self-efficacy on achievements through nexus learning
  • An analysis of the association between satisfaction and support services for online graduate students
  • First-generation White males: factors related to their persistence to graduation in a small, faith-based institution
  • Implementation of emotional animal policies on college campuses
  • Anxiety in the classroom: Evaluating the relationship between instructor immediacy and public speaking anxiety among college students
  • Perceptions of graduating business students and employers on employability skills
  • Adult learners and their motivation to strive for academic success in an accelerated undergraduate program
  • Understanding the experiences of first-generation college students employed by campus recreation: A phenomenological study
  • Student achievement at the U.S. Army War College: Examining differences based on Army component
  • Career and technical education student pathways following graduation
  • Undergraduate international student persistence in U.S. higher education institutions

Nursing Education

  • Effects of Nursing Simulation on Clinical Competencies in English as a Second Language and Native English Speaking Nursing Students
  • What it takes: A case study on diversity health science pipeline program with a focus on nursing
  • Altruism in nursing graduates from a health-science-focused institution: An explanatory sequential mixed methods study
  • Correlating self-directed learning abilities to lifelong learning orientation in baccalaureate nursing students
  • The relationship of transition on job satisfaction and intent to stay among novice nurse educators in baccalaureate degree nursing programs
  • The effects of role perceptions and barriers to education on the pursuit or completion of an RN to BSN program
  • Nursing faculty perceptions of anxiety in nursing students
  • Pennsylvania nursing programs admission criteria and NCLEX-RN first-time pass rates

Academic Leadership

  • In the face of stereotypes and discrimination: A phenomenological study examining the experiences of Black women presidents during their ascension to and leadership in the college presidency
  • Pathway to the presidency: The perceived impact of race, gender, and other identity structures on the journey experiences of White and African American women college presidents

Community Colleges

  • Getting to college: The role transportation plays in community college persistence
  • Life post incarceration: Lost dreams, perfect reality
  • Perceptions of White privilege among community college faculty
  • A comparative study of full-time and part-time faculty engagement at a suburban community college
  • A case study: The perceptions of Title IX administrators/responsible employees and students regarding the efficacy of Title IX sexual misconduct educational programming at community colleges
  • Validation experiences of low-income, first-generation students in community colleges
  • Intercultural sensitivity toward military culture: Community college staff perspectives of student veterans
  • Community college faculty validation of students: An examination of attitudes and comparison
  • A qualitative exploration of first-generation students’ mattering and persistence experiences at a northeastern, suburban community college

Faculty Development

  • Quality assurance in higher education: Evaluation of adjunct clinical faculty
  • Faculty validation of students: an exploration of validation theory through a survey of faculty attitudes
  • Making teachers: The teacher’s role in a school’s market-space
  • Behaviors of online faculty that influence course completion and student success

Spiritual Formation

  • Spirituality and life change events: a quantitative study of the college undergraduate
  • An exploration of how Black graduate students who practice Christian spirituality intentionally used the tenets of hope and perseverance of their religion as a persistence strategy in degree completion
  • The perception of campus ministry at Holy Family University


Christine Brown: Ed.D. Dissertation Wins National Award

Earning her Ed.D. from Immaculata and winning the American Association of University Administrators’ dissertation award have positioned Brown to start making the change in higher education for which she advocates. 

“Taking classes and producing a doctoral-level dissertation improved my critical thinking skills, writing ability and confidence levels. I gained more respect from my colleagues and was offered more opportunities than I would have otherwise experienced,” she says, mentioning the faculty promotion she received after earning her doctorate from IU.

Learn more about Christine’s story.

Just the facts


Average Cohort Size


Years to complete the program


Percent of graduates employed in higher education

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