Leadership Studies

PhD in Leadership

The PhD in Leadership seeks to prepare leaders capable of effectively addressing various challenges that cross disciplinary boundaries and sectors in a global context. Graduates of the PhD in Leadership will be equipped with the expertise to lead within diverse contexts, from business and non-profit to government and community organizations, with knowledge and skills to work across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries, to facilitate productive dialogue towards consensus, to conduct research and evaluate research done by others, and to foster resilience and sustainability within the environment they lead.

The PhD in Leadership builds upon the strong legacy of one of the first academic programs in Leadership in the world. It is a post-master’s degree 72 credit hour program designed for experienced leaders who are employed throughout the duration of the program. (Students with master’s degrees in applicable areas may be allowed to utilize some of their master’s degree work to fulfill the requirements of the doctoral program.) Although the program is designed to be very low residency, with a maximum required attendance in-person of three days a year, courses in leadership, group dynamics, communication, cultural contexts, and creativity are available in both blended and fully online formats.

Program Highlights

The primary focus of the doctoral program is to develop thought leaders who are committed to exploring leading-edge issues in innovative ways, combining scholarship, creativity, and self-inquiry. The core knowledge and skills required to explore these issues requires a transdisciplinary understanding of local, regional, national, and global organizational contexts and challenges and includes:

  • Knowledge and skills to lead diverse people and organizations
  • Professional integrity and reflective, ethical practice
  • Ability to lead change and innovation
  • Systems, complexity, adaptive, and associated theories and models of leadership
  • Practice-based research
  • Research methods

PhD in Leadership

(72 credits)

Course numbers will be available soon

Leadership Core (24 credits)

Students will complete 24 credit hours in foundational leadership and organizational theory courses, including seminars in ethics, global leadership, and organization development, and three one-credit weekend-intensive residencies (orientation, research, and pre-dissertation).

  • Foundations of Leadership Studies I: Theory and Practice (3 cr.)
  • Foundations of Leadership Studies II: Theory and Practice (3 cr.)
  • Leading Organization Development (3 cr.)
  • Leadership & Applied Ethics (3 cr.)
  • Leadership in a Global Society (3 cr.)
  • The Learning Organization (3 cr.)
  • Global Immersion (3 cr.) (Students may elect Leadership Study Abroad; the International Leadership Association Global Conference; or Global Field Work)
  • Residency I, II, & III (Students will attend three required one-credit Fri-Sun intensives at the beginning of each pre-dissertation year of study, early-mid August) (3 cr. total)

Program Concentrations (24 credits)

Students will develop their Program of Study by selecting 24 credits of coursework in either Leadership Studies or Organization Development. Students will complete the 18 credits from the courses listed under each concentration list below and work with their faculty advisor to select an additional six credits of elective courses.

  • Leadership Studies Concentration (18 credits)
    • Comparative Leadership Theory (3 cr.)
    • Communication and Relationship Building (3 cr.)
    • Deliberate Creativity and Innovation (3 cr.)
    • Global Leadership Theory (3 cr.)
    • Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Leadership (3 cr.)
    • Comparative Organizational Theory (3 cr.)
  • Organization Development Concentration (18 credits)
    • Communication and Relationship Building (3 cr.)
    • Deliberate Creativity and Innovation (3 cr.)
    • Training and Development (3 cr.)
    • Organizational Consulting: A Perspective on Leadership (3 cr.)
    • Strategic Planning, Visioning, & Design (3 cr.)
    • Organizational Finance & Budgeting (3 cr.)

Approved Electives (6 credits)

  • Any graduate-level LOS course not otherwise required by your degree plan (pre-approved by your faculty advisor) (3-6 cr.)
  • Any graduate-level course applicable to the study of leadership (pre-approved by your faculty advisor) (3-6 cr.)

Research Methods (15 credits)

  • Foundations of Research (3 cr.)
  • Statistical Methods for Leadership Studies I (3 cr.)
  • Qualitative Methods for Leadership Studies (3 cr.)
  • Research Design / Pro Seminar (3 cr.)
  • Choose one of the following:
    • Statistical Methods for Leadership Studies II (3 cr.)
    • Advanced Qualitative Methods for Leadership Studies (3 cr.)
    • Program Evaluation & Assessment (3 cr.)

Dissertation (9 credits)

The doctor of philosophy degree is a research degree awarded in recognition of demonstrated mastery of subject matter in a chosen field of study and demonstrated competence in the conduct of an individual research investigation that represents a significant contribution to the cumulative knowledge of the field. This program of study and research will be supervised by an advisory committee. In the end, the candidate’s research must be approved by the advisory committee as meeting the standards generally associated with a successful doctoral dissertation.

  • Dissertation Proposal (3 cr.)
  • Dissertation Continuation (3 or more cr.)
  • Dissertation Completion (3 cr.)

Application Qualifications

Applicants must have an earned master’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 (by the start date of the doctoral program). Additionally, applicants should be working professionals with experience and interest in pursuing advanced study of leadership.

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required for all applicants. See below for details.

Application Deadline

December 1, 2019, for matriculation in the Fall 2020 semester.

Applicants are required to provide the following materials:

  • Application: Online Application
  • Application fee: Waived for all applicants
  • Transcripts: Official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended, excluding the seven campuses of the University of Maine System (UMS transcripts are accessible to USM). A transcript is official when sent directly from the institution. Preference will be given to students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher in all graduate-level academic work.
  • Resume: Submit a resume or CV that outlines professional, volunteer, and community experience. Preference will be given to students with at least three years of relevant professional experience.
  • An essay that includes two separate, distinct parts:
    • A description of the applicant’s scholarly area of interest and an outline of a plan for conducting an applied research project in that area of inquiry. This depiction will allow the admissions committee to evaluate the applicant’s potential for applied research.
    • A personal statement that describes the applicant’s intent in applying to the program and how their personal and professional goals align with the program's mission/vision/values.
  • Recommendation: Two letters of recommendation attesting to the applicant's knowledge of current scholarship, the achievement of excellence in leadership practice, capacity to connect theory and practice in solving leadership challenges, and demonstrated capability and motivation to engage in doctoral study. References should be from individuals who are qualified through direct experience with your academic or professional work.  One of these individuals should be a supervisor.  Both the supervisor and the other person writing a letter of reference on your behalf should comment on your qualities and experience as a leader and/or your ability to undertake doctoral-level graduate study.
  • A sample of scholarship, research, or academic writing that demonstrates the applicant’s readiness for doctoral-level work.
  • GRE test scores

Please note: Successful applicants will have demonstrated skills and competencies in their academic careers as well as their field of work, which may be in public, non-profit, or corporate sectors. (Examples of these demonstrated skills may include pursuits such as published research, teaching academic courses, presenting at academic conferences, etc.)

Where to send transcripts and application materials

Official transcripts and other supporting documents can be sent to:

Application Processing Center
University of Maine System
P.O. Box 412
Bangor, ME 04402-0412

Colleges and universities that participate in electronic submission of transcripts can email us official transcripts to edocs@maine.edu. Resumes, essays, and other documents can also be sent to edocs@maine.edu.

For a transcript or recommendation to be considered official, it must be sent by the institution or the person writing the recommendation.

GRE Test Requirement

The GRE is required. Applicants must have earned a score of 300 or above on the combined Verbal and Quantitative subtests of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The GRE must be taken within the last five years.

Applicants who do not score 300 combined on the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE must enclose a letter asking for special consideration, in which they provide evidence of an ability to complete doctoral studies successfully. Without such a letter, applicants who fail to meet eligibility requirements may be automatically denied.

International Applicants

In addition to the standard application materials, international students must also provide the following materials:

  • College transcript evaluation: official course-by-course evaluation of college-level transcripts from a NACES (National Association of Credential Evaluation Services) approved transcript analysis agency

  • Declaration of Finances form accompanied by the appropriate financial documentation

  • International students whose first language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and submit official scores as part of the application process. Only applicants with TOEFL scores of 79 or higher on the internet-based test 550 or higher on the paper-based test, or 213 or higher on the computer-based test; or IELTS scores of 6.5 or higher will be considered for admission to a graduate program.

English Proficiency

Official English proficiency examination scores may also be requested from an applicant whose primary language is not English and who has not received a degree from an English-speaking institution.

Course numbers will be available soon

Program Schedule:

Students will take two courses each semester (September-May) and two courses during the summer for a total of 18 credits per year. A personalized course schedule will be developed after students have been admitted to the program so that it may be best designed to fit the students’ needs.


At the beginning of each pre-dissertation year of study, students will participate in a mandatory in-person three-day residency on our Portland campus.

Summer Prior to Year 1

  • Residency I: Orientation (1 cr.)

Year 1: Fall

  • Foundations of Leadership Studies I: Theory and Practice (3 cr.)
  • Foundations of Research (3 cr.)

Year 1: Spring

  • Foundations of Leadership Studies II: Theory and Practice (3 cr.)
  • Statistical Methods for Leadership Studies I (3 cr.)

Year 1: Summer

  • Elective One (3 cr.)
  • Leadership in a Global Society (3 cr.)
  • Residency II: Research (1 cr.)

Year 2: Fall

  • Leading Organization Development (3 cr.)
  • Qualitative Methods for Leadership Studies (3 cr.)

Year 2: Spring

  • Leadership & Applied Ethics (3 cr.)
  • The Learning Organization (3 cr.)

Year 2: Summer

  • Methods Elective (3 cr.)
  • Summer Concentration Course One (3 cr.)
  • Residency III: Pre-Dissertation (1 cr.)

Year 3: Fall

  • Fall Concentration Course One (3 cr.)
  • Global Immersion: Option One (International Leadership Association Global Conference) or Elective Two (3 cr.)

Year 3: Spring

  • Research Design / Pro Seminar (3 cr.)
  • Spring Concentration Course One (3 cr.)

Year 3: Summer

  • Global Immersion: Option Two or Three (Leadership Study Abroad or Global Field Work) or Elective Two (3 cr.)
  • Dissertation Proposal (3 cr.)

Year 4: Fall

  • Dissertation Continuation (3 or more cr.)
  • Fall Concentration Course Two (3 cr.)

Year 4: Spring

  • Dissertation Completion (3 cr.)
  • Spring Concentration Course Two (3 cr.)

Year 4: Summer

  • Summer Concentration Course Two (3 cr.)

Concentration Course Rotations

Leadership Studies

  • Fall Course One: Comparative Leadership Theory
  • Fall Course Two: Communication and Relationship Building
  • Spring Course One: Deliberate Creativity and Innovation
  • Spring Course Two: Global Leadership Theory
  • Summer Course One: Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Leadership
  • Summer Course Two: Comparative Organizational Theory

 Organization Development

  • Fall Course One: Communication and Relationship Building
  • Fall Course Two: Organizational Finance & Budgeting
  • Spring Course One: Deliberate Creativity and Innovation
  • Spring Course Two: Training and Development
  • Summer Course One: Organizational Consulting: A Perspective on Leadership
  • Summer Course Two: Strategic Planning, Visioning, & Design