About SSLS

The School of Strategic Leadership Studies

James Madison University offers an innovative doctor of philosophy program in Strategic Leadership with specialty concentrations in: 
Nonprofit & Community Leadership and
Postsecondary Leadership.

Why Madison?

JMU's Ph.D. in Strategic Leadership is distinct from any other program available today.  Our inter-disciplinary program is truly unique in its combination of business principles, accountability, leadership theory and applications, and a strong foundation in statistical analysis.  These are all areas of reform that national groups have touted as important for the new educational and nonprofit administrator. Students will be instructed in management principles and in the broader visionary perspectives necessary for effective leadership roles. The program emphasizes practical applications yet is grounded in sophisticated research skills that are needed for data-based decision-making models in current practice.

The leadership course work encompasses models, theories and processes, as well as applications. The capstone leadership course requires an externship, through which students in the nonprofit concentration are providing support to area nonprofits and students in the postsecondary concentration are affecting positive change in every division of the university.

In addition to leadership course work, students enroll in clusters of courses centered on research methodology including measurement, statistics, and accountability; business administration such as managerial finance, accounting for decision-making and control, and other management courses; and a specialty concentration of Nonprofit & Community Leadership or Postsecondary Analysis & Leadership. Students in all concentrations study strategic management, advocacy and volunteerism strategies and principles, and advanced leadership dynamics.

At SSLS, you will have the opportunity to work with other professionals in the education and nonprofit sectors, ranging in age from late 20s to early 50s. While SSLS does not utilize a formal cohort model, many students progress through the program together, and form lasting relationships with each other and the faculty.

Who Is This Program for?

Most of our students are employed full time and study part time (enrolling in 2 courses per semester); however, enough courses are offered each term to make full time study possible.  Courses are held in late afternoons and early evenings whenever possible to accommodate students' work schedules. 

What Our Students Are Saying

"With a background in higher education, I was looking for a Ph.D. program that would diversify my experiences and expand my content knowledge areas. I was impressed with the interdisciplinary approach of this program as it melds together business, research, and strategic leadership. This unique approach to higher education is what led me to apply for the program and what I continue to appreciate during the advancement of my coursework."
- Jennifer Rau, Postsecondary Leadership Concentration

"I was drawn to the program because it blends management skills, leadership, higher education policy, and educational measurement all in one degree. One of the nice surprises of this program has been the number and variety of extracurricular experiences to connect with leaders and professionals across campus and at the national level as well."
- Jody Fagan, Postsecondary Leadership Concentration

"I specifically sought an innovative PhD program that would refine my skill set in Non-Profit Management and Business so I could become an effective founder, fundraiser, and researcher for a NonProfit organization promoting Thyroid Cancer research and prevention. As a “Double Duke,” I was  well aware of the outstanding quality of the JMU’s faculty, and their unwavering commitment to empower students to change the world."
- Theresa Reimbold, Nonprofit and Community Leadership Concentration


Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page and Handbook. Please direct program inquiries to Dr. Karen A. Ford, Director, at ssls@jmu.edu or (540) 568-8916.


James Madison University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award baccalaureate, master's and doctorate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097, or call (404) 679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of James Madison University.