The School of Strategic Leadership Studies prescribes a rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum that provides adult learners a solid foundation in core leadership theory, along with the basic skills and concepts that are prerequisites to being an effective and visionary leadership scholar and practitioner.

Elective credits allow students the flexibility to explore topics specific to their areas of concentration and relevant to their career goals and research interests. The Ph.D. in Strategic Leadership requires students to earn 57-66 total credit hours.

  • Program participants enroll in courses across a wide array of disciplines, including statistics and research methodology, business management, core leadership theory and ethics in organizations.
  • All SSLS and PSYC courses are taught in-person on the JMU campus, although some MBA courses are offered in a hybrid format which can be delivered either synchronously or asynchronously. 
  • Students must enroll for 9 credit-hours (3 courses) in both the fall and spring semesters in order to be classified as full-time.
  • Most SSLS students are enrolled part-time (1-2 courses per semester) as they also pursue full-time careers.

View full course curriculum and descriptions in the catalog.

Externship - LEAD 891

As a JMU Strategic Leadership Studies Ph.D. candidate, students have the opportunity to provide high-level consulting in environments where dynamic change-leadership is taking place, such as professional services firms, national and international agencies, global nonprofits and think tanks.

After fulfilling the 100-hour externship requirement, students are encouraged to conduct research in a variety of community settings. This will enable students to expand their range of experience through direct observation and evaluation of the leadership and management issues confronting actual organizations.

LEAD 890 serves as the capstone for instructional material. Typically, LEAD 890 and 891 are taken concurrently during the summer semester.

Comprehensive Exam

Upon completion of all coursework, students are required to sit for a comprehensive written exam which measures breadth and depth of learning consistent with the following four areas of study:

  • Leadership theories and research as well as the role of leadership in strategic change;
  • Statistical-analysis literacy with respect to study design, analysis and assessment/evaluation strategies;
  • General knowledge of business practices as applied to case analysis;
  • Concentration-area themes as designated by your advisor.

Each student is required to propose, defend and submit a dissertation under the direction of their dissertation committee.

The purpose of a dissertation is to create a theoretically grounded, scientifically rigorous and tangible contribution to scholarship within a particular field of research.

In addition, dissertations successfully completed through SSLS must incorporate a leadership perspective. That is, the student must establish the relevance of leadership to the problem, constructs, and variables under study, or vice versa, as well as clearly describe the theoretical and/or practical implications to leadership that the dissertation findings pose.

Links to completed SSLS dissertations are featured on our scholarly activity page and listed in chronological order on the JMU Scholarly Commons.

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