In the first year, students complete core courses that focus on USC Rossier’s four guiding principles: Leadership, Learning, Accountability and Diversity. Subsequent coursework builds upon this broad base of knowledge and aligns with students’ career objectives. Each concentration exposes students to context-specific best practices and cutting edge research, and emphasizes the application of theory to practice. In the third year, students work collaboratively with faculty and practitioners from their field to study and complete a dissertation that addresses a contemporary problem in educational leadership.

Program Components

Component Classes Purpose
Core 6 Acquire broad-based knowledge built on Rossier’s guiding principles of Accountability, Diversity, Framing, Leadership, and Learning
Concentration Area 4 Gain in-depth understanding in an area related to your specific work setting; develop inquiry skills to be used in the dissertation
Inquiry and Research 2 Understand how inquiry tools are used in educational research; learn to critique and design research studies
Dissertation 4 Learn to conduct useful and relevant research in USC’s innovative thematic format

Concentration Areas

Following the core, students take courses in an area of academic concentration, which provides in-depth knowledge related to a specific work setting. Each concentration exposes students to context-specific best practices and cutting edge research, and emphasizes the application of theory to practice in authentic work settings.

Four concentration areas are offered on the USC campus, which are described below. A blended K-12/higher education concentration is offered at the Orange County site.

Educational Psychology

For professionals in K-12, higher education, and business, military, and government organizations who seek to improve the motivation, achievement, performance, and retention of diverse learners.

The Educational Psychology concentration focuses on research and practice in the areas of learning and motivation in diverse social contexts.

The coursework emphasizes:

  • how people learn
  • what motivates them
  • which instructional and motivational strategies are most effective for individuals from different cultures
  • how the social context of instruction affects learning

Required Knowledge and Career Experience

  • Demonstrated leadership ability in diverse settings
  • Interest in improving the learning, motivation, achievement, performance, and retention of diverse learners
  • 3-5 years full-time work experience in an education-related position
  • Employment in K-16, counseling, special education, social services, higher education, human performance, instructional technology, military, or business-related professional development position

Higher Education Administration

For individuals interested in pursuing careers in senior administrative leadership positions at two and four-year colleges and universities.

The Higher Education Administration concentration is appropriate for individuals pursuing positions in student, academic, and administrative affairs. Courses ground students in administrative theory and best practices, policy, economic issues, assessment, students and how they learn, and the history and major philosophical assumptions that undergird the system of higher education.

Required Knowledge and Career Experience

  • Master’s degree in higher education, college student personnel, counseling, education policy, or related field
  • Experience within institution of higher learning (two-year, four-year) working in educational contexts
  • 3-5 years full-time work experience at a two or four-year college or university providing direct services to students or working in an academic or administrative unit; or at least 3 years full-time teaching experience in an academic discipline at a community college

K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings

For current and prospective K-12 site and district administrators and/or those working with educational policy and practice at local, state and federal levels.

Courses meet the California Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (CPSELS). The course sequence culminates in either Leadership for Principals or Superintendents, providing an integrated composite of effective leadership practices, and resulting in more effective organizational outcomes, including increased student achievement.

Required Knowledge and Career Experience

  • Experience in/with urban education K-12, policy, non-profit organization
  • Leadership experience in current position
  • 3-5 years full-time teaching experience or experienced teacher leadership

Teacher Education in Multicultural Societies (TEMS)

For aspiring leaders in the field of pre-service and/or in-service teacher preparation, focusing on more equitable learning for culturally and linguistically diverse students in urban settings.

By moving between theory, practice, and policy, concentration courses prepare learners to contribute to teacher education in urban settings, whether in university-based teacher education programs or as curriculum leaders in K-12 settings.

Required Knowledge and Career Experience

  • MS Ed or MS preferred
  • Experience working in and/or with schools
  • EdD applicants must have at least 3- 5 years of full-time work experience in an educational/related setting.  Competitive candidates will have a minimum of 3 years of K-12 teaching experience

Inquiry and Research

Two inquiry methods courses introduce the knowledge and skills leaders need to ask the right questions, be good observers, and make effective decisions.

Inquiry courses enhance students’ ability to critique and design research studies. Students work in groups to examine literature in their subject fields, and learn how to apply important research tools such as questionnaires and interview guides

The Thematic Dissertation

Our Unique Approach

The EdD in Educational Leadership program offers innovative thematic dissertation groups, in which students work collaboratively with faculty and practitioners from the field to study a contemporary problem in educational leadership. Bringing together a strong combination of experiences and perspectives to understanding the problem, the group’s work culminates in a set of unique, complementary dissertations around thematically related topics.

Students write individual dissertations, but access their faculty group leaders and fellow group members for support, literature and research design recommendations, and feedback on drafts. Because their studies are related, group members hold each other accountable for staying on track and considering the freshest, most relevant theoretical and conceptual frameworks. The camaraderie and built-in support motivates students to stay focused, which ultimately helps to shorten the dissertation process. Utilized by Rossier School faculty for more than ten years, thematic dissertations enable students to explore important questions and conduct research like administrators do in everyday settings–collaboratively.

Thematic dissertation groups appeal to a wide range of student interests. Some are concentration-specific, while others lend themselves to cross-concentration exploration. Recent themes include:

  • Access and Persistence in Postsecondary Education
  • Data-based Decisions in Education: What Data? Which Decisions?
  • Effective Leadership Practices of the New Principal: Making a Successful Transition
  • Improving Instruction for Professional Education
  • Large Scale Educational Reform: Assessing the Evidence
  • Student Engagement in High-Performing Urban High Schools
  • Teaching and Learning: Innovative University School Partnerships for the Purpose of Teacher Education
  • The 21st Century: The Changing Role and the Challenges of the Urban Superintendent
  • The Role of the Academic Dean in Changing the Academy
  • Urban Schools That Have Closed the Achievement Gap