Personalized Education Leadership Learning

Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students are values-driven, results-oriented leaders who are passionate about promoting excellence and equity for all students in pre-K to 12 educational settings. Whether you have a leadership role in a school or central office or serve in a nonprofit or public agency, the SMU Ed.D. prepares leaders to expand their influence in service of pre-K to 12 students.

Educational Leadership program provides an intensive experience that supports personal and professional transformation in ways that prepare scholar-practitioners to effectively lead innovative and collaborative pre-K to 12 organizations. The program is a three-year executive-style program in which students gather in person 10 weekends each year as well as two Summer intensive sessions. In addition, an online community supports continued learning in between live class sessions. Located in the heart of Dallas with convenient access to both Love Field and DFW International Airport, the schedule is designed for mid-career professionals to further their education while continuing to work.

"The cohort experience and SMU's reputation helped seal the deal for me." – Marion Jackson, Master Principal at West Dallas STEM School

Learn It Today. Apply It Tomorrow.

Leadership is not only studied, but demonstrated through the curriculum and through blending inquiry and action in students’ ongoing professional work experiences. The curriculum is designed to develop knowledge, skills, and dispositions to effectively lead educational organizations. Students gain insights into complex challenges during a weekend session and apply the learning on Monday. While the vast majority of coursework is tailored for each program, joint learning opportunities are provided through a select set of courses and guest speakers in order to foster dialogue across the pre-K to 16 continuum.

Be Tested. Grow More.

Every leader is unique in talents and areas for growth. Cultivate and test your leadership skills through simulations, case study analyses, and team projects. We use diagnostic assessments combined with extensive feedback on oral, written, and video-based performance tasks to personalize a leadership path and accelerate your growth. An applied dissertation serves as a capstone experience and is designed for students to build upon and demonstrate leadership competencies through engaging in a multifaceted inquiry project based on a problem of practice.

Access Experts. Expand Your Network.

Courses are taught by leading experts in both research and practice and are supplemented by practicing educational leaders – from district superintendents to nonprofit executive directors to state and federal leaders. A small cohort allows for individualized attention and frequent interaction with faculty.

The Result

Students will graduate prepared to be system-level change agents in school systems, state and federal organizations, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and foundations. Our Ed.D. does not simply prepare students for a job; it prepares leaders to be in the business of changing minds and lives throughout one’s career.


Below are the courses currently planned for the program. Courses may be modified as we model a process of continuous improvement based on student feedback and faculty reflection.

Year One (24 Credits)

  • Ethical & Moral Leadership
  • Leading Organizations
  • Academic Leadership I: Research on Teaching & Learning
  • Academic Leadership II: Improving Student & Adult Learning at Scale
  • Quantitative Inquiry
  • Qualitative Inquiry
  • Methods of Systematic Inquiry
  • Education Budgeting and Finance

Year Two (24 Credits)

  • Policymaking and Politics in Education
  • Governance, Partnerships, and Community Engagement
  • Strategic Management of Change
  • Strategic Talent Management
  • Superintendent Internship OR Leadership Practicum (6 credits)
  • Pre-K to 16 Comparative International Policy
  • Legal & Ethical Issues in School and District Leadership

Year Three (12 Credits)

  • Contemporary Education Policy
  • Leading for Equity and Diversity
  • Applied Dissertation (6 credits)

Texas Superintendent Certification

Those interested in pursuing superintendent certification will be able to complete the requirements within the three-year degree plan by substituting two courses for internship hours. Interested candidates will need to meet requirements for the Texas Superintendent Certificate prior to admission (including possession of a valid Texas Principal Certificate).