The Antioch University Graduate School of Leadership and Change was officially established in 2015, representing the institution’s belief in and commitment to its national doctoral programs in leadership and change. In fact, Antioch University’s distinctive PhD in Leadership and Change opened its doors in 2002 and has been thriving ever since. The PhD in Leadership and Change for Healthcare began in 2014.
The origins of the doctoral program are rooted in two sources. The first is the historic mission and purpose of an Antioch education, at all degree levels and regardless of location, to provide a socially relevant education that prepares students with the knowledge and skills to advance justice and ‘win victories for humanity.’ Conceiving of a doctoral program for scholar-practitioners committed to the scholarship, research and practice of leading positive change was a perfect manifestation of that mission at the PhD level.
The second source was the creativity of Antioch faculty, brought together in the mid-1990s by then-Chancellor Alan Guskin in a series of university-wide gatherings to explore “the next big ideas” for the University. From those meetings emerged a number of creative and entrepreneurial ideas, one of which was to imagine the first national doctoral degree aligned with compelling notions of leading change in professions, which was already a strong foundation of the institution’s campus-based professional master’s degrees.
Over the next several years, serious exploration of the idea took place with focus groups of potential students about their interests in doctoral study, intentional collaborations with experienced doctoral faculty from other institutions about what was missing and needed in the higher education landscape, and presentations to Antioch leaders about ways to protect and incubate the innovations of such a program while still ensuring its accountability to the University. Following the approval of the concept of the PhD Program by the University’s governing Board, a multiyear grant from the Lovelace Foundation enabled sustained development work starting in 1998.
Our commitment was to design a rigorous doctoral program like no other – innovative in vision, delivery, curriculum, and student population. Among the many innovations that were to emerge and become hallmarks of the Graduate School’s doctoral programs are: The interdisciplinary curriculum that interweaves theory and practice, real-world experience with meaning-making in order to train scholar-practitioners with research skills to make a difference in their workplaces and organizations; the competency-based/capabilities-based design in which students are awarded credit for demonstrating their learning as opposed to seat time in a classroom; the hybrid delivery, with several face-to-face meetings a year complemented by a robust geographically dispersed, technologically enabled learning community; a dynamic and diverse cohorts of learners who bring a world of professional responsibilities and personal experiences to peer collaborative engagement; an annual term design with one flat annual tuition and a single active student status; a one-stop approach to student services structured to serve the needs of busy working professionals around the world, and so much more. These elements emerged during the earliest days of the program’s creation and even with natural modifications and improvements made over these many years, the vision and purpose has remains the same.
In 2010 an external review team of higher education experts affirmed our intentions and purposes when they concluded, “Antioch’s PhD in Leadership and Change is an excellent program that should serve as a model for Antioch University and for many doctoral programs at traditional universities.”
Graduate School Provost Laurien Alexandre, who had led the initial PhD exploration work, became the founding Director of the PhD in Leadership and Change Program back in 1999. Vickie Nighswander was hired as the first staff person the following year; and the national search for the program’s first faculty ensued, successfully culminating in the first faculty hires, Drs. Dick Couto, Elizabeth Holloway, and Jon Wergin. Our graduate research library faculty, Deb Baldwin, brought her talents soon thereafter. After serving for more than a decade as Antioch’s President and Chancellor, Alan Guskin took a sabbatical and returned to join the PhD faculty as well. Other senior-level doctoral faculty members were drawn to the uniqueness and dream of the program, participating in residencies and designing the program, and then joining once the program secured its approval from the Ohio Board of Regents. Today, the Graduate School is proud of its 10 full-time senior professors, each of whom brings disciplinary knowledge, a strong research agenda and publication record, a deep commitment for engaged scholarship and practice that explores issues of democratic leadership and inclusive organizations and communities, and a passion for higher education innovation.
The faculty are joined by an equally committed full-time staff who hold serving students and alumni as their top priority: Associate Director of Outreach Engagement, Leslee Creighton, Margaret Morgan Associate Director of Program and Student Services and Wendy McGrath Educational Technology Strategist.
Today the Graduate School has approximately 150 active students in the PhD Programs and over 200 alumni, who are serving organizations and communities around the world with their scholarship and practice.
Degrees & Programs