College of Education and Human Development

Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development

Education policy and leadership - executive PhD cohort program

in Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development

This doctoral program focuses on leadership of educational systems and is specially designed to meet the needs of mid-career educational leaders. The curriculum establishes foundational understandings of educational systems, leadership dynamics and the realities of power and politics in schools, as well as the role of research in educational innovation and improvement. Students will learn to examine multiple dimensions of PK-12 educational systems, including their cultural and historical contexts, policies and mandates that shape practice, and strategies to build consensus among diverse stakeholders.


  • Course content is relevant to the needs of experienced educational leaders.
  • Courses are taught by OLPD faculty and faculty from across the University who are experts in educational policy and research, educational politics, leadership, organizational theory and practice, systems thinking, and research methods. They are widely recognized for their scholarly work and are excellent and committed teachers and advisors.
  • A cohort-based program comprised of diverse education professionals provides a robust learning community in which members support and learn from each other.
  • Courses are offered on the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities campus during a 3-4 week summer session and in full-day meetings held twice a month during the academic year.
  • It is possible to remain fully employed while completing requirements for this degree.


  • Department of education executive level superintendent
  • School district director of human resources, special education, community education, or equity
  • Director of curriculum, teaching and learning, or staff development
  • Philanthropic of non-profit executive leader or education program officer
  • Superintendent or assistant, associate, area, or deputy superintendent
  • Non-profit or philanthropic executive leader
  • Assistant, associate, area, deputy superintendent
  • Chief of schools
  • District administrator

Quote from Melissa Schaller

This program provided professional growth that elevated the way I practice as a school administrator. It challenged me academically, required me to think differently and more critically, and provided me with a cohort of other learners that expanded my network outside of those I typically interact with. The program has made me a better administrator and created significant opportunities to contribute to the field of education.

Melissa Schaller Executive Director of Student Services ISD 917, (2020 graduate)

Quote from Cedrick Baker

I am in the second year of this program, and it's an amazing experience. I've enjoyed the great teaching, meaningful discussions from cohort members, and the level of rigor in assignments intended to assist me in my dissertation journey. I feel that this program understands the demands of a working professional and receives feedback to enhance the course offerings. I continue to believe that I made the right decision in applying for this program.

Cedrick Baker Chief of Staff McKnight Foundation (and current student)


70 credits completed in 3-5 years for full time students. 48 of these credits consist of coursework examining system leadership and focusing on:

  • Systems thinking and the interdependent structures of organizational systems
  • Theory and practice of leading complex learning systems
  • Organizational culture and change
  • Analysis of education policy and practices and their influence on student learning
  • Politics of decision making and communication
  • Public engagement and cross-sector partnerships
  • Global innovations in educational leadership and school effectiveness
  • Evaluation of program effectiveness
  • Analysis and application of research

Students also take courses in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed/complementary research methods. For the culminating Ph.D. dissertation, students identify a researchable problem, process, or topic of interest, carry out original research, and disseminate findings to relevant audiences.

How to apply

    Admission Deadline

    Application deadline: March 1, 2025 for a Fall 2025 semester start.

    Fall semester start only. Cohorts begin every other year. (Fall 2023, 2025, 2027, 2029, etc.)

    Applicants may only apply to one OLPD track.

    Applications are not complete until ALL required materials and fees have been received. If anything is missing, your application may not be considered. It is strongly recommended to apply at least two weeks before any submission deadlines.

    Applications are processed by the Graduate School. A decision for admission notice will be emailed to you once your application is carefully reviewed by the department's admission committee and your transcripts and any credentials (test reports, diploma copies, etc.) are authenticated by Graduate School officials.

    Admission Requirements

    Degree: Master's degree or equivalent

    GPA: Undergraduate 3.0; Graduate 3.5

    Note: Applicants should not submit GRE scores, as they will not be considered in the review process.

    TOEFL/IELTS Scores (Not required for U.S. students):

    • TOEFL: Internet based = 79 or above
      (21 writing/19 reading)
    • IELTS = 6.5

    Experience: At least 3 years of experience working in education or related organizations

    Tuition and funding

    Tuition information: CEHD | OneStop

    Financial aid: CEHD | OneStop


    If a graduate student in an OLPD program has become inactive they must follow the readmission procedures.

    Whether you seek reactivation after accidentally being discontinued this term or want to return after a long absence these are the steps needed to re-apply.

    1. Complete the proper online readmission application.

      If you have been away from the program less than five years use the Express Readmission Application and email it to All others must submit the Online Application for Readmission
    2. Once received, the department will forward your application to the appropriate admissions committee. Readmission decisions are normally determined by the program’s admissions committee, not any one individual faculty member.

      Readmission is never guaranteed. Decisions for readmission are based on a review of previous progress toward degree completion, the proposed timeline for completion, the availability of faculty resources, and/or any additional application materials they may request from you. Individual programs/tracks reserve the right to readmit students under the current graduate program requirements, rules, and guidelines. They may also request an applicant to provide additional information prior to making a decision.
    3. Once the committee makes their recommendation, the department’s DGS will sign off on the decision and forward the result to the central Graduate Admissions Office for processing. Once processed, you will be notified of the decision.

    Individual department programs and tracks reserve the right to require readmitted students to retake coursework if they deem it appropriate. Readmitted students are also required to abide by current time-to-degree policies as determined by the University, which may differ from the policy in place when they first started the degree program.

    Individuals seeking readmission to the Ph.D., Ed.D., and M.A. program tracks in the former EDPA, WHRE, and WCFE majors can only reapply to the appropriate program track under the Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development (OLPD) major name.

    Quote from Peter Olson-Skog

    This program is rigorous and engaging. It is designed from the bottom up for working professionals. While still holding a demanding job, the program's schedule, caring and knowledgeable faculty, and embedded networking all work together to create a path to achieving your Ph.D. that actually works.

    Peter Olson-Skog Superintendent ISD 197, (2022 graduate)

    Quote from Nasreen Fynewever

    The program experience meaningfully interlocks everyday practitioners with becoming scholarly leaders; distinctly bringing together a unique and diverse community of encouragers, leaders, and researchers to contribute to education and liberation.

    Nasreen Fynewever K8 Administrator Roseville Area Schools (and current student)


    We’re here to help. Simply complete this form or reach out directly to Katie Pekel, Faculty Coordinator of the EPL Executive Cohort program.