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Community College LeadershipPh.D.

Ph.D. in Community College Leadership

The program has a strong reputation as an academically rigorous program that emphasizes executive-level leadership preparation. Students interact with some of the most important higher education leaders and policymakers in the U.S. while studying under the guidance of dedicated faculty members.

Students from across the U.S. take live web classes in the fall and spring and gather once-a-year at the annual Summer Institute, our signature national event the first two weeks in June.

Courses are not your typical "online class". You interact in real-time with professors and other passionate community college leaders from across the U.S. as classmates. Think of it as a "traditional" college class, except instead of a classroom you meet with classmates once-a-week via live video conference in the afternoon/evening anywhere you have high-speed internet, so you can attend class from home, work, or on the road. Watch video where students talk about the online experience >

The course of study has four elements:

  • core coursework in community college leadership (21 credits)
  • research courses (15 credits)
  • elective courses (6 credits)
  • dissertation (12 credits)

The 54-credit program typically takes about 3.5 years to complete, including a dissertation that students start developing early in the program in a series of Proseminar courses. ODU's reputation as a U.S. News & World Report top-ranked research university and its status as the most affordable university in the Commonwealth of Virginia makes your degree worth the investment.

Credits to Complete


Typical Years To Complete


Typical Size of Cohorts


Course of Study

Core Courses

  • CCL 820 Community College Leadership
  • CCL 824 Community College Finance, Fundraising, and Resource Management
  • CCL 826 Community College Curriculum, Program Development, and Quality Assurance
  • CCL 830 Community College Politics, Policy, and Advocacy
  • CCL 866 Modern Community College: Foundations, Philosophy, and Vision
  • HIED 808 Contemporary Issues in Higher Education
  • HIED 852 The Law of Higher Education

Research Courses

  • HIED 809 Proseminar in Doctoral Studies (3 x 1-credit)
  • FOUN 812 Research Design and Analysis
  • FOUN 813 Program Evaluation in Education
  • FOUN 822 Applied Linear Models in Educational Research or
    FOUN 823 Analysis of Variance Applied to Educational Research
  • FOUN 814 Qualitative Research Design in Education

Note: Most students also take FOUN 722 Applied Statistics & Data Analysis as a prerequisite to advanced statistics. However, students with prior knowledge of statistics (i.e., univariate, bivariate, t-test, chi-square, and simple linear regression) from prior graduate-level coursework may email syllabi from those course(s) to their academic advisor and request a waiver of the FOUN 722 prerequisite requirement.


Students work with their advisor to select two (2) electives to personlize their plan of study. Electives include courses such as:

  • CCL 868 Internship in Community College Leadership
  • HIED 812 Strategic Planning
  • HIED 863 Special Topics in Higher Education
  • SEPS 865 Trends and Issues of Economic and Workforce Development
  • HIED 844 Global Higher Education Systems (includes 10-day study abroad program)
  • FOUN 822 Applied Linear Models in Educational Research
  • FOUN 823 Analysis of Variance Applied to Educational Research


  • FOUN 881 Dissertation Seminar
  • CCL 899 Dissertation (9 credits minimum)

Summer Institute

The Summer Institute is the premiere annual event for the Community College Leadership doctoral program.

Each Summer Institute features a different guest scholar who engages with students in-class and presents on issues relevant to higher education leaders. There are also a variety of social and professional events that prepare students to successfully complete the coursework and dissertation.

Learn More
Question asked during Dissertation Panel

Points of Pride

Community College Leadership Faculty

Student Profiles

Most students in the Community College Leadership Program are mid-career professionals at community colleges located across the United States. Our students have a variety of academic and professional experiences as well as diverse scholarly interests.

Assistant Professor of Counseling | Suffolk County Community College, New York

Share an experience about Summer Institute

As someone who has never lived on campus, I was less than excited about living on campus as an adult learner. That quickly changed on move-in day. I began to meet faculty, staff, and fellow classmates who had been instrumental in my success in the program the academic year prior.
In addition to the class meetings, our professional development workshops with community college presidents, government officials, and Ph.D. students further along in their program were an invaluable part of Summer Institute.

Share an experience about your cohort.

Even before meeting in person, my cohort has been one of my greatest resources. As a first-generation student, many of my close friends and family do not understand the juggling act of being a working Ph.D. The shared experience among my cohort of managing various responsibilities has been key to my success in the program.
My favorite experience with my cohort was the gathering off campus during Summer Institute. It gave us an opportunity to get to know each other outside of our research interests and identities as a student.

What attracted you to Old Dominion University?

As an out-of-state student from Long Island, NY, I was attracted to the design for working professionals, the program includes scaffolding for your dissertation alongside your coursework. The classes meet synchronously and ODU is a reputable institution. The cohort model became the best thing that I never knew I needed.

Associate Professor of Mathematics | SUNY-Orange, New York

Share an experience about Summer Institute

Since the rest of the courses are offered virtually, Summer Institute is a critical part of the doctoral program. I gained so much knowledge during my time on campus, well beyond what was learned in the classroom. The relationships that are built, conversations that take place, and networking that occurs at Summer Institute cannot be replicated in the virtual world.

Why are you seeking a Ph.D.?

I am enthusiastic about the community college mission. We make a difference in the lives of our students. The Ph.D. in Community College Leadership will not only prepare me for the next step in my career, but it will also help me be a better community college professor.

What attracted you to Old Dominion University?

The program at ODU was highly recommended by colleagues who graduated from the program. After looking into ODU myself, I was confident that the high-quality online program and affordable cost was unmatched at other institutions.

The program faculty are extremely supportive and genuinely want students to succeed. I have felt very welcome in the ODU community by all of the faculty and staff.


Community Innovation Lead | Nova Scotia Community College, Canada

Share an experience about Summer Institute.

The Summer Institute allows students to engage in critical thought through pertinent programs and to understand and practice research methodologies that can be focused and tailored to your research topic and used as part of your dissertation. The formal learning should not overshadow the informal interaction with your cohort, guest speakers, and other colleagues over the two weeks during the summer institute who share a wealth of experience in leadership that you can apply in your line of work. My classmates will become life-long friends.

Why are you seeking a Ph.D.?

Developing a critical understanding of leadership concepts and the issues that affect the advancement of community colleges was something I was deeply interested in learning. My career aspirations in a leadership position at a community college drew me to this program as it had all the essential elements to provide me with the knowledge and skills to advance my leadership role.

What are your experiences with program faculty?

The CCL program faculty mentor, lead and engage students in real-world experiences related to topics affecting community colleges. They are keenly aware of the work/life balance of the course workload and provide assignments and feedback that you can reflect on throughout your program.

Student Resources & Career Services Advisor | New River Community College, Virginia

Share an experience about your cohort

As impostor syndrome tried to highjack my experience, my cohort members instantly reassured, supported, and helped me get back on track. The relationship-building and team bonding the cohort model offers are desirable aspects of ODU's CCL program.

Why are you seeking a Ph.D.?

As an aspiring community college leader, I seek a Ph.D. to help grow my administrative skills, enhance my community college leadership knowledge base, and conduct invaluable research on relevant issues that inform the development of future educational leaders.

What attracted you to Old Dominion University?

As a product of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), I am personally invested and wholeheartedly committed to the community college mission and philosophy of equity, open access, community outreach, and education and/or training options for all. Similarly, ODU's CCL Doctoral Program was attractive to me because of the commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, accessibility through synchronous virtual classes, cohort model, outstanding reputation, and the community college focus.

My experiences with the CCL faculty have been extraordinarily pleasing. I have felt incredibly encouraged and supported since day one. I received first-rate guidance and assistance even before becoming an official CCL student. The program faculty genuinely cares about its students' success and the CCL program's reputation.

Vice President for College Services | Northwest Vista College, Texas

Share an experience about Summer Institute.
The Summer Institute provided an environment for focused scholarship and fellowship. The coursework and activities encouraged inquiry, built upon prior knowledge and experience, and further developed shared communities of support. The relationships developed throughout the Summer Institute are central components of foundational programmatic and professional support.

Share an experience about your cohort.

I am blessed to share this adventure with Community College Leadership cohort 20! Throughout the Summer Institute, a diverse group of individuals came together to build structures of support and encouragement. Each member of the cohort is juggling multiple complex responsibilities, and the relationships we formed solidified that we are in this TOGETHER.

What attracted you to Old Dominion University?
I selected the Ph.D. CCL based on program reputation and academic rigor integrated with support structures. The program is designed to support practitioners engaged in personal and professional growth to tackle the complex challenges facing community colleges. The curriculum is engaging and challenges traditional concepts, thinking, and being.

What are your experiences with program faculty?

The faculty are passionate about the mission of the community college and tackling the wide array of complexities facing institutions. The faculty are encouraging and willing to challenge and support you to be better and do better. The comprehensive support of the faculty provides a foundation for challenging previous assumptions and growing personally and professionally to advocate for our communities.


Associate Director of Career Services | Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia

Share an experience about Summer Institute.

Connecting with classmates outside of formal classroom instruction was undoubtedly one of my personal highlights during Summer Institute! Learning about their institutions, the challenging work they take on daily, and their viewpoints about the current state of community colleges is something that I found extremely valuable and thought-provoking. I will keep what I heard and learned with me as I progress in my career.

Share an experience about your cohort.

I am in continuous awe of my cohort's dedication to improving the institutions at which they work, and the students with whom they have dedicated their careers to helping. I learn something new each time I have a discussion with a fellow cohort member and find myself constantly writing down ideas that I can implement. Moreover, they are all down to earth, fun people, who I will consider friends for life as we continue to engage in this important work.

Why are you seeking a Ph.D.?

I am seeking a Ph.D. to play a larger role in improving America's community colleges. Although these institutions play a vital role in the communities we serve, there improvement is needed. I want to use what I learn throughout this program to improve policies and assist in the ability for community colleges to maximize and further spread the impact of the important work being done on campuses.

What are your experiences with program faculty?

I was originally concerned that it would be difficult to form meaningful relationships with faculty due to the primarily online modality of the program. However, I have found the complete opposite to be true. The faculty are dedicated to ensuring each student is successful in the program and willing to support students at every step of the doctoral student journey.

How To Apply

Ph.D. applicants must apply by February 1st to begin in the summer semester.

All applicants must have a completed Master's degree from a regionally accredited university. To apply to the program:


  • Complete an online application;
  • Upload unofficial transcripts from previous educational institutions;
  • Applicants whose native language is not English must submit a current score for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) iBT of at least 80.

Applicants also upload supplemental materials including:

  • A CV or resume that describes the your academic and professional background;
  • 1-page Essay/Statement of Purpose that addresses: What are your professional goals? Why do you wish to obtain a PhD?
  • An original 2-page single-spaced academic writing sample on a current issue facing community colleges of interest to you that adresses: What is the issue? Why is it important to the field of community college research and practice?
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation. At least one letter must come from a professor or an individual who describes the applicant's academic performance and writing ability. Letters from senior-level leaders that endorse the applicant's leadership potential are encouraged. Applicants will enter the emails for references in the online system, and references will be emailed a link to upload a letter of recommendation on letterhead and complete the online reference form.

The GRE is not required to apply to the program. Email us at ccl@odu.edu if we can help you at any time throughout your application process.‚Äč


The admissions committee composed of program faculty will review all applications then will select applicants for an interview via phone with the committee or committee member(s). Interviews will be used to determine final admissions decisions.

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