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The PhD in Education Program is individualized, interdisciplinary, and experiential. Students may opt to specialize in higher education (HED) or incorporate coursework within a self-defined interdisciplinary program of study.

Have questions? Attend an information session or contact the specialization representative, P. Daniel Chen.

About the Specialization

The Higher Education Specialization is offered jointly by the Higher Education Program (HEP) in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) and the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). This doctoral program utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to prepare students for faculty positions and leadership positions in higher education administration and student affairs through core required coursework in higher education and a secondary concentration that can further disciplinary expertise.

Faculty members in the Higher Education Specialization collaborate extensively with scholars from inside and outside Mason. HEP faculty have broad research interests and expertise, including the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), teaching and learning with technology, equity and diversity in higher education, student success, higher education policy and finance, learning data analytics, faculty development, internationalization of higher education, STEM education, and ethics and spirituality in higher education. HEP faculty have served as editors or associate editors of major academic journals, and they have collectively contributed more than $20 million in externally funded research.

Our Graduates

John Dooris, PhD 2022

  • Dissertation Title: Necessary but Insufficient? The Influence of Data on Federal Higher Education Accountability Policy Beliefs and Policy Change
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jamie Lester

Meggan Ford, PhD 2022

  • Dissertation Title: The Influence of Intercultural Competence on the Experience of International Branch Campus Administrators
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jan Arminio

Andy Hamilton, PhD 2022

  • Dissertation Title: Educational Pathways for Military Veterans Transitioning into Information Technology and Cyber-Security Related Career Fields
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. P. Daniel Chen

Jennifer Lebron, PhD 2022

  • Dissertation Title: Faculty Agency and the Internationalization of Higher Education: A Case Study of One University in Pakistan
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jamie Lester

Anne Elizabeth Aichele, PhD 2021

  • Dissertation Title: Finding Grace: An Exploration of the Impact of Personal and Professional Experience on Leadership Educators in Making Sense of Social Change
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Julie Owen

Richard Michael Hess, PhD 2021

  • Dissertation Title: Examining Learners’ Self-Regulation Patterns within a Learning Management System
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Angela Miller
  • Award: GMU PhD in Education Program Outstanding Dissertation Award

Maria J Pallotta, PhD 2022

  • Dissertation Title: Marine Corps Leaders in Irregular Warfare: Professional Military Education for Cross-cultural Competence in Counterinsurgency
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Anastasia Samaras

Janet Athanasiou, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: Understanding the Impact of Cocurricular Programming on the Identity Development, Involvement, and Engagement of Online Students
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Amy Swan

Morgan Fisher, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: In Their Words: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study of Former Student-Athletes’ Experiences in Life Skills Programs in Relation to Career Development and Transition Out of College
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jan Arminio

Jonathan Goldman, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: Shimer College Effects on Students: A Retrospective Case Study
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jeannie Brown Leonard

Jennifer Rainey, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: “The Cavalry Isn’t Coming”: Exploring the Experiences of Female Middle Managers in Higher Education
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Meagan Call-Cummings

Leticia Guzman, PhD 2021

  • Dissertation Title: Understanding the Impact of a Stem Summer Bridge Program on Students from Underrepresented Groups Entering their First Semester
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kelly Schrum

Jonathan Hsu, PhD 2019

  • Dissertation Title: The Influence of Professional Experiences on Adjunct Faculty Teaching
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kelly Schrum

Meghan Arias, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Examining the Digital Disability Divide in Higher Education
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kelly Schrum

Matthew Boyce, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Understanding How College Admissions Professionals Define ‘Holistic Application Review’: A Grounded Theory Study
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jamie Lester

John Cocchetti, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Connecting with Students: A Case Study of Deans of Students at Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jan Arminio

Megan Hennessey, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: The Lived Faculty Development Experience of Active Duty Military Instructors
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Julie Owen

Elizabeth Kalinowski Ohrt, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Antecedents of Trust in Academic Advising Relationships
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jaime Lester

Elizabeth Hanna Pitts, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Faith Journeys: An Exploration of the Narratives of Faith and Intercultural Development among College Students on Study Abroad Programs
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Lester Jaime

Willie Stroble, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: A Case Study of the Transition of Student Veterans Who Previously Had Been Unsuccessful in Higher Education
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jan Arminio


Each student in the PhD in Education Program is mentored by faculty in the development of their own personalized program of study that fosters their ability to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of significant theories, developments, and practices in one's chosen area of study
  • Understand, utilize, and interpret basic principles, ethical practice, and methodologies of educational research design and data analysis
  • Effectively communicate both orally and in writing to a variety of professional audiences

Supported professional experiences and internships beyond required coursework support mastery of these competencies, including:

  • Attending and/or presenting your scholarly work at professional conferences to researchers, policymakers, and practitioners
  • University teaching and/or co-teaching experiences in professional areas of expertise
  • Supervising pre-service teachers
  • Writing, editing, and reviewing for scholarly journals
  • Research apprenticeships and assistantships
  • Supported independent research in an area of professional interest
  • Internships unique to the individual’s area of study
  • Building a professional portfolio

The PhD in Education is awarded after the successful completion of:

  • Coursework
  • A comprehensive portfolio assessment
  • A written dissertation
  • An oral dissertation defense

Why This Program?

Are you ready to expand your impact in the field of education?

A PhD in Education from GMU can help you reach that goal! Our accomplished faculty can help you leverage your existing expertise in the field of education and deepen your toolkit of professional knowledge and skills that will take your career to the next level of influence. 
Our graduates have attained consequential professional positions such as:

  • Academic faculty at post-secondary institutions
  • Leadership and research positions in federal and state government, post-secondary institutions, research organizations, and non-government agencies
  • Analysts and consultants with private companies, political advocacy groups, education or research think tanks, and professional associations
  • School, district, and statewide leadership positions in major preK-12 school districts, technical assistance centers, and other informal educational agencies
  • Curriculum and instructional materials developers

Our flexible student-centered program structure allows each student to design a personalized, interdisciplinary program of study that helps them to become outstanding educational researchers, practitioners, and leaders in their respective fields. Our faculty have strengths in:

Theoretical & Applied Research

  • Choose from a wide range of advanced quantitative and qualitative research methods coursework options
  • Have the opportunity to gain research experience on projects funded by federal agencies, including the Institute for Education Sciences and the National Science Foundation 

Advanced Teacher Preparation

  • Choose from a wide range of teaching and teacher preparation coursework and internship options, including opportunities to co-teach university courses with faculty and supervise teacher internships
  • Receive advanced training in online teaching and learning

Education Leadership & Policy

  • Choose from a wide range of coursework and internship opportunities in leadership and policy fields, both national and international
  • Have unique opportunities for experiential learning due to proximity to Washington DC and several of the largest school systems in the country

Movement & Sport Sciences

  • Choose an intensive Kinesiology program with opportunities for experiential learning in state-of-the-art movement labs.
  • Or, create a custom program of study in fields related to movement and sport sciences, including teaching in physical education and sport management

How Can I Learn More?

Visit our Frequently Asked Questions and Answer Page

Frequently Asked Questions

Attend an Information Session

The PhD in Education Program periodically conducts information sessions to acquaint applicants with our program and the admissions process. Information sessions include an overview of the PhD in Education Program followed by breakout sessions with faculty who can answer questions about professional specialization areas. Scheduled sessions are listed at the top of this page.