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School of Education - George Mason University

The PhD in Education with a specialization in higher education (HED) is individualized, interdisciplinary, and experiential. Students plan their own programs to meet self-defined goals with the guidance and support of faculty advisors. HED courses can be applied to primary or secondary specialization areas.

If you have questions about this specialization, please 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.

How Will You Learn?

Your advisor will guide your doctoral experience by supplementing coursework with professional experiences, including:

  • Graduate seminars that prepare you to read and discuss complex issues in higher education critically;
  • Rigorous methodological training on the empirical analysis of higher education policies and practices;
  • Independent research (with the support of higher education faculty) on higher education issues of scholarly interest; and
  • Opportunities to present research findings to a community of scholars, policymakers, and practitioners.

Where Can This Specialization Take You?

Graduates of this specialization hold professional positions such as:

  • Academic faculty at post-secondary institutions;
  • Leadership positions at post-secondary institutions;
  • Consultants with private companies, education and research think tanks, and non-government organizations; and
  • Policy analyst and leadership positions in government agencies, professional associations, and political advocacy groups.

Specialization Courses

Each student prepares an individual program of study in consultation with their Program Advisory Committee. The following courses can be taken as part of a student’s primary or secondary specialization coursework:

** Notates courses required for students with a primary specialization in higher education. See additional coursework required as part of the PhD in Education degree.

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