Impact and Inclusion: Transforming an EdD Program into a Crucible for Systems Change

  • Antoinette M. Ryan Central Connecticut State University
  • Sheldon Watson Central Connecticut State University
Keywords: transformational leadership, education doctorate, systems change, third-order change


This article shares insights from a review of dissertations produced by students in an EdD program in Educational Leadership at a public university in Connecticut. Program curriculum and learning experiences, built upon a social justice platform, prepare students to engage in scholarship and action to improve educational systems. However, retaining students’ focus on designing capstone projects that explore and seek to mitigate systemic injustice has been an ongoing challenge. To understand more about the impact of the EdD program’s vision of developing students’ capacities for systems transformation and social justice, program faculty conducted a document analysis of dissertations produced in the 15 years from program inception to the present, examining themes and trends that emerge from the focus areas, research questions, and research methods applied in dissertations. Document analysis revealed that, while earlier student dissertations tended to be more aligned with the educational policy cycle than with the program’s focus on social justice, more recent dissertations demonstrate a shift toward a stronger social justice orientation. As a member of the Carnegie Project on the Educational Doctorate (CPED) since 2018, this university’s EdD program engages in ongoing redesign to maximize impact on the field and to cultivate activism among program graduates who will lead systemic transformation in education. A conceptual framework for transcendent third-order change - cultivating systems leadership that transcends the limits of current paradigms and action, fosters collaborative engagement, and provides coherent structures for collaborative impact -  is the foundation for this redesign. 

Author Biographies

Antoinette M. Ryan, Central Connecticut State University

Assistant Professor

Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Educational Technology

Sheldon Watson, Central Connecticut State University

Associate Professor


Ed.D. Director

Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Educational Technology


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How to Cite
Ryan, A. M., & Watson, S. (2021). Impact and Inclusion: Transforming an EdD Program into a Crucible for Systems Change. Impacting Education: Journal on Transforming Professional Practice, 6(1), 11–16.