Executive Leadership Program

The Executive Leadership Doctoral Program (ELP)

The ELP is a proven executive delivery doctoral program that has successfully served the scholar-practitioner community for the past thirty-two years. Located at George Washington University’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, VA., the ELP offers a spacious executive campus conveniently located within a few minutes drive to Dulles International Airport, various lodging options, and multiple shopping locations. For students who fly in for their once-a-month classes, Ashburn is an ideal location combining easy access with exemplary facilities. Inside the classrooms, the ELP program develops scholar-practitioners by focusing on the interrelationships among people, organizations, and learning. The program encourages students to challenge assumptions about organizations and change through critical reflection, research, and linking scholarship to practice. Theory, research and practice are balanced throughout the curriculum through readings, activities, and written assignments. The cohort format provides ELP scholar-practitioners with an advantage over the traditional doctoral studies model. The learning experience is collective, and individuals are allowed the opportunity to express talents and interests, discover new ones, and develop both as individuals and as a team. Students are encouraged to form learning communities to provide collective support, promote action learning, and model a learning culture. Alumni attest to the power of the ELP cohort model, and a vast network of ELP alums regularly support current students through mentoring, student-led panels, and through multiple formal and informal means. During the program as well as after graduation, the program provides and maintains a number of resources that sustain the ELP network. These include email mailing lists, special speaker seminars, faculty and alumni discussion panels, and social events.

Student Stories

"The reason ELP is so great is that it makes doctoral study accessible to executive leaders by fielding a variety of professors that are able and willing to recognize executive leaders' achievements in practice... As I receive one of those fancy doctoral hoods this week, please accept my gratitude for all you and your GSEHD colleagues do to make the academy welcome to practical ambassadors like me." -Eric Woodard, Ed.D.

We Believe in the Power of Learning

The ELP is organized around four pillars: learning, leadership, culture, and change. Our multidisciplinary approach to organizational studies draws on the fields of management, sociology, education, biology, psychology, and anthropology, among others. Our research and scholar-practitioner program is committed to:

  • Increasing the learning capacity of individuals, groups, and organizations to optimize organizational sustainability, resilience, and effectiveness.
  • Increasing the leadership capacity of individuals, groups, and organizations in order to meet the grand challenges of the 21st century.
  • Increasing the understanding of culture: the seen and unseen, the known and unknown, and how these webs of meaning and norms influence learning, leading, and change.
  • Increasing the understanding of change theories, processes, and mechanisms in order to meet the increasing demands of a volatile, uncertain, and complex environment.
  • Developing research skills to be able to design and conduct effective research related to organizational issues.


Why a Doctorate in Human and Organizational Learning from the Executive Leadership Program?

Convenient Schedule: Classes are scheduled for one weekend (Friday and Saturday) per month, enabling students to continue working full-time while attending school. Summer residencies are planned well in advance to maximize learning while minimizing work interruption. In the classroom, learning is enhanced through the sharing of professional experiences, action learning, and critical reflection. Group and team activities mirror real-world situations, and many, if not all, assignments require explicit connections to the world of practice.

Diverse Student Body: No two students in our ELP program are alike, and typically range in age from 30 to 70 years old. These life-long learners come from across the country and around the world to participate in the ELP learning community. Our applicants span a variety of professional backgrounds and have a wealth of life experiences -- we draw students from corporate, non-profit, healthcare, high tech, education, manufacturing, military, and federal organizations.

Executive Cohort: A typical cohort consists of 20 to 24 students. Each student has a minimum of five years of experience at the senior or executive level. Cohorts are comprised of executives, HRD practitioners, consultants, self-employed business owners, and other senior-level professionals. Students who apply to the program also have a variety of educational backgrounds, with degrees in fields such as business, engineering, health and medical sciences, and technology.


Doctorate in Human and Organizational Learning, Executive Leadership Program

A new cohort begins each year in June with a summer semester session and residency in the Ashburn campus (note: all ELP courses are delivered in Ashburn). Students are enrolled in a pre-determined sequence of courses that are all scheduled at the beginning of the cohort, giving students the ability to carefully plan out their work and learning schedules well in advance.

After two and one-half years of coursework, students embark on their dissertation journey with their chosen dissertation Chair (e.g., a member of the ELP faculty). Faculty provide a variety of supports and structures to facilitate the completion of the dissertation, which are usually completed within two to two-and one-half years after coursework is completed.

Executive Leadership Program Courses

HOL 8100 Special Topics in Human and Organizational Learning - Doctoral Studies (taken for 3 credits)
HOL 8700 Foundations of Human and Organizational Learning
HOL 8701 Theory, Research, and Practice in Adult Learning and Development
HOL 8702 Theory and Design of Organizational Diagnosis and Development
HOL 8703 Human Systems Change
HOL 8704 Leadership Theory, Research, and Practice
HOL 8705 Organizational Culture
HOL 8720 Seminar: Applied Research in Human and Organizational Learning
HOL 8721 Practicum in Human and Organizational Learning (taken for 6 credits)
HOL 8722 Seminar: Advanced Issues in Human and Organizational Learning (taken for 3 credits)
HOL 8724 Creating and Planning Doctoral Research

Research Methods Courses

EDUC 8120 Group Comparison Designs and Analyses
EDUC 8122 Qualitative Research Methods
3 credits of Level B research methods coursework selected in consultation with advisor.

Dissertation Courses

HOL 8998 Predissertation Seminar
HOL 8999 Dissertation Research (minimum 12 credits needed to complete requirement)
An approved dissertation proposal is required.

Comprehensive Examination

Successful completion of a comprehensive examination is required.

Career Outlook

The following companies are a sampling of organizations represented in our student body and alumni network:

  • American Airlines
  • American Red Cross
  • America On-Line
  • Baltimore City Public School System
  • Baltimore County Police Dept.
  • Bank of America
  • Bell Atlantic
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida
  • Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Boston University
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Charles Schwab
  • Citigroup
  • Dept. of Defense
  • Dept. of the Navy
  • Dept. of the Treasury
  • Discovery Communications
  • Fannie Mae
  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • Fish & Wildlife Services
  • Foreign Service Institute
  • General Electric
  • Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc.
  • Hughes Network Systems
  • IBM
  • Intel Corporation
  • International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • JP Morgan Chase & Co.
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Maryland Hospital Association
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Montgomery General Hospital
  • National Institute of Health
  • NASA
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Defense University
  • National Geographic
  • New Jersey State Police
  • Newport News Ship Building
  • Niagra Mohawk Power Corp.
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Novartis Pharmaceuticals
  • Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Phillip Morris
  • Pratt & Whitney
  • PRC
  • Price Waterhouse
  • Public Service Electric & Gas
  • Qatar Petroleum
  • SAIC
  • Seagate Technology
  • The Library of Congress
  • The Milton Hershey School
  • The MITRE Corporation
  • The Plaza Hotel
  • The Vanguard Group
  • The World Bank
  • Time Warner Communications
  • Tops Market, Inc./Ahold USA
  • Toyota Motor Sales
  • US Dept. of Housing & Urban Development
  • US Patent & Trademark Office
  • US Army
  • United Way
  • University of Texas Arlington
  • US Army Chemical & Biological Defense Command
  • US Coast Guard
  • US House of Representatives
  • US Postal Service
  • Virginia Dept. of Corrections
  • Volunteers of America
  • Washington County Hospital
  • Whirlpool Corporation



Program Entry: The VSTC campus is at capacity; the Downtown location of the doctoral program is receiving applications.
Prerequisites: Master's Degree
Campus: Virginia Science & Technology Campus

Application Requirements

*Additional application requirements may exist for international applicants
For more information on any of these requirements, please visit our Admissions FAQ page.


The current admissions cycle has ended. Please contact our admission office at gsehdadm@gwu.edu or by phone at 202-994-9283 to learn more.



Casey, Andrea Associate Professor, Human and Organizational Learning
Cseh, Maria Associate Professor, Human and Organizational Learning
Goldman, Ellen F. Professor, Human and Organizational Learning
Khilji, Shaista E. Professor, Human and Organizational Learning
Korte, Russell Associate Professor, Human and Organizational Learning
Scully-Russ, Ellen Associate Professor, Human and Organizational Learning
Storberg-Walker, Julia Associate Professor, Human and Organizational Learning


Transformation Begins Here

Learn more about the Executive Leadership Doctoral Program (ELP) located at our Virginia Science and Technology Campus. Complete the form linked below or contact the GSEHD Admissions Team at 202-994-3023.

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