Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies (DPLS)

Gonzaga's Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies (DPLS) follows the Jesuit tradition of educating the whole person and creates a space for you to confront the questions of humanity with critical thought and moral conviction. For more than 40 years, this rigorous academic program has been exploring the conceptual, scholarly, and professional competencies needed to lead and serve others.

The program centers on three dimensions of leadership: the leader as a person, the leader in organizational systems, and the leader in global systems. These three dimensions will guide your coursework and provide a structure within which to think about leadership and conduct research that honors humanity.

This transdisciplinary Ph.D. program is designed for working professionals and welcomes students across a broad range of professions, including:

  • education
  • healthcare
  • social services
  • business 
  • faith-based
  • government & law enforcement

You'll work together with faculty and staff to develop and sustain a learning community in which all members can nurture the personal qualities of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, restless curiosity, a desire for truth, a mature concern for others, respect for human diversity and individuality, and a thirst for justice.

Here are some of the aspects that make this program unique:


The DPLS program is accessible from anywhere in the world, with courses offered in various modes, including immersion-based, on campus, online and independent study. With three opportunities to take courses throughout the academic year (fall, spring, summer), course progression plans can be personalized to accommodate the needs of working professionals and full-time students. Visit the Curriculum page to learn more. 

Unique Dissertation Approach

The Ph.D. program's transdisciplinary design supports a wide variety of research and dissertation topics. The dissertation procedure guides students through the process along four major milestones: candidacy, proposal seminar, proposal defense, and the dissertation. Graduates have been honored with national dissertation awards, reflecting the program's strong foundation of scholarship. 

International Presence

With well over 600 graduates, the Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies has achieved national stature and international reach. The faculty come from diverse backgrounds and students of the program represent a broad range of professions and cultures. Most recently, the program has welcomed students from Afghanistan, Canada, China, Germany, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe, as well as from the Spokane Native American Nation and several other indigenous nations of the Pacific Northwest.

National Recognition

Gonzaga University enjoys national recognition through high rankings among educational institutions. It is one of only a handful of universities with a school dedicated solely to Leadership Studies, who is regarded as a pioneer in the study and practice of Servant Leadership. 

A Warm Welcome

The central principles of the Jesuit tradition of educating the whole person are practiced actively and faithfully at Gonzaga. No matter where our students and faculty come from, we have one mission: to educate ethical individuals who understand and value the importance of service. All are welcome here.
Gonzaga's Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies students in a summer session class

Prospective Students

We believe great leadership is a constantly unfolding lifetime pursuit and we invite students from all walks of life.

Dr. JoAnn Barbour speaking in class

Our Philosophy

Our program creates a space where critical thought and moral conviction meet the questions of humanity.

DPLS students in a summer class


Our interdisciplinary curriculum focuses on personal systems, organizational systems, and global systems, with a research thread throughout the program.

Dr. Shann Ferch

Our Faculty

Our faculty encourage a spirit of inquiry through dialogue and develops mindfulness through seeking truth while supporting and challenging students.

Participants socializing at Gonzaga University's Leadership Studies Student Research Symposium

Student Research Symposium

This annual conference explores emerging questions, completed research, and service learning projects by our leadership students and alumni.

The International Journal of Servant-Leadership

The International Journal of Servant-Leadership is published by Gonzaga University in collaboration with the Spears Center for Servant-Leadership.

Want to connect with the Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies?

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502 E. Boone Avenue
Spokane, WA 99258
(509) 313-3485