Ph.D. Degree | Higher Education Administration | Kent State University

Ph.D. Degree


Dr. Stephen Thomas - Program Coordinator


The Doctoral Program in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs prepares administrators at colleges and universities to advance within administration or become faculty. For most students, our Ph.D. will be the "last degree" they will ever need. The Ph.D. program is academically rigorous and students are challenged to excel. The doctoral experience enables students to serve as directors, deans, vice presidents, and presidents at various institutions throughout Ohio, the U.S., and internationally. While pursuing the degree, students may also earn a certificate in College Teaching, Community College Leadership, or International Higher Education.

Courses reserved only for Ph.D. students are offered on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, in addition to graduate coursework throughout the week. The program is one of few in the country that is taught at the doctoral level (i.e., most similar programs are taught primarily for Masters students with perhaps a supplemental assignment for those working on a doctorate, with both Master's and Ph.D. students taught together). Within these advanced "cohort" courses, students have an opportunity to conduct research, write for publication, and prepare for conference presentations. A common core of coursework is required of all students in the program and addresses issues in business administration, curriculum, politics, internationalization, higher education law, and employment law, in addition to five courses in research and statistics. Students select a minimum of five additional elective courses from Higher Education and related fields to address their own unique interests and needs.

Graduates of the Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel program will provide leadership characterized by:

  • High-level analytic thinking
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ethics-based decision making
  • Multicultural competence
  • Global perspective
  • Understanding of colleges and universities as complex organizations
  • Effective, persuasive, and inclusive written and oral communication skills
  • Comprehension of the impact of social, economic, political, and legal trends
  • Flexibility and confidence to provide leadership in times of change



The student's program consists of a variety of academic experiences culminating in the dissertation.

Aspects of the Plan of Study include:

  • The Core: a common core is required of all students in the Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel Ph.D. program, addressing higher education law, employment law, business administration, curriculum, politics, and internationalization (18 credit hours)
  • Research Foundation: students select research courses to provide expertise in evaluating and conducting research in educational settings including statistics, qualitative research, and quantitative research among other courses to prepare students for research design (a minimum of 15 credit hours)
  • Elective coursework: students select elective courses designed to complement individual professional goals, needs, and interests (a minimum of 15 credit hours). Some students choose to focus their electives in pursuit of a specialization or certificate.
  • Dissertation: the dissertation is structured to produce knowledge and solve problems with direct applicability to higher educational practice

Prior to the dissertation process, doctoral candidates should familiarize themselves with policies and procedures described in the Handbook for Ph.D. Students and Advisors and the Theses & Dissertation Formatting. The Office of Administrative Affairs and Graduate Education examines all College and Graduate School of Education, Health, and Human Services dissertations prior to filing with the University Libraries. We are fortunate to have many highly productive doctoral program areas which generate and produce a considerable number of dissertations. Doctoral candidates use guidelines from the Ph.D. Handbook in the completion of their dissertation.



Kent State University's Higher Education Administration (HIED) program has several doctoral level graduate assistantships (GA) available for new Ph.D. students. GAs may be assigned to support faculty members with their research activities or to serve as an instructor for the Career Navigation course designed for undecided undergraduate students. Appointments for all positions are for the academic year, with possibility of reappointment up to 3 years.

Qualifications: Candidates must be accepted into the KSU HIED doctoral program and enrolled full-time concurrent with the appointment. All GAs must demonstrate strong academic writing, library research, time management, and organizational skills. GAs teaching Career Navigation courses are required to enroll in Career Development and Guidance during their first semester.

Application: HIED Ph.D. program application and submit GA application to Dr. Stephen Thomas, 401K White Hall, Kent, OH 44242. Review of applications will begin in February and continue until positions are filled.


The Holmes Scholars Program provides mentorship, peer support, and professional development opportunities to doctoral students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds who are pursuing careers in education.  For more information on the program, how to become a Holmes Scholar, or upcoming events, please visit the Holmes Scholars Program website.


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