College of Education & Human Services

Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) - Educational Leadership

Organizational Justice, Equity, and Inclusion Track

Degree Benefits

  1. Classes offered in a weekend academy format through livestream videoconferencing and face-to-face instruction.
  2. Earn a doctorate in 4 years, with dissertation proposal completed through coursework in year 3.
  3. Learn with current students who are already prominent leaders in the fields of education, government, law and human rights, consulting, law enforcement, etc.
  4. Diverse cohorts with students representing 10 different countries and a wide range of social identities.
  5. Distinguished professors with interdisciplinary leadership backgrounds experienced in providing instruction, research support, and doctoral-level advising.

Doctorate of Education Program Overview

The School of Education offers a graduate program in Organizational Justice, Equity, & Inclusion (OJEI) track   leading to an Educational Doctorate (Ed.D.). Beginning in the Fall of 2021, the doctoral program has two options. The newest option is an innovative, interdisciplinary track entitled Organizational Justice, Equity, & Inclusion. This doctoral track is designed for current and aspiring leaders interested in creating a more just and equitable future in a variety of organizational, community, non-profit, and educational settings. Our theory-in-practice (or praxis) focus equips scholar-practitioners to effectively lead change within organizations.

Courses are delivered through a cohort model aimed at accommodating the needs of full-time professionals. Classes are generally synchronous and blended to offer both face-to-face and livestream learning. This blended learning environment is generally offered through a Weekend Academy format. For example, some classes meet on Saturdays (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Sundays (8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.). Others meet fewer livestream or face-to-face hours and require more asynchronous learning. A 3-credit class generally meets three weekends per semester and Students generally take two courses each semester. The OJEI track offers Livestream synchronous learning.

The interdisciplinary Ed.D. option in Organizational Justice, Equity, & Inclusion was established by nationally renowned faculty who consult, serve, and produce scholarship on leadership and organizational justice.  The program was developed to realize global distinction as an incubator for leaders and change agents with a deep sense of equity and justice. This aspiration is premised on providing an excellent scholar-practitioner educational experience that creates forward-looking critical students imbued with confidence, engaged in deep learning, and creating value with other people based on acquired knowledge and leadership skills.

Degree Requirements

Western Illinois University’s Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) degree will provide professionals with the skills needed to lead schools, and create a more just and equitable future in a variety of other organizational, community, non-profit, and educational settings. Students can begin doctoral study after acquiring a master’s degree and then completing the program of study.


There must be continuous registration from the time of the dissertation research proposal approval until degree completion. During the period of time in which you complete the degree, there must be registration for some type of credit hour(s) (e.g., a course or dissertation hours).

Graduation Requirements

Students must complete each core course with a grade of "B" or better or a grade of "S" for those courses graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory. The Ed.S. program must be completed within eight years of the initiation of doctoral coursework. In addition, before being awarded the degree, each student must satisfy the following:

  • Successful completion of EDL 770, Comprehensive Examination, before a student may proceed to candidacy
  • Successful completion of EDL 790, Dissertation (12 sh)


Doctoral Comprehensive Examination

A candidacy examination, administered each term by the graduate faculty in Educational Leadership is required of all students in the doctoral program near the end of coursework. The examination includes sections on research skills and learning theory as well as in the major area of specialization. The OJEI track has an alternative comprehensive exam option focused on research and a potential dissertation topic. Students have two opportunities to successfully complete the candidacy exam. If the first attempt is unsuccessful, the graduate committee will determine the appropriate remediation. The outcome of the second attempt is final. Students must be enrolled for at least one credit hour in the term in which they take their candidacy exam. Students are admitted to candidacy following successful completion of the examination and may begin to enroll in EDL 790. Students must request a dissertation chair within the first semester after admission to candidacy.

Dissertation Chair and Committee

Upon admission to candidacy and prior to beginning work on the dissertation, candidates are invited to give preferences for their dissertation chairs. Given the different focus of the Pk-12 and Organizational Justice, Equity, & Inclusion tracks, candidates and students should consult the Doctoral Student Handbook for clarification on committee membership guidelines. The Dissertation Chair Appointment Form must be on file at the Graduate School by the end of the first term of registration for EDL 790.

Dissertation and Oral Defense

A dissertation represents a substantial contribution to knowledge in the candidate’s major field of study. Candidates for the doctoral degree are expected to conduct original scholarship appropriate to the field of educational leadership and to communicate the results of their research effectively. Following completion of the written dissertation and with the approval of the dissertation committee, a public presentation of the research is scheduled, followed immediately by an oral defense of the dissertation. This final examination of the candidate and the research is conducted by the dissertation committee, in accordance with the guidelines of the Graduate School. Successful completion of the oral defense is usually the final major step prior to graduation.


Step 1 -  Application for admittance to the Western Illinois School of Graduate Studies

Step 2 -  Application for admission to the Ed.D in Educational Leadership Program

Additional Information

  • Doctoral Handbook
  • Dissertation Handbook
  • Doctoral Plan - Organizational Justice, Equity, & Inclusion track
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Student Testimony

Kisha Grant, current OJEI student
Kisha Grant

The Organizational Justice, Equity and Inclusion Doctoral Track of the Educational Leadership Program at Western Illinois University has brought together a community of learners in a knowledge climate that has been one of the most meaningful and intellectually stimulating experiences I have had in my many years as a student and professional. Evidently, much time and thought have gone into designing this program to make it tailored to our distinct real-life experiences as practicing professionals, and in the advancement of our careers; while at the same time ensuring that it is responsive to the times and demands of the emergent social climate. This innovative doctoral program is miles ahead of the learning curve in current studies, praxis in leadership and social justice and can only augur well for action-oriented leaders, competent and fortified to make a difference in our spheres of influence, in pursuit of a more understanding and just world.

- Kisha Grant, Doctoral Candidate Grenada's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and South Africa

In the News

Macy Ferguson-Smith
Macy Ferguson-Smith

Macy Ferguson-Smith, currently a Doctor of Education student in the Organizational Justice, Equity & Inclusion program was recently selected as one of the 100 people from around the world to participate in the Obama Foundation's Leaders program.

As a current student in the Organizational Justice, Equity, and Inclusion track, I believe the cornerstone of education to be community building and connection," Ferguson-Smith said. "Find your people and your community while you're in school. They'll be the folks who see you through so many seasons of life.

The Obama Leaders program is a six-month virtual program that connects and supports emerging leaders from various parts of the world, including the United States, Africa, Asia/Pacific, and Europe. The program is centered on a values-based leadership framework inspired by the ideals and legacy of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Ferguson-Smith, who served as the chair of the city of Quincy's Human Rights Commission from 2018-22, is actively involved in the Quincy Medical Foundation Board. She is also the Senior Advisor for DEI and Health Equity, leading Quincy Medical Group's (QMG) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion journey.

More Information

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OJEI Coordinator

OJEI coordinator image

Stuart O. Yager

Phone: 309-298-1070

Office: Horrabin Hall 81


OJEI coordinator

Tracy Davis

Tracy Davis

Phone: 309-762-1876

Office: Horrabin Hall 40