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Leadership and Policy

Doctor of Philosophy

Overview of Leadership and Policy Program

The Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy program focuses on bringing social justice and empowerment of those in need to the forefront of research, and provides a course of study in which professionals from various disciplines become change agents. This program is designed to enhance the research and policy leadership acumen of practicing professionals who are already established in their respective career paths. It prepares them for an enriching life of research and scholarship.

Drawing on extensive research experience and real-world understanding and practice, our faculty prepares students to be thoughtful and effective agents of change in leadership and policy positions. As a result of their work at Niagara in generating new knowledge that positions them to make a significant impact on organizations and individuals at the local, national and international levels, our Ph.D. graduates are prepared to engage in meaningful careers in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. 

The Ph.D. program requires 60 credit hours beyond a master’s degree, with at least 48 of those credit hours completed at Niagara University. The programs two main components are 30 credits of leadership and policy core study and 30 credits of research core study.

There are 21 required credits (seven courses) in the leadership and policy study core of the Doctor of Philosophy program. Students, in consultation with their advisor, are able to select nine additional credit hours (three courses) in a concentration area within the field of leadership and policy. All candidates for the Ph.D. complete required courses as cohort members and have the opportunity to work individually toward their dissertation topic.

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Why Leadership and Policy at NU?


Cohort members fulfill the doctoral residency in the first year of study by completing nine credit hours in the fall and nine in the spring. Classes are on Friday evenings and Saturdays to accommodate professional schedules.


Scholarships and grant-in-aid may be available to qualified doctoral candidates via the university, the college, endowments and research project grants. Support through candidate-employer contracts may be an option for some Ph.D. candidates.


The Ph.D. program prepares doctorate-level qualified leaders who can implement systemic change in organizations, communities, and other contexts. It offers an innovative and interdisciplinary model, for a unique experience.

Gina M Pizziconi Cupples Ph.D.

While serving as a logistics squadron commander in the United States Air Force Reserve, one fundamental question plagued my spirit: Have my decisions in leadership roles been effective and fair...and am I prepared to lead and shape policy for rapidly changing environments in the future?

The Ph.D. program in leadership and policy at Niagara University allowed for a deliberate and distinct opportunity to reflect on this question, for which I am extraordinarily grateful. This interdisciplinary, cohort-based experience provided me the opportunity to explore the advantages and pitfalls related to policy generation. Furthermore and equally important, this program challenges cohort members to consider personal leadership qualities and style in addition to understanding what adjustments are needed to better prepare for future leadership roles. Though unaware how timely these studies would become,18 months into the Ph.D. program I was selected for the Air Force Legislative Fellowship, which placed me at the heart of leadership and policy assignment on Capitol Hill.

The prospect of jumping into the policy arena has enhanced my personal leadership philosophy as well as allowed for an incredible occasion to learn from exceptionally diverse groups dedicating their lives toward informing federal legislative actions. I feel prepared, energized and fortunate to apply the knowledge gained through Niagara’s Ph.D. program. Moreover, I will contribute to academic and policy communities alike through conducting relevant research that enriches bodies of knowledge germane to defense and leadership.
Gina M. Pizziconi-Cupples, Ph.D.
Congressional Research Service


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Faculty & Staff


Lori Quigley Headshot

Dr. Lori Quigley
Program Coordinator

Dr. Roberto


Associate Professor

Phone: 716.286.8415



Dr. Walter



Phone: 716.286.8475



Dr. Lori


Program Coordinator

Phone: 716-286-8551