What is a Scholar-Practitioner?

Jim Ludema Doctoral Program, Leadership 4 Comments

CVDL_3-25-12_135The renowned social psychologist Kurt Lewin once wrote, “there is nothing so practical as a good theory.” We agree.

At the Center for Values-Driven Leadership, we believe that good theory and evidence-based research are absolutely vital for great leadership and building great companies that do great things.

At the same time, academic theory can be out of touch if not rigorously tested and refined by the realities of daily practice. If a scholar’s ideas cannot hold up to the complexities of leading in the global economy, then they hold little value outside the pages of an academic journal.

At the Center for Values-Driven Leadership, we stand boldly in the gap between the academic and business communities. We hold to the conviction that these communities need one another and are enriched by their interaction and integration.

A Ph.D./D.B.A. Program Designed for Senior Executives

In our doctoral program, we achieve this integration by equipping senior executives to become scholar-practitioners. We do this by:

  • Providing a curriculum deeply grounded in the latest theory and research.
  • Inviting top executives and distinguished visiting scholars into the classroom to share their knowledge and road test their ideas.
  • Incorporating action-learning into course assignments and inviting students to experiment with existing models and create new ones for immediate application.
  • Encouraging spirited dialogue among students to debate course readings and view theories through the lens of their diverse experiences as senior executives.
  • Training students to do rigorous applied research, publish for scholarly and practitioner audiences, and present their original ideas at academic and professional conferences.
  • Arranging global exchanges to enrich our research, theorizing, and practice by engaging with top scholars, executives, and students from other countries and cultures.
  • Helping students design and complete their dissertation research on significant topics of enduring practical impact.

Outside of the doctoral program, we further integrate scholar-practitioner approaches through our research initiatives, which focus on how to develop values-driven leaders and build values-driven companies; through our Senior Executive Roundtables and Leadership Lecture Series, which pair leading scholars with the top executives as keynote speakers; through our publications, presentations, and online content, which intentionally target both academic and practitioner audiences; and through our consulting services, which bring evidence-based research and proven theories into the workplace to help companies achieve superior results.

As professionals and leaders in the field, students in the Ph.D./D.B.A. Program in Values-Driven Leadership are invited and expected to engage with both the academic and practitioner communities during their time in the program We believe this grounding in a positive, values-driven approach to business, combined with good, practical theory and research, equips our students to become global thought leaders and have a transformative impact on business and society.

Learn more about the Center’s scholar-practitioner approach from one of our students, John Heiser, COO of Magnetrol International.


Jim Ludema, Ph.D., is the co-founder and director of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership. To read more about our doctoral program for senior executives, visit www.cvdl.org/lead.

Comments 4

  1. I spend time with professional educators who have lived a full life exclusively in the Academy. Many of these scholars — though not all — have little interest in the ideas of practitioners who have not spent years studying the theory and the history of their craft. They have missed opportunities.

    I spend time with professional practitioner leaders who have lived a full life exclusively in their vocation. Many of these practitioners — though not all — have little patience for the ideas of scholars who have not actually met payrolls, succeeded and failed in business or government, or written a strategic plan and watched it wither against the pressure of their environment.

    As a scholar-practitioner, I leverage access, because I have relationships and a reputation — credibility — among senior policy makers in the practitioner community… so that I can offer the ideas and options only found among the scholars in the Academy — ideas and options that would not otherwise enjoy the attention of these senior leaders.

    Yes, the scholar-practitioner stands in the gap to link two powerful worlds that can accomplish more things, better, than they would if they continued to stand on opposite sides of the gap staring at each other.

    The idea is catching on. Join CVDL in filling the gap.

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