Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to the most common questions here.

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Benedictine University’s Ph.D./D.B.A. program is the first scholar-practitioner program in the world focusing explicitly on values-driven leadership – that is, the theory and practice of leading profitable, sustainable, and responsible companies in today’s global economy. The program is designed for senior executives and equips students to become thought leaders and have a transformative impact on business and society by leading boldly at four levels: personal, interpersonal, organizational, and global.

Other key features include:

  • Exceptional scholars: Learning from Benedictine University’s world-class faculty and distinguished visiting scholars and executives from leading universities and companies around the globe
  • A cohort of executives: Engaging in the classroom with an exceptional group of peers — experienced executives like yourself who share a passion for values-driven leadership
  • Global connections: Traveling to different parts of the world to engage in high-quality learning exchanges with top scholars and executives from other countries and cultures
  • World-class research: Participating with Benedictine faculty and a global network of scholars in leading-edge research initiatives focused on leadership, sustainability, and organizational change
  • Choice of degrees: You can choose one of two degrees, a Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) or a D.B.A. (doctor of business administration)
  • One-of-a-kind curriculum: Engaging coursework that integrates the fields of business; leadership and organizational change; and social, ethical and environmental responsibility
  • Convenience: Attending classes on a schedule convenient for senior leaders working full-time and for those who commute from outside the Chicago area (once a month on weekends, plus an annual 8-day intensive)
  • Personal transformation: We are committed to your personal and professional transformation; our faculty work with students to tailor their research and writing to help advance the student’s career and individual goals.
In each cohort, we build a supportive community of passionate, values-driven leaders who are actively working to have a transformative impact on business and society. Our primary target audience is senior business leaders with track records of success and a desire to lead profitable, sustainable, high-integrity companies with excellence. This includes CEOs, chief officers and their direct reports, presidents and vice presidents, and heads of business groups from a wide range of industries or the military. High-potential leaders at the director and senior manager levels (or equivalent) may also apply.

Our goal is to create a diverse cohort of highly-qualified students. We consider quality and quantity of relevant work experience, emphasizing positions of major responsibility. Each application is considered on a case-by-case basis.

Our students are a diverse group of company owners and CEOs, c-suite officers and vice presidents, and others with senior level responsibility in companies of all sizes. They come from across the US and overseas and work in a variety of fields including manufacturing, technology and communications, health care, consulting, education, engineering, financial services, and the military. The executives in our program are seasoned professionals, most with two or more decades of leadership in their field.

You can find student and graduate bios, and learn more about student dissertations, on our website:

Most of our students are motivated by their love of learning and their desire to engage in robust conversations that challenge your thinking and stretch your capacity. We find the executives in our program are passionate about leadership and believe in their own ability to have a meaningful impact on business and society through their work.

Many of our students are also seeking a doctorate to advance their careers: for example, to differentiate themselves among a crowd of MBAs or to learn new theories and tools they can take back to work. Some are approaching a career transition and want the personal growth and insights our unique program offers. They may be preparing themselves for a full or part time role in consulting, teaching, or higher education.

Our program differs in both intent and structure from other doctoral programs in leadership, business, and organizational behavior and development. Regarding intent, this program is the world’s only doctorate designed specifically for values-driven executives who want to have a transformative impact on business and society. Our students have called the program “the best leadership development program available.” We take seriously our mission to help senior executives develop their leadership capacity through the lens of their personal values and character. We are committed to helping our students experience personal transformation as they become a scholar-practitioner.

In terms of structure, our program is also distinctive. When designing the Ph.D./D.B.A. Program in Values-Driven Leadership, we conducted extensive research into 75 programs focused on leadership, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and organizational change. We evaluated them in terms of:

  • Curriculum (is it exceptionally high-quality; does it focus on leading sustainable companies in today’s global economy; does it equip people to lead at four levels: personally, interpersonally, organizationally, and strategically?)
  • Length of program
  • Degree type (Ph.D., D.B.A., Ed.D., etc.)
  • Target audience (i.e. senior leaders)
  • Format: cohort or non-cohort
  • When and where classes meet
  • Scholar-practitioner vs. traditional program
  • Use of visiting global thought leaders (scholars and executives)
  • Number and quality of global exchanges
  • Ability for students to be involved with faculty in leading-edge research initiatives

We found no other program that incorporates all of these features into the unique and powerful combination offered by our Ph.D./D.B.A. Program in Values-Driven Leadership.

There are a number of high-quality Ph.D. programs in leadership for working professionals, but none of these are targeted specifically at senior leaders; offer both a Ph.D. and D.B.A. track; focus on strategic leadership at the forefront of business and society; or offer the same quality of global exchanges, research opportunities, and access to thought leaders from around the world. We believe we hold a strong competitive position in comparison to other Ph.D. and D.B.A. programs in leadership, sustainability, and organizational change.

The Ph.D./D.B.A. Program in Values-Driven Leadership uses a similar format as the Ph.D. OD Program but distinguishes itself by targeting an executive audience and offering a multidisciplinary curriculum focused on global leadership, strategic change, and corporate sustainability.

Similarities to the Ph.D. OD program include:

  • Tailoring the program to working professionals (weekend classes, etc.),
  • Using a cohort model,
  • Exposing students to state-of-the-art knowledge with an optimal blend of core faculty and visiting thought leaders,
  • Engaging in global exchanges and international learning experiences,
  • Establishing a leadership position in the field through research, publications, presentations, and leadership in professional associations.

Distinctive differences include:

  • The Target Audience – While the Ph.D. OD is targeted at working professionals at all levels, the Ph.D./D.B.A. in Values-Driven Leadership is targeted specifically at senior executives (VP level and above).
  • The Format – While the Ph.D. OD holds classes on weekends 16 times per year, the Ph.D./D.B.A. in Values-Driven Leadership holds classes on weekends once a month, plus an annual 8-day intensive, requiring less travel for those who commute from out of town.
  • The Content – Whereas the Ph.D. OD curriculum focuses on organization development, the Ph.D./D.B.A. in Values-Driven Leadership curriculum focuses on three core areas only briefly addressed in the Ph.D. OD: global leadership, strategic change, and corporate sustainability.
James D. Ludema, Ph.D., is Co-founder and Director of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership and a Professor of Global Leadership at Benedictine University. Dr. Ludema’s book, The Appreciative Inquiry Summit: A Practitioner’s Guide for Leading Large-Scale Change is widely considered a classic in the field.

Michael R. Manning, Ph.D., is Director of Research and a Professor of Leadership, Strategy and Change as well as an associate editor of the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. Dr. Manning teaches and consults throughout the U.S. and internationally in Mexico, Europe, the Baltic States, the Middle East, and the Far East.

Marie E. Di Virgilio, Ph.D., is a core faculty member in Organizational Change and Corporate Social Responsibility and brings over 30 years of business experience, much of it with Allstate Insurance Company. She also teaches internationally in Poland, the Czech Republic, and France.

James (Gus) Gustafson, Ph.D., is the Leadership Scholar-in-Residence and a core faculty member in Leadership Development. Dr. Gustafson is the former Chair of the Business Leadership Division of the International Leadership Association. Prior to coming to Benedictine, he was Director of Strategic Leadership Research, and Development and Organizational Transformation at U.S. Cellular.

For more information, please visit our Faculty and Staff page.

A list of many of our past and present visiting scholars is found below. To find a complete list along with their bios, please visit our Distinguished Visiting Scholars page.

  • Dr. Robert Audi, Professor of Management and John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame;
  • Dr. Bruce Avolio, Mark Pigott Chair in Business Strategic Leadership; Executive Director, Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking, Michael G. Foster School of Business, University of Washington;
  • Dr. Richard Boyatzis, Professor in Organizational Behavior, Psychology, and Cognitive Science departments, Case Western Reserve University;
  • Dr. Phil Bromiley, Dean’s Professor in Strategic Management, Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine;
  • Dr. Bruce Buchowicz, Professor and Chair of the Department of Leadership and Human Resource Management in the School of Business and Management at National University in La Jolla, California;
  • Dr. Kim Cameron, Professor of Management and Organizations, University of Michigan;
  • Dr. Anjan Chakravartty, Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame;
  • Dr. Yochi Cohen-Charash, Professor, Department of Psychology, Baruch College and the Graduate Center of CUNY;
  • Dr. John Ehrenfeld, retired Executive Director of the International Society for Industrial Ecology;
  • Dr. Jeffrey Ford, Professor of Management in the Max M. Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University;
  • Dr. Ron Fry, Professor and Department Chair, Organizational Behavior, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University;
  • Dr. Mary Gentile, Director, Giving Voice to Values, Senior Research Scholar, Babson College;
  • Dr. Leigh Hafrey, Senior Lecturer, Behavioral and Policy Sciences, MIT Sloan School of Management;
  • Dr. Stuart L. Hart, Samuel C. Johnson Chair in Sustainable Global Enterprise and Professor of Management at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management;
  • Dr. Mary Jo Hatch, C. Coleman McGehee Eminent Scholars Research Professor Emerita of Banking and Commerce, University of Virginia; Visiting Professor IEDC Bled School of Management; Distinguished Visiting Professor, Singapore Management University; and International Fellow, Said Business School, Oxford University;
  • Dr. Bob Johansen, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future;
  • Dr. Mikko Ketokivi, Professor of Operations Management and Organization Design, IE (Instituto de Empresa) Business School Madrid, Spain;
  • Dr. Chris Laszlo, Faculty Research Director of the Fowler Center for Sustainability Value at Case Western Reserve University;
  • L. Hunter Lovins, J.D., President, Natural Capitalism Solutions;
  • Dr. Rodney Ludema, Professor, Department of Economics and School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; Chief Economist, US State Department; former Senior Economist, President’s Council of Economic Advisors;
  • Dr. G. Thomas Lumpkin, Chris J. Witting Chair in Entrepreneurship, Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University;
  • Dr. Cynthia McCauley, Senior Fellow in Research and Innovation at the Center for Creative Leadership;
  • Dr. Carlos Mora, Research Scientist, Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, Ross School of Business at University of Michigan;
  • Dr. Peter Northouse, Professor Emeritus of Communication, Western Michigan University;
  • Dr. Marc Orlitzky, Chair, Professor in Management, The University of South Australia;
  • Dr. Joyce Osland, Lucas Endowed Professor of Global Leadership and Executive Director of Global Leadership Advancement Center, San Jose State University;
  • Dr. Bill Pasmore, Visiting Professor of Social-Organizational Psychology, Teachers College Columbia University; Organization Practice Leader, The Center for Creative Leadership;
  • Dr. Ron Riggio, Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at the Kravis Leadership Institute, Claremont McKenna College;
  • Dr. Abraham (Rami) Shani, Professor of Management, Orfalea College of Business, California Polytechnic State University
  • Dr. Inger Stensaker, Professor in Strategic Change, NHH Norwegian School of Economics;
  • Dr. Diane Swanson, The Edgerley Family Chair of Distinction, Professor of Management, Founding Chair, Business Ethics Education Initiative, College of Business Administration, Kansas State University.

Our distinguished visiting business leaders are listed below. To read their bios, please visit our Visiting Business Leaders page.

  • Dr. Mona Amodeo, founder and President, idgroup;
  • Mr. Chuck Bartels, retired Director for Global Social Responsibility and Knowledge Sharing, ManpowerGroup;
  • Ms. Maureen Beal, CEO, National Van Lines;
  • Mr. Mike Birck, retired founder and Chairman, Tellabs;
  • Ms. Julie Brautigam, Director of Ethics, Compliance and Sustainability, Baxter International;
  • Mr. Lyell Clarke, President and CEO, Clarke;
  • Mr. John Coyle, Senior Vice President, Maddock Douglas;
  • Dr. Tom Griffin, Independent Consultant, adjunct faculty, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology;
  • Mr. Jim Kouzes, Best-selling author, former CEO, Tom Peters Company, Dean’s Executive Professor of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University;
  • Ms. Erin Meezan, Vice President of Sustainability, Interface, Inc.;
  • Mr. Bill Pollard, former President and CEO, ServiceMaster;
  • Mr. David Small, Vice President, McDonald’s Global Leadership Institute;
  • Mr. Paul Spiegelman, founder, BerylHealth and Chief Culture Officer, Stericycle;
  • Mr. Tom Walter, CEO and Chief Culture Officer, Tasty Catering, author of It’s My Company Too!;
  • Mr. Dan Webster, author and founder of Authentic Leadership, Inc.
  • Mr. David Ziegler, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ace Hardware Corporation.
The Ph.D. is a more scholarly degree, and the D.B.A. is a more practitioner-oriented degree. Students choose either the Ph.D. or the D.B.A. track when they enter the program but are free to change tracks anytime until late in the second year. During the two years of course work, students take the same courses, regardless of their track. The difference comes when it is time to conduct the dissertation research. Students in the Ph.D. track complete their degree with a scholarly dissertation based on original research. Students in the D.B.A. track complete their degree with an applied dissertation (similar to a thorough case study) based on the design and implementation of a significant project or change initiative.

Yes. Students are encouraged to work on research projects with Benedictine faculty and other scholars associated with the Ph.D./D.B.A. program. Through the Center for Values-Driven Leadership we are developing a variety of research initiatives focused on the exemplary practices of sustainable and socially-responsible companies and leaders. 

Yes, our faculty members plan up to two trips per year to participate in international conferences and learning exchanges with scholars and business leaders around the globe. To date, trips have been taken to Belgium, China, Dubai, France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Scandinavia, South Africa, Spain, and the U.K. Students are required to participate in at least one global exchange during their time in the program and are welcome to participate in as many as they like. Students may participate in a global exchange anytime during the program and receive credit for it in the third year of the program. Students are responsible for their own expenses associated with the exchanges.

Absolutely. Each cohort of our program has had at least one international student, coming from Canada, Mexico, Europe and Africa. Because of our program’s unique weekend-based structure, most students live in their home countries and commute only for class weekends. Some others do relocate to the Chicago area for the two years of coursework, and then return to their home countries to complete their dissertations.

Completing an international application does have a few extra requirements. Contact us early, at, to begin the process.

Yes. As thought leaders in the field, students are invited and expected to submit proposals for presentation at academic and professional conferences at the regional, national, and international levels.

To advance their growth as a scholar-practitioner, beginning in 2019, students will attend the leading academic conferences in our field, the Academy of Management, and the International Leadership Association. Conference attendance will replace one class weekend in each year of the program. Students are also expected to be members of these associations. 

Both conferences are phenomenal opportunities to meet with leading thinkers in the field, explore the cutting-edge research on topics about which you’re passionate, and present your own research and case studies. Attending the conferences helps our students advance in understanding of the field faster, so you can return to class energized to pursue your studies in new ways.

Costs associated with attending conferences are at the student’s expense.

Yes, a master’s degree is required. On rare occasions, exceptions have been made for applicants with extensive senior leadership experience and non-master’s-degree education who demonstrate the capacity to undertake the extreme academic rigors of a doctoral program.
The Ph.D./D.B.A. program in Values-Driven Leadership is offered through Benedictine University’s College of Business and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA) of Colleges and Schools.

We begin accepting applications for Cohort 5 on April 2, 2018. The application deadline for Cohort 5 is November 1, 2018. Classes begin April 4, 2019.

We anticipate a full cohort and encourage individuals to apply early in order to receive full consideration. Please contact for more information. You can find the application and a helpful checklist online at this link

We anticipate over 1000 inquiries for each cohort, resulting in approximately 75-100 applicants. We will admit 25-30 students.

Prospective students who have submitted all required application documents may be considered for interview with Ph.D./D.B.A. faculty. Most interviews will take place between September 2018 and January 2019. Cohort 5 applicants will be notified of decisions within a month of their interview date, with all notifications complete by the end of January 2018.

Because of our competitive process, some applicants may be placed on a wait list. If that occurs, applicants will be notified of their status within a month of their interview date, and will be updated regarding changes to their status.

Cohorts begin in spring, every two years (i.e., April 2019, April 2021, April 2023, etc.).

For the first two years of the program, classes are held at Benedictine University’s Lisle, Illinois, campus one weekend a month and during an annual 8-day intensive. Most weekend classes follow this schedule:

  • Friday 6:30-9:30 pm,
  • Saturday 9:00 am-4:00 pm,
  • Sunday 9:00 am-4:00 pm.

There are occasional exceptions to this schedule:

  • To accommodate our Senior Executive Roundtables and Leadership Lecture Series, once each year, classes are held Friday 1:00-9:00 pm, Saturday 9:00 am-4:00 pm and Sunday 9:00 am – Noon. Students are notified of class schedules well ahead of time.
  • Classes during the annual 8-day intensive, scheduled for each June, are usually held 8:00 am-5:00 pm each day.
  • Once each year, cohorts are required to attend a leading conference in our field, in place of a class weekend. Required attendance days for these conferences are determined well in advance, based on the conference schedule.

During the third year of the program, students work on their dissertations in collaboration with their dissertation committees. Typically, this is done via email and Skype or telephone conference calls so, except for graduation, students normally do not need to come to campus during their third year.

The Ph.D./D.B.A. program is housed in Benedictine University’s new, state-of-the-art Goodwin Hall of Business building on the top floor, which is dedicated exclusively to our doctoral programs. Benedictine University’s Lisle campus is located a convenient 30 minutes from Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports.

No, this is not an online program. One of the program’s greatest strengths is the deep learning that occurs in class and elsewhere when cohort members meet face-to-face with one another, the Center for Values-Driven Leadership’s core faculty, and the world’s top scholars and executives to exchange experiences and ideas at the forefront of leadership theory and practice. It is an exceptionally rich learning environment.

This program is designed to be completed in three years. Classroom work is completed in the first two years. Students complete and defend their dissertations in the final year. Students who do not complete the dissertation in the three-year timeframe will be enrolled in a 4-credit Dissertation Continuation course each quarter until the degree is completed. Students must complete the program within six years. 

About 75 percent of students will complete the program within a three year period of time, with most of the remaining students completing within six years. 

Students must complete 96 credit hours to graduate.

For Cohort 5, tuition is $40,000 per year for three years. Books are included in the tuition. Additional costs include transportation and accommodations and meals for each weekend class and the annual 8-day intensives. There are also expenses for trips to conferences, at which students give presentations and present papers; travel for the global exchanges/international aspect of the program; and in some cases, transcribing of interview transcripts, analysis of quantitative data, and/or copy editing during the dissertation.

The program is designed to be completed in three years. Students who do not complete the dissertation in the three-year timeframe continue to pay half the normal tuition rate until the dissertation is complete. Students must complete the program within six years. 

At this time, the program does not offer scholarships, but Benedictine University’s financial aid office can assist you to determine your eligibility for student loans or Veteran Affairs benefits.

Benedictine participates in many programs offered to eligible veterans and has been listed as a 2018 “Military Friendly School” by

Be sure to check with your employer for tuition assistance as well.

Because of the unique nature of our curriculum, we do not accept transfer credits. On a case-by-case basis, students may be allowed to complete alternative assignments in courses where they have significant previous experience or expertise (e.g., statistics and research methods).

We limit classroom visitors in order to avoid disrupting the spirited cohort-based learning environment, and to honor the requests of our tuition-paying students. 

However, for prospective students, we do offer one annual opportunity to visit a class. In 2018, this opportunity will be offered on Friday, September 14th. Join us for an on-campus open house at 5 pm, followed by class from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. RSVP at this link.

At other times of the year, we encourage you to learn more about the program from cohort members any time by watching our Ph.D./D.B.A. video playlist on our website. You may also want to attend a future Roundtable event, which will be attended by many of our current students.