DoctoratePh.D. in Education and Social Change

Professor teaching

Earn your doctorate in education and help change the playing field for individuals living in poverty.

Why earn your Ph.D. in Education at Bellarmine?

At Bellarmine, our Ph.D. in Education and Social Change focuses on the development of highly skilled professionals who will act as change agents in improving the education of children and adults coming from high poverty circumstances. Our degree prepares graduates to work as leaders in a wide range of education-related vocations including not-for-profit agencies, family advocacy, higher education, learning and teaching research, social policy, and leadership in public/private school venues or environments.

Our Ph.D. in Education and Social Change is not a certification or endorsement program for public school educators. Rather, the program helps graduates attain advanced knowledge in areas such as:

  • Quantitative and qualitative research practices;
  • Assests and challenges of individuals living in high poverty predicaments;
  • Development and diffusion of innovative education solutions;
  • Change management; and
  • Depth of knowledge in a chosen area of study related to improving learning for all citizens.

At the heart of our Ph.D. program is a commitment to improve learning and social justice for some of the world’s most challenged children and adults.

Program highlights

The Ph.D. in Education and Social Change is an affordable 60-hour, cohort-based program attracting students because of its social justice paradigm rooted in the Catholic tradition and research-driven structure. We deliver our courses over a three-year period on selected weekends (Friday evening/all day Saturday). In the course of study, students work in teams alongside top scholars to seek, replicate, develop and explore research-based innovations for improving learning for the underprivileged. Most candidates complete their dissertation and graduate within a four-year timeframe.

For those serving in education-related fields outside of P-12 schools, the ideal candidate will usually hold the equivalent of an undergraduate and graduate degree in their field and while a more broadly based background related to the education enterprise and social justice (e.g., communications, nonprofit leadership, education policy, etc.) is preferred, it is not required. Areas of concentration within the Bellarmine University Ph.D. include Literacy Education, Educational Leadership, Superintendent Focus, and Higher Education Administration. An Individualized Plan option is also possible for persons wishing to have a more customized experience to suit clearly identified career goals.

Transcript Review

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Transcript Review

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How would this program benefit me in the workplace?
A. The mission of the Bellarmine Ph.D. in Education and Social Change, consistent with Catholic social justice teachings, is to prepare “change agents” who improve education for children and other citizens living in poverty circumstances. The principles of change management can be applied to any environment. Whether you are employed in the public/private P-12 school system, a non-profit or higher education institution, the Ph.D. in Education & Social Change will teach you how to lead and initiate change in your organization for children and adults in high poverty circumstances.

Q. When does the program start?
A. The cohort typically begins each fall in August.

Q. When do classes meet?
A. For the first three program years, classes will meet on Friday 5-10 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. six weekends a semester. The fourth program year will be the dissertation year. Higher Education Administration courses may meet one evening a week. All other concentration courses will be offered in the weekend format only.

Q. How much time would I need to spend outside of class to be prepared for class?
A. On average, we recommend three hours outside of class time to prepare for each hour of instruction. However, this will vary with the content of the course(s) you are taking each semester.

For more frequently asked questions, please visit our FAQ page.

Program Objectives

  • Examine education issues associated with poverty within a perspective of social justice.
  • Evaluate change theories and practices aimed at improving education access and outcomes for all people.
  • Evaluate secondary research and formulate an original argument; then design, implement, analyze and disseminate an empirical research study.
  • Develop and implement interventions informed by theory and empirical evidence for the purpose of promoting positive change.

Ph.D. in Education and Social Change Dissertations


  • Dr. Shakir Ali - Ambiguous Loss, Boundary Ambiguity, and English Learning: How Immigrants' Functionality is Impacted by Language Proficiency
  • Dr. Diane Courington - Mask Off: Students’ of Color Traumatic Experiences in K-12 Education and Why Historically Black Colleges and Universities Make A Difference
  • Dr. Richard Cox, Jr. - Star Stuff: Romantic Understanding of Elementary Science and Mathematics Through Imaginative STEAM Learning
  • Dr. Cheng Fisher - Assessing the Effects of Restorative Practices on Teacher Practices in Elementary Classrooms
  • Dr. Alex Rogers - Untold Stories: A Phenomenological Study of Parent and Educator Perspectives of Parental Engagement in Title One Elementary Schools
  • Dr. Natalie Sajko - Reading Knowledge Transfer from the Pre-Service Teaching Phase to the Novice Teaching Phase: A Phenomenological Study
  • Rev. Dr. Caitlin Simpson - Trauma and Intersectionality in Trauma Informed Ministry


  • Dr. Anastasia F. Quirk - Mindfulness and Testing: An Exploration of the Benefits of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Meditation Practice on Test Anxiety


  • Dr. Jennifer Englert-Copeland - Privilege, Bias and Cultural Competence: An Examination of How Lived Experience Shapes Academic Advising Practices
  • Dr. Stephanie White - Parents with Criminal Record History and Their Experiences Navigating Parental Involvement in an Urban Elementary School: A Case Study
  • Dr. Elizabeth Cassady - An Examination of the Use of Reading Fluency Indicators to Predict ACT Scores of First-Year College Students
  • Dr. Alexandra Taylor - Choice as an Antecedent Intervention Provided to Children with Emotional Disturbances


  • Dr. Jordan Wiehebrink - Self-efficacy as a Predictor of Interview Performance and Admission Yield for Doctor of Physical Therapy Applicants
  • Dr. Tiffany Marshall - An Interpretive Study of African American Female Elementary Principals Experiences in a Southeastern Public Urban School District
  • Dr. Patrick Englert - Experiences Explored Through the Prism:Out Gay and Lesbian Pathways to University Presidency
  • Dr. Wallis Owens - Measuring Teacher Expectations: A Generalizability Study
  • Dr. Thomas Malewitz - No One is an Island: Student Experiences of a Catholic High School Curriculum Response to Bullying, Based on Themes from the Writings of Thomas Merton Dr. Loretta Hardin Mentorship as a Protective Factor for Children with a History of Paternal Incarceration
  • Dr. Stephen Lin - Student Social Services in Kentucky’s Schools: Understanding the Impact of FRYSCs on Student Achievement


  • Dr. April Brooks - A Study of Lived Experience of African American Male Principals in Urban Elementary Schools
  • Dr. Mary Jamey Twitchell Herdelin - Identifying eBook Pedagogies for Literacy Instruction: A Qualitative Content Analysis
  • Dr. Christine Bojanowski - Transition for Students with Autism: A Multi-Case Qualitative Study Exploring How Male Students with Autism Experience Postsecondary Education
  • Dr. Becky Goetzinger - A Study of the Relationship between Oral Language and Sight Word Acquisition in First Grade Students
  • Dr. Jack F. Jacobs - School Counselor Transgender Advocacy Development: An Exploratory Qualitative Study
  • Dr. Sarah Ramage - Student Success Behaviors and Gender: Exploring the Impact on First-Year Students
  • Dr. Andrea Bennett - The Impacts of Parents Having Health Insurance on their Children's Healthcare
  • Dr. Doris Mann - The Effects of a Poverty Simulation on Immediate and Sustained Participant Empathy
  • Dr. Sarah N. Merimee - Reading Fluency Instruction of Students with Cognitive Disabilities Using a Multiple Probe Methodology


  • Dr. Amy Dickinson - The Potential of a Virtual School to Help Motivate Students
  • Dr. Amanda R. McMullan - The Impact of Full and Half-Day Head Start Prpograms on Kindergarten Readiness
  • Dr. Heather E. Orman - The Impact of Expertise and After-School Program Dosage on At-Risk Student Achievement
  • Dr. Kayla Steltenkamp - A Comparative Study of Three Approaches for Enhancing Teaching Knowledge of Dyslexia


  • Dr. Elisha W. Beardsley - Survival Analysis: Timelines to English Language Proficiency at the Secondary School Level
  • Dr. Sarah Nash Bumpas - Cyberbullying Prevention: Intervention Effects on Student Involvement
  • Dr. Elizabeth W. Mandeel - Managing Manacles: The Daily Struggles of Unauthorized Latina Mothers in Kentucky
  • Dr. Stacy D. Shipman - The Role of Self-Awareness in Developing Global Competence: A Qualitative Multi-case Study
  • Dr. John M. Sizemore - Intentional Depth of Knowledge and its Effects on K-12 Student Engagement


  • Dr. Hunt Chouteau Helm - Impacts of the Website Visibility and Family Income on Use of the Net Price Calculator
  • Dr. Mary Beth Stevens - The Effect of a Summer Oral Language and Literacy Intervention on the Literacy Acquisition of At-Risk First Grade Emergent Readers

Alumni Story

Sarah Merimee

“I never planned to get my Ph.D. but the program at Bellarmine was so unique. I was able to learn about so much more than just my concentration area that has helped shape me in my current role as Assistant Professor of Special Education at Murray State University. Not only was the instruction exceptional but I felt continuously supported from the moment I started until I defended my dissertation. I am so thankful I made the decision to pursue this degree.”

Sarah Merimee, Ph.D.
Department of Adolescent, Career, and Special Education
College of Education and Human Services

Faculty Profiles

Here is a quick snapshot of a few of our faculty members. Read profiles of all of our distinguished faculty.

Amy E. Lein, Ph.D.

Amy E. Lein is Assistant Professor of Special Education and the Chair of the Education and Social Change (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs. Before coming to Bellarmine, Dr. Lein was a Master Coach for Minnesota Math Corps and adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis where she earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and won the 2016 Balow Dissertation Award. As a former public-school teacher, she taught special education and general education mathematics at the high school and middle school levels in both the Boston metro area and in Charlotte, Michigan. Her research areas of interest include mathematics interventions for struggling students, student engagement, and teacher preparation and development. Her research has resulted in peer-reviewed publications in journals such as Preventing School Failure, Educational Research and Evaluation, The Journal of Learning Disabilities, Learning and Instruction, and The Journal of Educational Psychology.

Grant Smith, Ph.D.

Grant Smith, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Research Design and Statistics. Grant spent over 20 years in the private sector working in operations management, mergers and acquisitions and the design and execution of feasibility research and process improvement studies. His research interests include accountability measurements, and the relationship of educational outcomes and economic opportunity. He received a B.A. from the University of Florida, a Ph.D. in measurement and statistics from the Florida State University and is currently completing postdoctoral studies at Harvard University where he works with the National Center for Teacher Effectiveness at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. At Bellarmine, Grant teaches courses in statistics, research methods and evaluation.

Dr. Will Wells

Will Wells, Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Leadership and School Administration. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Louisville in Educational Leadership and School Administration. Before joining the faculty at Bellarmine in 2016, Dr. Wells was Superintendent in the Oldham County Schools. His experience as a successful assistant superintendent, school principal, assistant principal, guidance counselor, and middle school teacher, in both urban and suburban districts, provided him a broad base of experience and expertise as he served in this role. His current research interests are systems, structures, and policies that improve teacher quality vis-à-vis job embedded professional learning such as the academy structure and other means of building teacher capacity in order to ensure the learning of ALL students. Wells teaches a variety of instructional leadership and administration courses to graduate students at the masters, specialist, and doctoral levels.

Admission Requirements

Candidates must have an earned baccalaureate and master's degree in any discipline. Advanced degrees in fields other than education will be considered to meet this requirement (e.g., JD, MBA, etc.). A minimum grade point average of 3.5 in all graduate coursework completed at the time of application.

For a complete explanation of admission requirements, please visit our Procedure for Admission page.

Tuition and Fees

Visit our Graduate Tuition Rates for the most up-to-date tuition and fees information.

School districts may apply tuition supports for this program; please contact your school district’s personnel specialist. Students are eligible for federally supported forms of student aid. Financial aid questions should be directed to the Financial Aid Office at Bellarmine University ( or 502.272.7300).


For more information, call 502.272.7100 or email your questions to