Doctor of Education (EdD) in Leadership Program Capstone Partnerships

Our 3rd year Doctor of Education (EdD) in Leadership students fulfill their degree requirements by completing team-based capstones. Capstones are “dissertations in practice” that address actionable problems of practice to advance organizational improvement for selected partner organizations.

Real World Problems

Capstones impact the work of partner organizations (and/or a specific office, department or unit within the organization) by offering improvements that address the organization’s specific challenges and context. Doctoral teams conduct interactive analyses of problems, documents, and literature as well as field-based inquiry specific to the organization. Partners receive a culminating product, with findings and recommendations targeted to meet the needs of the partner organization.

For their university degree requirements, the capstone teams also produce a dissertation in practice that they defend to an academic committee. 

Real World Impact

Over the years, EdD capstone work has fulfilled many different needs for K-12, higher education, nonprofit, public, and community organizations. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Increasing Doctoral Student Completion Rates within a College (for a Higher Education Institution)
  • Teacher and Leadership Recruitment in a Fiscally Distressed Urban District (for a K12 school district)
  • The Intersection of Diversity, Inclusion, and Audience Building in Performing Arts (for a community organization)
  • A Case Study about Increasing Equity in the Capacity Building Grant Funding Process (for a nonprofit organization)

For an additional sense of capstone impact, this VCU article profiles a 2021-2022 partnership.  

Who Can Be a Capstone Partner?

Partner organizations can be located anywhere (or have multiple sites) from among multiple sectors. Capstones may be completed by distance (i.e., online/virtual).Past partners have included organizations from the K12, Higher Education, Nonprofit, and Public Service sectors. 

Capstone Partner Responsibilities

If selected, partner organizations:

  • designate a point of contact for communications and four primary meetings over the course of the 13-month timeline, 
  • help facilitate agreed-upon field work/data collection that the team will undertake within the organization, and 
  • approve, with a faculty chair and a doctoral student team of 2-5 members, the work plan of the Capstone team. 
Interested in a Capstone Partnership? 
  • For more information contact Dr. Kim Bridges, Coordinator of Capstone Experiences, at
Submit your organization’s problem of practice for consideration

Your organization’s identified problem of practice may be submitted via this Request for Partnership form. Please be as detailed as possible to help us better gauge how a Capstone team can best serve your needs. Requests for Partnership must be submitted no later than March 15, 2024 for consideration for the 2024-2025 capstone cycle.  

Note: Many factors contribute to which projects are selected for partnership with the EdD capstone teams; thus, there is no guarantee of an organization’s selection for a capstone partnership.

2024/2025 Timeline

Selected problems of practice are actionable for the work of a doctoral student team and feasible for that team to address over a 13-month timeframe. 

March 15, 2024


  • Notification about selected projects, teams, partners, and chairs emailed to all relevant parties.

June - August

  • Teams analyze problems of practice, system/context, and relevant documents and literature. 

August - September

  • Teams present analyses and propose a scope and plan of work for approval by partner and faculty Capstone committee. 

October -  February

  • Teams continue to interact with partner organizations to collect, interpret, and analyze data.
  • Teams and partners convene about the progress of the work and final product. 

March - April, 2025

  • Teams craft recommendations, finalize deliverable(s), and formally present results to the partner.
  • Teams defend scholarly documents to the faculty committee as part of the graduation requirement.