innovation and continuous improvement

Curious about our new doctorate degree in the School of Education? Here's everything you need to know.


With consumer demand ever evolving and shifting the marketplace, industry leaders are forced to embrace innovation more than ever in order to retain the loyalty of their audience base.

But there is hope, and it comes in the form of interprofessional collaboration.

In the past, business leaders ran businesses while educators worried about education and health care providers kept their eye on patient care. Now, in order to maintain a competitive edge, they have to work together. In fact, organizations and individuals that refuse to collaborate with others in order to innovate and improve don’t stand a chance in the marketplace.

Why the Ed.D. Matters

That’s why we created our Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Leadership in Innovation and Continuous Improvement (LICI)—to solve real-world issues. We wanted to help individuals from many different industries come together and figure out how they can address those issues facing businesses, health care organizations, educational institutions, etc. through the use of innovation and continuous improvement science.  

“I think one reason [this program] works at Concordia is that we’re already truly trying to operate in this fashion where we’re a very collaborative community and we learn from each other,” said Dr. James Pingel, program director and Dean of the School of Education. “We have some great leadership in all our schools—they don’t just talk about collaboration but actually mean it and live by it.”

In only its first year of operation with the second cohort beginning in January 2019, this online program was designed from the ground up to be focused on interprofessional application. Each cohort is made up of a diverse group of students from business, education, and the health professions. The goal of that diversity is to build a true environment of interprofessional learning where students get to connect with peers from different industries to solve problems together while also learning from a range of professors spanning multiple industries.

“They each inform one another,” Dr. Pingel said. “There’s something that the business leaders can learn from education leaders. There’s something education leaders can learn from health practitioners and health leaders so that’s the dynamism that’s really really sweet in the program.”

Creating Real Impact for Learners

Plus, while some doctorate programs focus just on leadership development, the study of continuous improvement, or how to be an agent of innovation, the Ed.D. combines all three to fully equip students to create real impact in their careers. With a core of three pillars (the leadership core, the innovation and improvement science core, and the research core), the program also gives students the chance to customize their experience by choosing between business emphasis or education emphasis electives or even a combination of both. Throughout the coursework of all three pillars and electives, students are expected to practice everything they learn in either their dissertation or ongoing projects in their workplace.

“It is a project-based philosophy,” Dr. Pingel said. “They’re going to have to do some actual applying of continuous improvement best practices to a project they’re working on maybe currently in their own workplace so that they improve efficiency or they enhance the bottom line by realigning their organization or their tasks. It’s very pragmatic in its approach where [students] will be doing real-world projects, real-world scenarios.”    

A Unique Dissertation Approach

Building off of the project-based mindset of the curriculum, the program also takes a unique approach to the dissertation. Traditional doctorate programs wait to begin the dissertation process until students are a few years into the coursework, but with this degree, students begin their dissertation work in the first month. An intentional design of the program, this approach builds on the project-based learning structure, giving students the ability to apply classroom lessons and projects directly to their dissertation in real time rather than after the fact.

“We know people are busy, they’re working, they want to climb the ladder and achieve more wherever they’re at or for some future job,” Dr. Pingel said. “We want this to be a transformational experience for them but also one that they get done with so that they can not only apply what they’ve learned to where they’re at but also feel good that they’ve got that diploma in hand.”

Along the way, program participants are encouraged to consider all the theories they learn and projects they complete through the lens of faith.

“We’re very excited that we can offer this program from a Christ-centered perspective,” Pingel said. “We welcome students from all backgrounds and all faiths or no faith. But it’s our chance in each course and through each experience to certainly shed a light and share and expose people to God’s word in our own noncoercive yet upfront way.”  

Ready to Embrace Innovation and Continuous Improvement?

Where are you in your professional journey? Regardless of the industry you’re in or the title of your position, you can achieve increased success through the use of innovation and continuous improvement. As Dr. Pingel says, “It’s intense. It’s tough. But I think it’s really intellectually stimulating.”

If you’ve been trying to figure out what the next step forward is toward accomplishing your career goals, consider this your invitation to explore the Ed.D. program.

If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.