Jul 21, 2024  
2024-2025 Graziadio Academic Catalog 
2024-2025 Graziadio Academic Catalog

Executive Doctor of Business Administration

The scope of globalization, complexity, and competitiveness evident in business today are creating a need for higher levels of executive insight and expertise beyond that provided by masters-level business programs. The Graziadio Business School’s practice-oriented Doctor of Business Administration degree for business executives (also referred to as the Executive DBA program) is designed to provide intellectually curious business executives with the knowledge, competencies, and learning community to develop deep, research-based insights into important contemporary business challenges and opportunities. The program will guide students to leverage contemporary theories and analytical methods, combined with their many years of executive experience, to diagnose business and organizational problems and to develop new insights for improving and shaping future business practice. The program’s core philosophy is consistent with the values and principles that shape Graziadio Business School’s approach to high-touch, student-centered learning. The program is strongly committed to developing values-centered, “best for the world” leaders and reflective, thoughtful human beings through rigorous applied research and evidence-based decision making that seeks to positively impact business practice and society.

DBA program learning goals and outcomes state the educational expectations of student achievement for each degree program. These goals are defined by faculty members to clarify how they intend for graduates to be competent and effective as a result of successfully completing the program. 

Key Features of the Executive DBA Program


The DBA curriculum and schedule have been designed to be conducive with the demands and responsibilities of business executives. The program is intended to be completed in 3 years, with the option for students to extend up to 2 years to complete their required dissertation research. Annual program milestones are used as “gates” for advancement to the next stage of the program.

Learning Modality

Courses are delivered through a hybrid/blended learning modality, with three one-week on-campus residential sessions required in the first two years plus attendance at an annual, University-hosted DBA conference.  The on-campus residential sessions will be complemented with synchronous online interaction and asynchronous virtual directed instruction via videoconference and other online learning technologies. Student advising and support services are provided in person during the residential sessions, and via phone, email, and videoconferencing when students are off-campus.

Residential Class Sessions

Residential sessions are scheduled once per trimester and will typically occur in October, February, and June. New concepts and methods are presented and discussed during these sessions; application and reinforcement are continued throughout the trimester through online instruction and assignments. Residentials will be six full days, and most will require arrival the day before the session begins. Pre-work, on-campus, and post-course assignments are designed to facilitate appropriate understanding, reflection, and application of the course content and learning outcomes. Pre-residential work is assigned in advance of the face-to-face session and is designed to allow for a more robust discussion in class.

Research Apprenticeship

During the student’s first year in the program, the DBA Academic Director assigns each student to a faculty member who is pursuing an active research agenda on a topic related to the student’s research interests. The student will assist the faculty with their research with the intent of learning the process of applied research. The faculty mentor may or may not become their major advisor. The research apprenticeship may or may not result in a publication for the student.

DBA Conference

The annual DBA conference is a gathering of all DBA students, other doctoral students within Pepperdine University, and students from other DBA programs nationally and abroad. Its purpose is to provide an opportunity for students to present their ideas for peer review and comment and to hear details about other scholars’ research (including guest keynote faculty). The DBA conference is intended to advance the doctoral research culture, provide opportunities to evaluate student progress on their research, and foster the ongoing development of a community of scholar-practitioners within the DBA program. The academic director and program faculty will use the conference to evaluate student learning and research progress, creating a learning environment for students to become comfortable and proficient in doctoral research discourse. This “internal” conference opportunity will also give students the confidence to submit and present their work at regional, national, and international conferences in their field of study.

Transfer of DBA Graduate Credit

Students who have completed equivalent doctoral-level courses at other AACSB and regionally accredited institutions may, upon the approval of the program committee, transfer up to 8 units into the Executive DBA program that have a high degree of equivalency.

To be considered for a transfer, courses must have been taken within seven years prior to the student’s start of enrollment in the DBA program at the Graziadio School. Only courses in which grades of “B” or better were earned will be accepted. Accepted transfer courses appear on the student’s Pepperdine transcript as “credit” only and are not factored into the cumulative grade point average.

Requests for the consideration of transfer coursework must be submitted in writing to the DBA Program Office within the first trimester of enrollment and accompanied by the following:

  • Syllabus and catalog description of the previously taken course as the basis for requesting the waiver

  • Official transcript from the institution at which the course was taken, indicating successful completion

  • Any other information that the DBA program committee may require to evaluate the equivalency of the previously taken course.

Decisions regarding transfer credit requests will be communicated to students in writing by the Program Office.

Standards and Measures of Achievement for Executive DBA Students

Students must successfully complete all 55 units of required coursework including the dissertation research project, maintain a 3.0 grade point average or better throughout the program, and meet the criteria for successful completion of their research.

In year one, students will be required to present a brief synopsis of their proposed research topic and collect feedback from faculty and peers. Once the topic has been approved by their research mentor, students will advance to the preparation and delivery of a comprehensive literature review.

In year two, students will complete a doctoral research proposal under the supervision of their primary research advisor or Research Chair. Students must obtain approval to proceed to the empirical stage of their research from a Doctoral Research Committee that includes their Research Chair, additional faculty advisor(s), and other subject matter experts. The Doctoral Research Committee will deliver feedback to revise and resubmit the proposal, or will pass the student to the empirical stage of the research process.

In year three, students will conduct the data collection and data analysis phases of their research. Preliminary findings will be shared at the DBA conference to allow students to incorporate feedback into their dissertations or publishable papers. Following completion of the research, a successful oral/viva examination and sign-off on the completed research manuscript(s) (dissertation or two publishable research papers) by the student’s Doctoral Research Committee are required for graduation.

The final body of work (dissertation or two publishable research papers) will be judged by a rubric that evaluates a) its contribution to practice and appropriate theory to support it, b) the logic flow that starts with a well-defined research question, adequate supporting literature, an appropriate research design including research methodology and appropriate data analysis, and conclusions, and c) the ability of the student to articulate the implications of their research for business and managerial practice. Final faculty review will be conducted by the Dissertation Supervisor/Chair and the Dissertation Committee who must achieve consensus approval of the body of work for successful completion of the degree.

Registration in five (5) units of Dissertation Research is required every trimester after the ninth trimester if additional time is needed to complete and receive final faculty approval of the dissertation research.

The maximum time for completion of the degree is five years. In rare cases, the associate dean may grant a limited extension of time to complete the degree. Enrollment must be continuous until completion of the requirements for the degree, unless the student is on an approved leave of absence. International students in F-1 visa status must obtain clearance from the Office of International Student Services before taking a leave of absence.

A grade below “B-” in any DBA course requires an immediate review by the DBA academic director and program committee of the student’s suitability for continuing doctoral studies. The outcome of the review may include, but is not limited to, options such as requiring the student to participate in a recommended remedial program, limiting the number of courses in which the student may enroll, or recommending dismissal of the student to the associate dean if the student’s cumulative grade point average is less than 3.0.

Courses in which a grade lower than “C” is received must be repeated. Students who wish to repeat a course for which a grade lower than “B” was achieved must petition the DBA program committee which, in turn, will make a recommendation to the associate dean. Courses may be repeated only once. In cases where courses have been repeated, both course grades earned remain on the transcript and count toward the cumulative grade point average.

A student with more than two (2) “Incomplete” grades may not advance to the next trimester of the program until the associated courses have been successfully completed. Because of the cohort structure of the program and course availability, this may necessitate a student to take a leave of absence for up to three consecutive trimesters.

Students’ academic records are reviewed at the end of every trimester. If the quality of a student’s work falls below a 3.0 grade point average, the student is placed on probation (warning status), informed of a specific time period in which the grade point average must be raised above 3.0 to avoid dismissal from the DBA program, and advised of any other conditions for removing the probationary status.

A student may be dismissed from the program at any time if, in the view of the DBA program committee or the Graziadio Business School administration, the student has demonstrated an inability to perform at the minimum academic standard required for the DBA program, to contribute meaningfully to the learning experiences of the cohort, and/or to maintain standards of behavior and decorum that are consistent with the University Code of Ethics and the Graziadio School Code of Academic Ethics for Students.

Leave of Absence

Students may petition the DBA Program Committee for a leave of absence, which must be submitted prior to the beginning of the term the student is requesting, stating the reasons for the leave and the projected time of return. A leave of absence is limited to two years from the date of leave, after which time the student must re-apply to the program. A leave of absence is not permitted after completion of the eight trimester of the program, after which a student must be enrolled continuously until the program is completed. Registration of 5 units of Dissertation Research is required every trimester after the ninth trimester if additional time needed to complete the dissertation research project.

Required Courses

The DBA program requires completion of 40 units of coursework plus a minimum of 15 units of dissertation research. Below is a list of the course requirements for the program.


  1. Students must complete a minimum of 5 units across EDBA 702  and EDBA 799 .