Designing Sustainable Systems Curriculum | Weatherhead School at Case Western Reserve University

Designing Sustainable Systems Curriculum

The PhD track in Management: “Designing Sustainable Systems” program is designed for DBA/DM students who want to build on their DBA/DM research and produce a doctoral dissertation that meets academic quality standards of a traditional PhD degree. The program and its stream of independent student study is devoted to significantly extend student’s knowledge in salient theories that prepare the student to write a doctoral thesis in some field of management. The track also advances student’s research skills with the expectation that the student can publish in relevant academic and practitioner-focused journals.  In this regard, the track prepares the student for an academic career involving teaching and research.

The PhD track in Management: ‘Designing Sustainable Systems” includes 18 credit hours of independent academic research defined by student’s doctoral committee. The committee consists of a chair and three faculty members. In general, the research conducted within the track incorporates perspectives from thinking about design, sustainability, and complex systems as they relate to management in a global environment. Candidates are also expected to be established in a specific domain of management scholarship through their PhD study. At the same time transdisciplinary research is the main focus of student’s experience within the track.

The second year of the PhD program is organized as a series of five research workshops where students present and discuss their thesis work. The program also includes independent study of relevant research literature as recommended by the student’s dissertation committee and a formal thesis review.

Year One

The year-three curriculum of the DBA/DM program is year one of the Designing Sustainable Systems track.

Fall semester

  • MGMT 645 – Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry
  • MGMT 616 – Global Economic Systems and Issues
  • MGMT 646 – Advanced Analytical Methods for Generalizing Research


  • Quantitative research paper
  • Identify and organize thesis and committee

Spring semester

  • MGMT 664 – Knowledge Dissemination to Influence Managerial Practice
  • MGMT 677 – Designing Sustainable Systems
  • MGMT 640 – Social Ethics: Contemporary Issues


  • Generate study plan and reading list for comprehensive examination
  • Write first version/draft of the PhD thesis proposal


  • Two-day workshop
  • Comprehensive exam
  • Dissertation proposal defense

Year Two

Fall semester

  • Dissertation research (includes participating in two research workshops)


  • Different parts of the thesis manuscript presented and defended in the research workshop (3rd paper/ introduction)

Spring semester

  • Dissertation research (includes participating in two research workshops)


  • A summary of the thesis or a specific paper presented and defended in a research workshop
  • PhD dissertation submitted and defended

For additional information, review the general bulletin.

Dissertation Research

This is an integrative course for PhD students, which focuses on presenting and debating their research as well as offering additional readings on management theory, multilevel research designs, mixed design methodology, and research communication. The workshops include five workshops during the year: one in the summer and two in each of the Fall and Spring semesters. The workshops are intended to support and expand the students' experience of conducting extensive research and writing a PhD dissertation.

Comprehensive Examination

For the examination the student compiles an extensive list of readings using as a baseline a general domain reading list of 'Designing Sustainable Systems'. The list covers readings included in the student's studies in the DBA/DM Program and additional readings in management research classics and specific selective domains. The student integrates that material with a list of readings pertinent to his/her discipline-based thesis work. The reading list is approved by the chair of the dissertation committee after consulting the dissertation committee members. The comprehensive examination consists of a written examination and an oral examination. Both of these exams need to be passed to move to candidacy.

PhD Proposal

The initial requirement for carrying out the PhD dissertation research is to first write a PhD proposal found on the knowledge obtained by conducting qualitative and quantitative research studies in the DBA/DM Program. The proposal identifies the research problem being addressed, discusses and selects appropriate theoretical positions to address the research problem, selects and justifies effective lines of inquiry, proposes an operational way to conduct a study as to address the research problem, and demonstrates how the study can make a contribution to theory. The dissertation proposal should also effectively demonstrate how the student expands his or her study beyond the contributions made in the prior qualitative and quantitative studies.

PhD Thesis Dissertation

The dissertation should advance theory in some area of management and provide credible evidence to validate and/or build theory. The thesis needs to be also anchored in a salient problem of practice as identified by the student. Typically, a dissertation consists of three research reports and an extensive introduction to the thesis domain, pertinent research in that domain, and a demonstration of contribution to management scholarship.