Diana Drita Ellerman, Ph.D., is a 2016 graduate the the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Diana Ellerman [center] with Dissertation Committee Chair, Dr. Alan Guskin [right], and Committee Member, Dr. Mitch Kusy [left] at her Dissertation Defense, Seattle, January, 2016.

Dissertation Committee:

  • Alan E. Guskin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Mitchell Kusy, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Patrick Sweeney, (Ret.) COL, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Mary Marcy, Ph.D., External Reader


combat, leader, military, US Army, women, female, Army Reserve, experience, danger, interviews, narrative, war, barriers, power, culture, dominate, leadership, individual, social, organization, respect, training, dignity, standard, mentor, trust

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This research centered on the experiences of a dozen women who served in U.S. Army Reserve leadership positions. Although they served in dangerous contexts the Army had an exclusionary policy at the time that formally excluded the women from direct combat. The impetus for the research was Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's announcement in January 2013 that the U.S. military would be eliminating the exclusionary policy. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into what individual, social, and organizational factors support women's effective leadership in dangerous contexts. The research utilized narrative inquiry in order to bring forth the essence of the lived experience of the women leaders. The research had two phases: phase one interviews, phase two panel discussion. In phase one, an unexpected outcome was that 75 % of interviewees discussed issues of gender bias and toxic leadership. In the second phase a panel of four military leaders (two men and two women who were not part of the first phase) offered validation for the interpretation and findings obtained from the interviews. The analysis of the interviews and panel discussion provided recommendations for individual, social, organizational, and cultural changes needed to correct dysfunctional gender and cultural biases and support women's leadership. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive,, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


Diana Drita Ellerman, Ph.D.

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Dr. Diana D. Ellerman was born and raised in Western Europe. She grew up immersed in diverse cultures and speaks several languages. Dr. Ellerman was the first female in her family to attend college and attain higher degrees. She holds a Masters Degree in Education with a focus on Differentiated Instruction and a Doctorate in Leadership and Change—both from Antioch University.

Dr. Ellerman’s dissertation investigated Effective Combat Leadership: How do Individual, Social, and Organizational Factors in the U.S. Army Reserve Cultivate effective Women's Leadership in Dangerous Contexts?

Dr. Ellerman, who has a National Board Certification in history, is the History Department Chair at Cedarcrest Middle School in Marysville, Washington. She is a trained mediator and serves on the Mediation Committee Pilchuck Unified Service Counsel, and Washington Education Association. Dr. Ellerman is also trained in Immunity to Change which focuses on reflection and introspection as a precursor to change.

A naturalized U.S. Citizen, Dr. Ellerman commissioned, after the tragic events of 9/11, as a U.S. Army Reserve Officer. In 2008, she served in Afghanistan and is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom.

During her military career she has held a number of key leadership positions including Company Command, Battalion Operations Officer, Brigade Assistant Operations Officer, and Battalion Executive Officer. As Battalion Executive Officer she mentors both male and female soldiers to a standard for full integration that exemplifies respect and dignity for soldiers while maintaining the highest standard and aiding in the Total Army transformation into a fully integrated force.

A scholar, practitioner, leader, soldier, educator and an agent of change, Dr. Ellerman is passionate about the education of our country’s future and current citizens to build a better society.