By Emily Keahey
Although the university was chartered 165 years ago, at graduation this spring there will be an added reason to celebrate. For the first time in the school’s history, six students will be graduating with doctoral degrees.
Dean of the Graduate School Dr. Derek Davis said, “This is a very distinct honor that these students have earned …. It is a big deal for the school, the program, and especially the students. We are very proud of them.”
The students who will be graduating with doctorates in education are Christie Bledsoe, Lesley Keeling-Olsen, Robin Steen, Randy Baca, EltonStuckly and Becky Frances Musil.
The doctoral program was started in 2007 with 18 students. Since then the school has added about 20 more every year, so there are about 60 people in
the program now.
The school offers a doctorate in education (Ed.D) but it is taught in a nontraditional system. Classes meet one weekend a month in a cohort format. This type of program allows students who are already employed to pursue a higher degree while continuing to work.
Doctoral student and professor of criminal justice Lesley Keeling-Olson said, “I like the cohort concept because it is a really strong grouping of all of us that bond together, travel together and get to know each other and each other’s dissertations.”
The 60-hour program is called LEAD, which stands for Leadership in Educational Administration. It takes about three years with a dissertation component. The program has two tracks: one is in P-12 administration and the other is in higher education administration.
Bledsoe, an instructor of education at UMHB and soon-to-be graduate, said, “One of my favorite things about the program is the experiences that the other students can share.”
It prepares students for leadership roles, collaboration, decisionmaking, research and reform initiatives in educational institutions. According to the description, students leave the program with a fi rm grasp on “leadership theory, application strategies, consumption/ production of research, collaboration, data-driven decision making and the blending/balancing of knowledge, ethics and faith in the overall leadership process.”
Davis teaches a class that focuses on the relationship between religion, education and law. It examines the role of faith of students and administrators and what role it should have in the classroom.
Acceptance into the program is competitive. For every three applications the school receives, about one is accepted.
Bledsoe said, “The education field is going to need a lot of trained professionals, and so I think that UMHB has found a niche with the program they have. It is developing leaders that will … (make) a difference in the world.”