SAU announces its first doctoral program in rural and diverse educational leadership


MAGNOLIA, Ark. (Press release) – The University of Southern Arkansas is now authorized to offer the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Rural and Diverse Educational Leadership, according to a recent decision of its regional accreditation, the Commission on Higher Education.

The first cohort of SAU doctoral students will be admitted in the fall of 2021. The program will be offered entirely online and the requirements can be met in as little as three and a half years.

Establishing the SAU’s first doctoral program was a key vision articulated during Dr. Trey Berry’s first year as SAU President. Reacting to the final approval of the curriculum, Dr Berry noted:

“This news marks such an important moment in the history of the SAU! Being the first university south of Little Rock to offer a doctorate through a College of Education is a responsibility we take very seriously.

“Over the past several years, our students have benefited from the university’s establishment of unique university programs in South Arkansas,” said Dr. Berry. “The creation of the Ed.D. is another example and a natural progression of the expanding academic mission of the SAU.

“We are delighted to offer the opportunity to earn an advanced and terminal degree to equip our educational and community leaders for the future,” concluded Dr. Berry.

To explore achieving this goal, a 2017 feasibility study was conducted by the SAU, and a survey was conducted by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE). The survey confirmed strong regional demand for the potential opportunity.

Stakeholders comprised of K-12 building and district administrators, college and university faculty and staff, and staff from public and non-profit organizations responded to the survey and indicated a strong preference (96.5%) to hire candidates with a doctorate. More than half of the openings within their district, school or agency required applicants to have doctoral training, and an overwhelming number of survey participants (94.6%) wanted the program to be offered entirely online.

These results gave SAU a sense of urgency to formally develop the Ed.D. program and deliver it fully online.

After receiving approval from the Arkansas Division (then Department) of Higher Education, the SAU sought regional approval of the change in the role and scope of the university from the Higher Learning Commission, the based agency. in Chicago which accredits post-secondary degree-granting institutions in a number of states, including Arkansas.

The process, which started in the fall of 2016, ended with the affirmative decision of 8 May 2020 by the Commission.

The program launch comes at a critical time for Arkansas and rural America. Educators and community leaders who serve rural and diverse communities face changing demographics, small populations and economic upheaval as industries relocate and rural manufacturing declines.

These challenges affect schools and students at all levels of education, and the organizations that serve them. The new SAU Ed.D. The program provides advanced training in research and practice to professionals in or seeking managerial positions.

Dr David Lanoue, President and SAU Vice President for Academic Affairs, said the University “looks forward to beginning the process of developing the next generation of educational leaders in South Arkansas. .

“Under the leadership of Dean Kim Bloss of the College of Education and her remarkable faculty and colleagues, this program will have a transformative effect on our students, our region and rural educators across the country,” said Dr. Lanoue.

Full details of the program will be available on September 1, 2020. For the latest information and to join SAU Ed.D. contact list, please visit


Janice G. Ball