The University of Southern Arkansas has announced the first cohort admitted to the Doctor of Education program under the Rural and Diverse Educational Leadership Program.
The 32-member cohort comes from 23 counties in Arkansas and the states of Louisiana, Missouri and Vermont. Among them are education practitioners of school principals, university leaders, college and university teachers, building and district administrators, and highly experienced classroom teachers.
Incoming doctoral students focus on upcoming opportunities. Christopher Cross, director of the Emerging Office of Multicultural Student Engagement at St. Charles Community College in St. Louis, MO, applied to the program because he “wants to be able to engage, explore and learn more about leadership. rural and diverse in higher education. I am interested in learning how diverse leaders can impact small rural communities across the country and provide a more holistic understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Likewise, David White of Jonesboro, teacher and CEO of TLC Tutoring Company chose the Ed.D. at SAU because “the program had a strong emphasis on diversity and aimed to change the lives of students who are currently underserved by the education system. This program aligns with my personal values and professional experience, and I know that the knowledge I gain will allow me to help make a real and lasting difference in the communities I serve.
The program emphasizing unique aspects of rural education caught the attention of Ashley Creighton of Vermont, a social and emotional learning coach in the Northeast Kingdom, a rural area of the state. Upon learning of the program’s existence, she was “excited about the description of the program and how it was closely related to working in a very rural state like Vermont which struggles to support its students and teachers due to the ‘limited access to resources. In addition, I was really drawn to the structure of the course and felt that it would be constructed in a way that would help me to be successful in my thesis and in my personal development as an educator.
The fully online program meets the needs of adults who simultaneously work and juggle many aspects of life. Creighton appreciated “that I didn’t have to attend a residency on campus because being a single mother of two young children, working full time and living far away would have been exceptionally difficult for me.”
Institutionally, the SAU studied the feasibility of offering the Doctorate in Educational Leadership for a few years before seeking approval, a rigorous process required by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the accreditation agency of the ‘university. In May 2020, in the midst of the pandemic and in the most uncertain semester in recent higher education history, HLC granted approval from the SAU to begin the program.
“In the difficult educational climate we faced, the news of the approval brought tremendous relief and a sense of excitement to the College of Education,” says Dr. Kim Bloss, Dean of the College of Education and Dean of graduate studies of the SAU. “Upon receiving this good news, we knew there was a lot to do in just over a year to prepare for the new program in fall 2021, but here we are. We’re ready! ”Said Bloss.
“For this first cohort, we had 77 completed applications and many more have started,” reports Dr. Katherine Berry, associate professor and director of the Ed.D’s founding program. in SAU. The program uses a holistic multi-step review process to select admitted students. The program’s admissions committee worked diligently and compassionately to assess each candidate very closely. Additionally, the process honored students’ efforts to apply for such a competitive admissions protocol where the capacity of the program limited first year enrollment to only around 30 students.
Successful applicants continued to express their enthusiasm for the program.
Jeff Haynes, teacher and coach at Lakeside School District in Hot Springs, captures that sense of anticipation. He said: “I look forward to working with all of my cohort in this process. To be able to reach and use the knowledge of some of the brightest people in the industry is amazing. I can’t believe how excited I am to start this process. Thank you, SAU, for choosing me for this honor to be part of the first cohort of Southern Arkansas University: “
The intentional selection process has resulted in a very diverse cohort whose members serve tens of thousands of students in Arkansas and beyond. “One of the commitments shared by the faculty of the program is the belief that our students should reflect our constituency, students and families in rural communities, and diverse kindergarten learning contexts throughout the educational continuum,” said said Berry.
“After our very first successful implementation of the holistic review process, this exact cohort came through. They have all the qualities that we are looking for – gender, racial, geographic, professional and experiential diversity. They serve in schools small, large, public, charter, face-to-face and virtual. They serve two- and four-year colleges, both in stand-alone systems and institutions. They connect meaningfully to rural and / or diverse educational leadership through long, seasoned careers. Together they form a rich community of learners, and together we will learn from each other in this exciting program, ”she said.
“This cohort is remarkable in many ways. This is truly a historic first for SAU, ”said Dr Trey Berry, President of SAU. “When designing a new college program in today’s competitive online marketplace, you don’t always know what to expect. Certainly we knew there was a need, but we are very excited about the positive response to this program. Our intuition and our research are confirmed; the region, the nation itself, needs a program that emphasizes rural and diverse educational leadership. We are extremely happy to offer our program to students around the world, ”he said.
The application for admission for the second cohort which will begin in fall 2022 opens on July 1, 2021 and all application documents must be submitted by February 1, 2022.
The next cohort will be of a similar size, around 30 students, but future cohorts after that will likely only be 15-20 students. “To best serve our doctoral students, the program needs to be kept small, focusing on delivering the highest quality content in a caring online environment. It’s what SAU does best, ”said Dean Bloss.
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