CENTRAL, S.C. (courtesy swu.edu) — On December 10, 2021, Southern Wesleyan University graduated its first Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) cohort which includes 8 students. SWU established its online Ed.D. in 2018 after receiving approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The first Ed.D. cohort began their studies in May 2018, and the second in August 2018, and those graduating from the program represent those two cohorts.
Dr. Paul Shotsberger, Professor of Graduate Faculty, reminisces on the journey it took to make this day possible, “Dr. McLendon and I began planning for the doctorate during 2017, doing a needs assessment, getting the program approved by the university, coming up with an initial list of courses, and then finding authors for the courses. During this time, I was named interim coordinator for the program, with the understanding that there would be a permanent person hired as the program got into full swing. We decided to make it Curriculum and Assessment, as assessment has come to dominate life in education today. Further, we wanted to open the program to those who were not necessarily K-12 teachers, but who might be working in higher education as well as organizations that have to do with curriculum and/or assessment. In this way, we hoped to find a niche market, which I believe we accomplished.”
Dr. Michael Hylen, who was hired in July 2020, is the current program coordinator. In August of this year SWU began the eighth cohort for the program, and including the graduates this December, there are currently about 98 students in the program. This first group of graduates of the program are all women, many of whom are working full time, raising a family, and completing their Ed.D. Dr. Hylen says, “We are so proud of the accomplishments of these graduates. Their diligence and determination were evident throughout the program. The quality of the work they produced was outstanding and each one’s dissertation research project findings address matters schools need to consider seriously these days. They have earned the right to be called doctors.”
The eight graduates successfully defended their Doctoral Dissertation in the following areas:
- Dr. Tiffany Capri Arnold –Is Low Self-Efficacy Related to the Poverty Dip in Mathematics? A Mixed Methods Research
- Dr. Ashley Hardee Barrett – Examining the Relationship between Secondary Career and Technical Education, School Satisfaction, and Future Employment for African American Males
- Dr. Katherine Ann Elliott – Exploring Grading Reliability and the Factors Teachers Consider in Determining Students’ Grades
- Dr. April Renee Foster – Characteristics of Perseverance in Elementary Students: A Mixed-Methods Study
- Dr. Rhonda Gregory – Factors Influencing Administrators’ Use of Exclusionary Discipline with Particular Student Populations
- Dr. Rachel Hughey Gregory – Understanding District Support for Alternatively Certified Induction Teachers: A Mixed Methods Research Study
- Dr. Amber Jolene Smith – The Effect of South Carolina’s Initial Mentorship Training on Self-Efficacy of Mentor Teachers: A Cross-Sectional Research Study
- Dr. Cayce Andrea Spire – The Impact of Cultural Connections on Multilingual Students’ Motivation to Engage in a Required Literary Text
Southern Wesleyan University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. April White Pugh, speaks of these graduates and the Ed.D. program with excitement saying, “It seems like only yesterday we started the Ed.D. program at SWU. However, as I’ve lately reviewed emails, congratulatory newsletter announcements, and served on one graduate’s committee, I have been quickly reminded that it wasn’t yesterday. Despite the many challenges faced over the past couple of years, these graduates have remained steadfast. They have victoriously reached the finish line of this race and deserve to be no longer called Ms. And Mrs., but now Dr. instead. I am proud of each of them and thank God that this completed chapter opens the doors to many opportunities for them to impact the world for Christ.”
When asked about how the Ed.D. impacted her, Dr. Cayce Spire said, “God undoubtedly guided me through this entire program. Working full time and raising a family at home would seemingly make it difficult to complete a doctoral degree. God opened a door for me when I was offered my dream job as an ESOL teacher. The new position gave me the time and resources to explore ways to improve the education of a population that I have always been passionate about.”
Dr. Sandra McLendon, Dean of the School of Education, speaks about these graduates with pride saying, “During the past four years, Ed.D. students have performed well in the coursework and during the required summer residencies. As an initial developer of the Ed.D., it is gratifying to have 8 graduates in December 2021. The School of Education anticipates an equal number in May 2022. One of the goals of the Ed.D. program is to work with Ed.D. candidates to successfully defend their dissertations and add “Doctor” to their credentials.”
Dr. Rhonda Gregory also shared about her time in the program finding value in “the emphasis on Christian ethics, while not compromising the academic rigor.” She also attributes much of her success to the relationships built with her professors.
Online PhD Programs has named Southern Wesleyan University’s Ed.D. number 19 of the 25 best online curriculum and instructional design technology doctorates in the country. The program itself has also expanded to include not only a Curriculum and Assessment concentration, which was the original program, but also another concentration that’s available, Exceptional Learner. Dr. McLendon commented on the concentration addition saying, “In 2021, another emphasis was added—the Exceptional Learner. Graduates have an opportunity to have two areas of emphasis that are in high demand in the workplace.”
Southern Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered, student-focused, faith-filled community that offers inventive learning experiences. The university endeavors to prepare its students to be dedicated scholars and servant-leaders who impact the world for Christ. For details about degree programs, go online to swu.edu.