This year will mark my eleventh in education, fifth as a school administrator. I have spent five of the past ten years simultaneously completing graduate coursework and a working full-time job. This summer, I embarked on yet another academic journey: I completed the first semester of an Ed.D. program. I couldn't be happier with my decision to enroll at the University of West Georgia (UWG). Before I share a little bit about the coursework so far, I thought it might be helpful to explain why a doctorate and why UWG's school improvement program.
Why an Ed.D.?
When I completed my first graduate program at a research one institution in 2009, my advisor took me aside less than an hour after oral comps and asked me if I'd ever considered continuing on for a Ph.D. At the time, I was a math teacher and was looking forward to an increase in pay due to the newly acquired degree in curriculum and instructional technology, so it should come as no surprise that a possible assistantship covering tuition and a small stipend did not appear to add up! I couldn't see myself giving up a full-time job and going back to school full-time for three to five years. Neither could my wife...and that was before we had our son. When I went back to graduate school a second time for administration while continuing to work full-time, it was with the idea of the coursework being one last cognitive hurrah. At the time, attaining a terminal degree felt like a distant and dreamy aspiration.
Fast forward to about a year ago, only one year after finishing the second program. I was at a meeting with a number of other central office administrators. In conversation with a fellow curriculum director, I learned about his journey: masters degree in education and additional coursework in administration (sound familiar?). He shared about transferring some of his additional coursework into the doctoral program at one of our state universities while still maintaining a full-time job. It seemed too good to be true, so over the next several months, I contacted department chairs and several trusted faculty friends. They all confirmed a doctoral degree would require a great amount of persistence, but it would not be uncommon to transfer in a few post-masters hours, as long as I did it now to meet credit recency requirements. All of a sudden, a terminal degree came back into the picture. I was told it would be a challenge to prioritize time, make it work financially, and persevere through a dissertation, but that it could be done. Could I finally act on this distant and dreamy aspiration of researching and writing about a narrow topic in the field of education while working full-time? Thankfully, my lovely wife supported me fully moving forward, knowing the cost would only increase in the future and our time together as a family would be impacted to a smaller degree now when compared to the years ahead of us.
Why the University of West Georgia?
I eagerly updated my resume, requested letters of recommendation and completed the application for summer/fall 2014 admission consideration. To make a long story short, I decided to apply at one of the three Iowa public universities, but then, the harsh Iowa winter of 2013-14 hit. We had a fair amount of snowfall and record low temperatures. Driving over sixty miles each way at least once per week for class was out of the picture. Around the same time, I learned about the University of West Georgia's Ed.D. in school improvement through Google searches. It seemed too good to be true:
- NCATE accredited public brick-and-mortar university
- program with over ten face-to-face cohorts and three hybrid cohorts preceding me
- hybrid coursework primarily completed online from home with several spring/summer visits to campus in Carrollton, Georgia
- interdisciplinary school improvement focus marrying my curriculum and educational leadership coursework and experience
- ...and let's be real, in-state tuition for out-of-state students enrolling in the program (cheaper than in-state Iowa tuition) didn't hurt either.