By Kandace Chapple
TRAVERSE CITY – This year, the University Center will see a first: A cohort of Central Michigan University students will complete the doctorate of education program – the first face-to-face program of its kind in the area.
The Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D) has drawn students from Detroit to Sault Ste. Marie, said Judy Nemitz, program administrator for CMU's Global Campus at the University Center. She said it's a unique and coveted chance for educators to earn a doctorate and remain living and working in the area.
Jenise M. Cardinal-Donnelly, for example, teaches social sciences at Brethren High School and travels to Traverse City on weekends to pursue the degree.
"The curriculum is rigorous, respected, connected to life in today's education climate and taught by amazing faculty," Cardinal-Donnelly said. "It has allowed me to pursue my dreams and path of higher education while still working full-time and raising my family."
The Ed.D. degree is the highest level of education one can achieve in an educational setting, Nemitz said, adding that approximately only two percent of the American population holds these "terminal" degrees.
"The program emphasizes application of leadership skills, scholarship and research," Nemitz said. "It offers a career path that often leads to that of college professor, administrator, superintendent and assistant superintendent, as well as higher level school district administrative positions."
David A. Clasen, middle school principal at Benzie County Central Schools, is in the current cohort of students.
"Every topic in class allows for great dialog among other educators across the state," Clasen said. "It provides an opportunity for reflection on past and future leadership decisions that we will face."
The program is not an open enrollment course where students can take classes here and there. Rather, it is run as a cohort; a group of students that follows a set schedule of courses together from start to finish.
"My cohort is also an incredible source of support," said Cardinal-Donnelly. "The encouragement, collaboration, and support we provide each other is a key to all of our success."
Students were required to submit a portfolio, professional references and take the Graduate Record Examination or the Miller Analogies Test in order to be admitted.
Overall, the program is 63 credits, and students do six credits each semester, with three semesters a year for a total of 18 credits each year.
"About half the Traverse City cohort did their master's degree in School Principalship with us prior to joining the doctorate program," Nemitz noted.
The classes meet four weekends out of eight weeks and complete two classes per each 16-week semester at the University Center.
"CMU tries very hard not to overlap classes," Nemitz said. "The group finishes a class in eight weeks and moves on to the next, which students appreciate. Students like to concentrate and focus on one class at a time."
Clasen agreed that the program is specifically tailored to mesh with practical work responsibilities.
"Typically, we meet every other weekend, Friday 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.," he said. "The instructors are very flexible and have adjusted class schedules for holidays and other unique experiences, such as traveling to other countries with the professors in the CMU educational department."
The current cohort that started in 2009 will finish their face-to-face classes this December. After, they will begin work on their dissertations. Students have eight years to complete the degree before coursework would need to be repeated.
"The main campus doctoral program has about an 80 percent completion rate," Nemitz said.
In addition, CMU also offers an Education Specialist Degree (Ed.S) that blends well with the Ed.D program at the University Center. It is a post-master's degree typically valued within K-12 settings.
"CMU has adapted this degree and created the bridge to the Ed.D degree so those interested in college teaching might find the Ed.S helpful as they pursue their Ed.D degree," Nemitz said.
As this first cohort wraps up, they are looking forward to seeing the success rate. CMU will be meeting in June to consider the next cohort time frame in northern Michigan.
For more information on the program, contact Nemitz at 231.995.1755. BN