University Center seeks applicants for new Educational Leadership degree

To understand how one of the newest and most advanced educational programs at Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) works, one only has to think in the simplest of concepts, a circle.

Through its Traverse City-based University Center (UC), NMC is now offering a degree in Educational Leadership (Ed.D) through Eastern Michigan University (EMU). The culmination of nearly 15 years of community input and extensive research, the program is now in the process of seeking approximately two dozen applicants to participate in the three-year course, which is slated to begin in January 2006.

Designed for a master's or specialist degree holder, the doctoral program equips its students with knowledge and skills to help build learning communities in our culturally-diverse society. Marguerite Cotto, Vice President for Lifelong and Professional Learning, says the circle metaphor comes from the fact that this new opportunity arose from public vision and consideration, and, in the end, that's also who will be served by it.

"The UC is here, first and foremost, because the community felt there was a critical need for it, making it a true product of a grassroots effort to maintain and improve our quality of life," explained Cotto. "The most challenging part of any process like this is the planning, which is only effective when it isn't done in isolation and as many barriers are taken away as possible. Eventually, it all comes 360 when we have students respond and we're delivering learning to meet their needs."

Two years ago, UC launched its Business Administration degree from Lawrence Tech University, a program Cotto describes as "still developing and generating interest." The EMU Ed.D offering has been on the UC's radar since it was founded in 1995, especially because it was deemed early on as a service that fit both with UC's mission of delivery of programs deemed desirable by citizens of the region, and the larger, more global understanding that degrees that address professional advancement play a major role in quality of life issues.

"There has been a longstanding regional demand to provide the capstone degree for people considering principalship or superintendency," said Cotto. "One of the most exciting things for us from our first day here until now is listening to how a prospective student is trying to describe their world, and determining how we bring the resources to get them there."

Candidates for the new program need a master's in an appropriate field, such as education, counseling, or leadership; must take a graduate record exam; have five years of career experience with a background in leadership and letters of recommendation; and be willing to commit to a rigorous, three-year group process of learning.

"Folks will need to enter into this with a commitment to what this degree is really going to do within a professional plan, and have to have a sense of where it's driving you in order to maintain that," Cotto added.

EMU was chosen by NMC because of its ability to offer a three-year program, and Cotto believes other university and educational partnerships will follow. Discussion is in the works with CMU, among others, and the list of possible degree and certification options includes the fields of health care and information technology.

It will be necessary to continue the process of supply and demand, matching the right programs with potential students, but Cotto says the groundwork has been laid for the future.

"There's a critical need, in general, for continuing degrees, and our attention is more and more connected with economic development trends and how they are noticed and understood over the next five years," she concluded.

"The most important thing to understand is that the UC is a three-way partnership with the student who continues to succeed, the commitment of public and private institutions to this region, and NMC's effort to deliver to the community in an exciting way."