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Initial class of doctoral students begins program at Arkansas Tech | News

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Initial class of doctoral students begins program at Arkansas Tech
News, People, Schools
Initial class of doctoral students begins program at Arkansas Tech

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (September 10, 2015)--Fourteen individuals have been selected as the first doctoral students in Arkansas Tech University history.
The initial cohort of 14 students is pursuing the Doctor of Education in school leadership degree at Arkansas Tech. The cohort is engaged in its first semester of study this fall with an anticipated graduation date of spring 2017.
The first 14 doctoral students in Arkansas Tech history are:
*Tiffany Bone, visiting assistant professor, Arkansas Tech University
*Amanda Britt, principal, Cotter High School
*Cody Chatman, principal, Greenwood Junior High School
*Yvette Dillingham, principal, Oak Grove Elementary School, PCSSD
*Patsy A. Hughey, superintendent, Dollarway School District
*Christopher Johnson, assistant principal/director of athletics, Fair High School, Little Rock
*Keith McGee, principal, Horace Mann Arts/Sciences Middle Magnet School, Little Rock
*Juanita Mitchell, assistant principal, Camden Fairview Middle School
*Robert Moore, assistant superintendent, Rogers School District
*Ivy Pfeffer, assistant commissioner, Arkansas Department of Education
*Keri Rathbun, assistant principal, Kimmons Junior High School, Fort Smith
*Cindy Rice, academic facilitator, Heritage High School, Rogers
*Marc Sherrell, principal, Lonoke High School
*Mary Ann Spears, superintendent, Lincoln Consolidated School District

Dr. John A. Freeman is director of the Doctor of Education program at Arkansas Tech. He joined the Tech faculty on Jan. 1, 2015, after previously working as professor and department head of the graduate studies division in the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Freeman holds the faculty rank of professor of educational leadership at Arkansas Tech.

“The fact that this is the first doctoral degree offered by Arkansas Tech University places this cohort in a special and unique category,” said Freeman. “These students are very aware that they will forever hold a special designation as the first doctoral graduates in the history of the university. While that prospect helps to motivate them to complete the degree, it also places some pressure on the students and the program as a whole, because the success of the program lies in their success.”

Freeman, who has 19 years of experience working with doctoral students, said that a desire to learn, an ability to balance the program with personal life and grit are three characteristics that are positive indicators of success in post-graduate study. 

“We have 14 students in this first cohort and our goal is that all 14 will complete the program and become advocates for the quality of the program and recruiters for our future cohorts,” said Freeman. “All of us who are working directly with these students are excited to get to know them and to work with them in an effort to help them achieve their personal and professional goals.  This is a cohort that the entire ATU community will be very proud of in the years to come.  They are going to do great things for public education in Arkansas.”

The formal steps involved in creating the Doctor of Education degree in school leadership began in July 2010, when the Arkansas Tech Board of Trustees approved a letter of intent notifying the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) that the university was developing a Doctor of Education program.
One month later, the board approved a letter of intent to ADHE concerning the change in role and scope necessary to allow Arkansas Tech to offer doctoral programs.
In November 2010, the Arkansas Tech Board of Trustees approved the program proposal that outlined the Doctor of Education degree as developed by the faculty in the Arkansas Tech Center for Leadership and Learning.
The following years saw a site visit by an out-of-state review team in March 2012 and program reviews by the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board (AHECB), all of which led to a decision by the AHECB on July 25, 2014, to grant Arkansas Tech a change in role and scope and permission to begin offering a Doctor of Education degree in school leadership.
The final piece of the puzzle was put in place in May 2015 when the Higher Learning Commission, a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, granted accreditation for the Arkansas Tech Doctor of Education degree.
The program is designed for K-12 education professionals who currently serve or wish to serve in school district leadership positions.

“When a new doctoral program begins, in a very real sense you are asking prospective students to take a leap of faith,” said Freeman. “There is no programmatic history or reputation that they can use to judge the quality of the program. Luckily, there is a history of quality educational leadership programs at ATU. Dean Mary Gunter has led the Center for Leadership and Learning (CLL) for many years and has prepared many school leaders for the state of Arkansas’ educational system. In all of the years that this doctoral program was under development, many of these graduates from the master and specialist programs in the CLL were patiently waiting for the day when the program would begin. So, while not our entire first cohort came through the CLL, many of them have, and they have brought with them that high degree of anticipation and excitement about finally seeing the program come to fruition. That degree of excitement has carried over to those students coming into the program from other university programs, as well.” 
The Arkansas Tech Doctor of Education degree in school leadership builds upon the curriculum of the institution’s existing Educational Specialist degree, which consists of 30 hours of course work beyond the master degree level.
For more information about the Arkansas Tech Doctor of Education degree in school leadership, call (479) 964-3236 or send e-mail to jfreeman44@atu.edu.

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