The first cohort of graduates from Northwestern State University’s Doctor of Education in Adult Learning and Education will collect their diplomas during spring commencement ceremonies May 5. The program is the only one of its kind in Louisiana that focuses on developing community college administrators and preparing leaders and faculty to work with adult learners and workforce development.
Graduates say the program was life-changing and professionally transformative. In research projects, students investigated racial equity in community college courses, increasing financial literacy for first-generation disadvantaged university students and conducted an evaluation of Our Louisiana 2020.
Graduate Jimmy Sawtelle, chancellor at Central Louisiana Technical Community College in Alexandria, said the program demonstrated quality from the beginning to the completion of the first cohort.
“Beginning with the recruitment process, the establishment of the first cohort, the coursework, through the completion of my dissertation, every aspect impressed me as a fellow educator,” he said. “The entire doctoral program provided access to leading-edge instruction including experienced faculty leaders, college chancellors and system presidents. It provided real-life critical thinking assignments compelling best practice. I researched several doctoral programs before choosing Northwestern State University, and I am honored to call NSU alma mater.”
Gail Suberbielle is dean of liberal arts at Baton Rouge Community College where she has worked for 20 years.
“I came to the program with a lot of experience in higher education but a fairly narrow lens, having spent basically my whole career at BRCC,” she said. “The program enhanced my breadth of knowledge, introduced me to some stellar faculty and created some lifelong friendships and connections with my fellow cohort members through our shared experience,” she said.
Suberbielle’s dissertation research was a qualitative study of student success in corequisite English composition, a topic that is proving fruitful in Louisiana and around the country.
“I wanted to get to the ‘why’ and to talk to students directly about their success, and it was an honor to tell their stories in my dissertation,” she said.
Nina McCune, associate professor of history and chair of general education at BRCC, said the Ed.D. is one of the most meaningful programs she’s ever been a part of. Her research focus is creating equity outcomes at BRCC, a federally designated predominantly Black institution.
“The coursework made me realize that working on issues of equity must be institutionalized and intentional,” said McCune who has been at BRCC for 10 years and in higher ed since 1998. “For years, we’ve talked about diversity and meeting student needs but only in the last five years have we looked at outcomes, which include grade performance and retention targeting African American students. It’s more granular and focused on meeting those students’ needs to improve student success.”
Jamie Flanagan, assistant director of TRiO Student Support Services at Northwestern State, said the online format made obtaining the degree obtainable and face to face interaction as available when needed. TRiO supports students who are first-generation, modest to low income, and students with disabilities to help strengthen their academic and self-management skills.
“My work in TRiO has expanded due to the experience of this program,” said Flanagan, who has been on staff at NSU for 20 years and in TRiO for 16. “My research focus was on financial literacy skills development which is an important skill set for any student but especially those students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Graduates who complete the Doctor of Education program are prepared for the practice of adult learning and leadership in teaching and learning, curriculum and instructional design, adult development, workforce development, program management and planning, organizational change, and community college leadership. Two concentrations are available in community college leadership and adult learning and workforce development. Last year, eddprograms.org ranked NSU’s program 14th out of nearly 150 schools offering the most affordable online Doctor of Education.
“It has been a great experience learning and growing with my classmates as well as the faculty,” Flanagan said. “I believe this program has the potential to grow exponentially. The program has encouraged and heightened my awareness within the environment I work.”
“To anyone exploring doctoral studies, I strongly encourage NSU’s Education in Adult Learning and Development Program. Though NSU’s reach is international, its touch is local,” Sawtelle said.