University of Southern Indiana

Employees among the first Education Doctorate graduating class

Employees among the first Education Doctorate graduating class

5/6/2022 | University Communications
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During the Commencement Ceremonies for the Spring 2022 Semester, 1,693 students will graduate from USI graduate studies and the University's four colleges. Among these numbers are the graduates of the first Education Doctorate in Educational Leadership program, a 100% online program offered by the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education. The program is structured to help students develop the tools needed to become effective administrators and leaders in today's educational environments. 

Among the graduates of this cohort-based program are four USI employees—Joy Cook, Allison Grabert, Katherine Peak and Heather Schmuck. University Communications asked them to share their motivation, the benefits and what they have enjoyed about being a part of this first graduating class.

Allison Grabert, Southwest Indiana Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (SwISTEM) Resource 

What pushed you to pursue the Education Doctorate in Educational Leadership program when it became available at USI? 

Honestly, I always thought a doctoral degree was out of reach for me due to the distance between me and an institution with an accredited EdD program of study. I was not interested in large virtual programs with no nearby campus footprint. I am a firm believer that when God opens a door, you should walk through it, but I wasn’t planning on joining the first cohort here at USI. I can thank Dr. Kelly Sparks for nudging (pushing) me through that door. She came to my office and presented a compelling case for why I needed to pursue my doctorate right then—not later. So, I applied, and the rest is history. 

What are the benefits of this degree for you in your role at USI? 

The ways in which this degree have made me better at my job are endless. Most of all, I now have the ability and confidence to bridge the gap between what teachers, students and parents are experiencing in the K-12 educational landscape and the research that supports, contradicts and/or explains it. I can now identify these knowledge gaps and begin filling those gaps with my own research if I wish.

What did you enjoy most about completing this degree through USI?

In a world full of expectations of instant gratification, I really enjoyed knowing this program was going to be a long, challenging process. But all those seconds, minutes and days would eventually culminate into something I could be very, very proud of. It also made me feel really good to see my team of friends, family and coworkers rally around me and do everything they could to fill the gaps that emerged due to my participation in the program. I am blessed beyond measure in this regard. Finally, I would be ingenuine if I didn’t mention I get to wear my mom’s robe for commencement! This point is maybe a little nostalgic, but my mom is a pretty petite lady. Wearing her wedding gown was never an option for me, so getting to be hooded in her doctoral robe is pretty special.

Heather Schmuck, Clinical Associate Professor and Clinical Coordinator/Radiologic and Imaging Sciences

What pushed you to pursue this degree when it became available at USI?

To be honest, my colleague Joy Cook pushed me to pursue the degree. A doctorate is not required in our field or in our position at USI but it seemed that it would be an excellent opportunity for us to strengthen our program by having this additional education. I can definitely say we have already begun seeing the benefits of this professional coursework in our program through better understanding of pedagogy and assessment as well as policy development with consideration for culture and diversity.

What are the benefits of this degree for you in your role at USI?

I’m currently the clinical coordinator for the program. In this position, I do oversee students’ clinical education but I also have a full faculty load. This program has definitely expanded my understanding and perspectives related to policy and procedure as well as programmatic assessment necessary for our program accreditation. I have also gained perspective on pedagogical practices and implemented some of the lessons I have learned into my current pedagogy. Additionally, since I went through this program with my fellow colleagues, we all have a better understanding of how to examine our practice as educators and how we can best provide a meaningful experience for our students which strengthens our program (and eventually the community) as a whole.

What did you enjoy most about completing this degree through USI?

I enjoyed being able to go through this program with fellow colleagues in a cohort model where we could lean on each other and learn from one another as we shared this new journey. At times, it was great being in the first cohort as we were getting to experience the unchartered courses for the first time and providing feedback that would shape future course offerings. At other times, it was definitely an adventure as it was the first time these courses were being taught by the faculty so ‘best practice’ and what works and doesn’t work well hadn’t been quite figured out yet. Either way, it was a fun ride and I am forever grateful that USI provides the opportunity for employees to pursue continued education. I will forever be proud to be a USI Screaming Eagle!

Joy Cook, Associate Professor, Chair and Program Director/Radiologic and Imaging Sciences Program

What pushed you to pursue this degree when it became available at USI?

While my terminal degree is a MS, I always new that there was one more higher; so it became a personal goal.

What are the benefits of this degree for you in your role at USI?

This degree will benefit me in my teaching and leadership. I have gained so much knowledge about being a leader to benefit students, colleagues and my community. I will be able to put those skills to work. I have learned to look at different leadership scenarios through many different lenses, which will benefit me in my role at USI.

What did you enjoy most about completing this degree through USI?

I have always “been USI." This is the fifth degree I have obtained and all of them have been from USI. I could not have imagined completing my degree anywhere else. The faculty within the EdD program provided many different learning experiences for students. They were always accessible and truly wanted us (EdD students) to produce and learn in a way that would benefit us in our roles. They were flexible in allowing students to tailor assignments to their academic discipline. Someone was always available to answer questions and help guide us through the process.

Katherine Peak, Clinical Assistant Professor, Vascular Clinical Coordinator/Radiologic and Imaging Sciences

What pushed you to pursue this degree when it became available at USI?

Attaining a doctoral degree has been a long-term goal of mine. My associate, bachelor’s and master's degrees have all come from USI. I consider myself a lifelong learner and when the EdD program became available, it seemed like a natural extension of my educational journey. Right before I began the program I saw a meme that said, “Set goals that scare you and excite you at the same time.” That seemed to sum up perfectly exactly how I was feeling, but I’m very goal-oriented and once I set a goal I always work hard to accomplish it.

What are the benefits of this degree for you in your role at USI?

This degree has helped me so much with my writing ability and my knowledge of the research process. I feel confident the skills I have gained from the EdD program will help me conduct independent research and publish manuscripts in the future.

What did you enjoy most about completing this degree through USI?

I loved the comradery I felt with my cohort and our professors. My fellow students and I were very close and were able to collaborate easily and bounce ideas off of each other. We encouraged each other and pushed one another to do our very best. Our professors were readily available to us to answer questions and guide us on our journey. I felt very supported by my colleagues, classmates and professors throughout the program.

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