STEPHENVILLE (October 5, 2016) — When Mary Elliott and Ariana Hernandez decided to earn a doctorate of education and take their careers to the next level, they had specific requirements in mind. Individualized attention. Frequent interaction with faculty. Networking opportunities.
They also wanted a program that blends theory with practice and meets the needs of full-time working professionals.
And they wanted to be part of a degree program—a cohort—where students begin their coursework together, study the same curriculum with the same professors, and graduate as one.
They chose Tarleton State University. Enrollment in the university’s doctoral program in educational leadership (Ed.D.) is up 13 percent for fall 2016 with 137 students. This year’s cohort, No. 14, consists of 30 students from as near as Fort Worth to as far away as Corsicana. There are community college instructors, higher education directors, school administrators and classroom teachers.
Member of an earlier cohort, Mary—now Dr. Elliott—found Tarleton’s Stephenville campus a quick drive from Waco and the tuition affordable. A former high school teacher turned apparel-design-and-product-development instructor at Baylor University, she graduated this past spring.
Ariana started this fall but has inside information on what to expect. Her husband, Elmer Avellaneda, is in his second year of Tarleton’s Ed.D. program and his experience is the reason she’s enrolled in the university’s newest cohort.
Elmer recently started duties as executive director of special programs for the Corsicana Independent School District, and Ariana serves there as a kindergarten teacher in the bilingual program.
“I’ve watched Elmer grow personally and professionally,” Ariana said of Elmer’s stint at Tarleton. “Now, it’s my turn. His cohort experience is nothing but amazing, and I look forward to the same.”
Students in Mary’s cohort stay in contact even though they’ve completed their degree, seeking professional advice and sharing family updates.
“Thanks to Tarleton’s cohort program, I now have 26 professional and personal friendships that will last a lifetime,” Mary said. “We encouraged each other through the entire three-year degree program, shared ideas, exchanged lecture notes—even cried and laughed together—and applauded profusely as members crossed the stage to receive their diploma.”
According to Dr. Tod Farmer, head of Tarleton’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Program, professional networks and support groups are just two of many benefits associated with cohort learning.
“Cohorts foster intrinsic motivation,” he explained, “and help sustain the push to complete a degree program. Research proves that students involved with a cohort are more likely to graduate than those who attempt the same program solo.
“Members of a cohort share similar career goals and, in concert, many of the same concerns and challenges,” he pointed out. “They blend practical wisdom, professional skills and knowledge to create a framework for the kind of study and research certain to take education to new levels of excellence.”
Tarleton is working with the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) to re-envision its Ed.D. program. A consortium of more than 80 universities headquartered at the University of Pittsburg, the CPED works to strengthen and improve doctorate of education programs worldwide to better equip practitioners to meet the educational challenges of the 21st century.
Once enhancements are made, chances are good that the CPED will invite Tarleton to become a member, bringing even greater credibility to the university’s Ed.D. program.
“As one of the fastest growing public universities in Texas, it’s imperative that Tarleton provide the type of program that prepares educational professionals for collaborative leadership in an ever-advancing and rapidly changing field,” Dr. Farmer explained. “In addition to instruction by distinguished faculty, students enrolled in our cohort program gain hands-on experience through internships and authentic research in all aspects of educational leadership.”
A strong research base helped Mary and Ariana choose Tarleton as the best place to earn their doctorate.
“Tarleton’s Ed.D. program makes room for personal and group research specific to career interests,” Mary said, “turning cohort members into critical thinkers, well-informed leaders and agents for positive change in the educational community.”
“I believe research is vital to stay at the forefront of educational advancements and improve quality of life,” Ariana explained. “Collaboration—cohort learning—encourages research relevant to current challenges and opportunities, making room for individual strengths, experiences and perspectives.
“I have no doubt that, like Elmer, I’ll grow personally and professionally as I work on my doctorate,” Ariana said. “With the encouragement and camaraderie of my peers, I can make a bigger difference in the lives of the students I teach today. I don’t have to wait until graduation. A new door is open.
“Let’s walk through—together—cohort 14.”
For more information on Tarleton’s Ed.D. program and cohort learning, visit http://www.tarleton.edu/degrees/doctoral/edd-educational-leadership/.