Friday, July 8, 2016
One day in late 2013, I remember vividly a conversation that I had with my associate principal about educators pursuing advanced degrees. At the time, I was in the second to last class of my Masters in Educational Leadership,and I was set to graduate in May 2014. He was discussing with me his reasoning behind pursuing his doctorate degree, but what stood out to me the most was a statistic that he gave me. He stated that only between 3% and 4% of the U.S. population holds a doctorate degree, and that he wanted to be a part of that elite class of Americans. His logic was that this degree proved that he wanted to attain the highest degree possible for his profession. As I finished up my graduate program, I could not get that statement out of my head from my assistant principal as I thought about it almost daily after I heard it. Considering the fact that my wife and I have 3 young children and various church obligations weekly, I never thought that devoting 3 or more years to a doctorate degree would be feasible. I told my wife about my thoughts surrounding pursuing a doctorate degree. Her response was one of love and great support. As we prayed about it, she said that she thought that I should try to pursue the degree immediately after my graduate program was complete since I would still be in “grind mode.”
In my area, the schools that offer a doctoral degree in my field are Delaware State University (my alma mater) and Wilmington University. They have great programs, but my busy schedule with coaching football in the fall in addition to family and church obligations had me very hesitant. I would not mind giving up coaching football in order to pursue this dream, but if it was a way where I didn’t have to, I was open to that as well (coaching football is one of my great passions). My next option was to explore online programs that would meet my educational needs in addition to being flexible with my schedule. This is where the power of Twitter and being connected came into play to influence my decision as to where to attend school. Anyone that I followed on Twitter with a Doctorate Degree or pursuing one was asked about their program. One of the members of my PLN, Dr. Will Deyamport, had a link to his dissertation on his profile so I clicked on it just to see what his research was about and what I was getting myself into. When I saw that his school was Capella University, it brought that key conversation with my assistant principal once again to the forefront of my mind because in that conversation, he had told me that his wife was finishing her doctoral degree at Capella University. I sent Dr. Will a message to inquire about Capella University. He gave me awesome insight into the school, withholding nothing. After I spoke with Dr. Will, I reached out to my assistant principal’s wife to get a second opinion on Capella University. The conversation with her confirmed and enhanced everything that Dr. Will told me about the University.
I eventually applied and was accepted to Capella University after I completed my graduate degree. I began my first class in August 2014, and the journey has been rewarding up to this point. Due to everything being completely online, I have been able to work at times that I schedule and are convenient for me. The professors are very knowledgeable, helpful, and encouraging. They are readily available to help whenever you need them. I have been blessed with a great cohort that spans the globe. With the different backgrounds from the different geographic locations comes dynamic perspectives that enhance the learning process. It feels like I am pursuing this degree with a group of connected educators (actually I am since we are completely online) as we communicate often in the course rooms, and we constantly challenge each other’s thinking in order to push each other towards deeper understanding and reflection. I just finished my last class in June. The online learning platform has worked perfect for me and my situation. The main course, the dissertation, is the only thing that awaits me now. Since it is an action research dissertation, it will be undertaken in my current work setting. The only thing that would change that is if I am offered an assistant principal position between now and the beginning of the school year in late August.
My wife has been a tremendous support system during this process. I try to spend as much time with her and the kids as possible, which has lead to completing many assignments after everyone goes to bed and before everyone wakes up in the morning. The sacrifices have been huge in order to pursue this degree. Some family and friends are intrigued by the amount of activities and functions that I have had to miss due to coursework. Some don’t understand, but I must reach the finish line. I have been successful in every class by staying focused and diligent. If I had it to do all over again, I would not do anything differently. Capella University, in addition to Twitter, has transformed me into a huge proponent of the online learning platform. It takes you beyond your current geographic location and places you among professionals from all over the world. My pursuit of a doctoral degree completely online has cemented in my mind what personalized learning should look like and how it should push one beyond their wildest dreams.
About the author:
Jerod Phillips is the Dean of Students at Central Middle School in Dover, Delaware. In this role, he supervises and monitors student conduct within the school and handles routine disciplinary matters and assists in empowering teachers to assume responsibility for classroom management and student discipline. He is passionate about using his role to develops positive public relations between the district, school, students, parents and the overall community. At his school, he is also the Head Football Coach. He believes that being a connected educator can help take one’s career to unprecedented heights. He aspires to become an administrator in the near future. He has a B.S. in Finance and Banking from Delaware State University, a M.S. in Educational Leadership from Purdue University, and he is currently in the dissertation phase of his Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership and Management at Capella University. Jerod is a proud husband and father of 3 (2 daughters and 1 son), and he is very active in his church.