Tips for Designing a new EdD in a Community College Leadership Program

Tips for Designing a new EdD in a Community College Leadership Program

By: Christine Harrington, PhD. 
Associate Professor and Co-Coordinator, EdD in Community College Leadership program at New Jersey City University

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Developing and launching a new EdD program in a Community College Leadership program is an exciting yet overwhelming task.  As a faculty member and co-coordinator of a program that launched last summer, I thought I’d share some tips for those of you embarking on this journey.

Tip #1:  Find a Support Team

When I first joined the faculty at New Jersey City University, I was very fortunate that a colleague informed me about CPED.  After discussing the value of becoming a part of this consortium at the start of the program with my faculty colleague, dean, and provost, our first action was to complete the application and interview process. 

As someone who earned a PhD, not an EdD, CPED helped me better understand the differences between a PhD and EdD program.  CPED also provided us with guiding principles and a framework that helped us design and shape our curriculum and program. 

At the first CPED convening, I started to make helpful connections with colleagues doing this work at other institutions.  Because most of the EdD programs in CPED programs target the K-12 population, it was challenging at first to find others working in higher education programs. However, I made the most of the networking time and as a result was able to connect with higher education colleagues.

Tip #2:  Create an Advisory Board

As this degree is for scholarly practitioners, we wanted to hear directly from practitioner leaders in the field about the knowledge and skills community college leaders need.  Creating an advisory board comprised of community college leaders and national experts was one of the best decisions we made. 

We used our professional network and invited college presidents, vice presidents, deans, faculty, and researchers from several states to become members of the advisory board, and we were beyond thrilled when they all agreed.  Members can join meetings in person or via Zoom.  Members provide us with incredibly valuable feedback on the program.  They have also been great at helping us get the word out about our new program.

Tip #3:  Keep it Practice and Equity-Focused

Developing scholarly practitioners who strive to improve student success, especially for students from underrepresented groups is a critical part of our mission.  There are three major components of this 55-credit online program:  coursework, experiential learning, and dissertation.  We have been very strategic as we design the learning experiences, keeping equity and student success front and center. 

Social justice and equity are an overarching theme in every course and there is a specific course on this topic. We also emphasize public scholarship to our students so that while we certainly want this learning journey to be of value to them personally, we also want the community college sector to benefit from their experiences and learning. 

Toward this end, students are asked to write blogs, create infographics, and multi-media projects, which will be more accessible to the sector.  During the second year, students are assigned a mentor and participate in experiential learning.  We are using a service-learning model; students will learn change management skills as they serve as a consultant to a college on a project.

For the dissertation, we are using a program evaluation framework.  Students will implement a program, policy, or practice aimed at improving an identified problem of practice and then evaluate it or act as an external evaluator for a college that has already implemented a program.  This skill is one that community college leaders need, and this research can really make a difference in the field. 

The challenge with this approach is that there are not many models or examples.  It has been a heavy lift to learn about this approach and we are still working on creating tools and resources for our students.  Once they are developed, we are more than willing to share!

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