Members of the 2013 cohort, Meg Smith, Lara White, Roszena Haskins, Tayarisha Stone, Regina Hopkins and Ann Traynor, have all recently earned their Doctorate of Education through the Ed.D. Program from the Neag School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership. Achieving a doctorate while working as a high level professional is a difficult task, however, the women of the 2013 cohort were able to accomplish this feat through collaboration and continual support of one another. Their ability to balance work, personal life, and academia, and the way they tackled critical issues in the field of education was inspiring and set a model for future cohorts. Dr. Sarah Woulfin noted that “this cohort’s efforts provides a stellar example of how Ed.D. cohorts can collaborate to attain their goals as scholars and educational leaders.”
There was always a strong presence and communication which set the tone for their cohort success. Meg Smith, described the cohort as academically and emotionally supportive and that members, “...were always attuned to what was happening with people professionally.” Ann Traynor echoed this as she said her fellow cohort members served as, “‘Critical friends’ during courses, the development of our problem of practice and proposal, and during the research, analysis and writing of our dissertations.” They were a cohesive unit, who bonded not only as professionals and peers, but as friends. The cohort often had dinner together, and socialized outside of the program, which strengthened their dynamic and built lasting friendships.
Cohort member, Roszena Haskins commented that,
“The diverse educational and professional make-up of our cohort was invaluable throughout the program. We shared our individual expertise, resources and strengths with each other. When we experienced challenges, we united as a problem-solving body and support system. Our cohort was collaborative. Our interactions in the classroom evolved into a special network of educators and developed lasting relationships outside of the academic setting.”
Despite their inspiring work ethic, their commitment included some challenges. Each member was growing in their respective full-time careers, and taking on new challenges as school leaders. Lara White explained, “We have all had to manage our careers, graduate school, and family, and it wasn't always easy but we understood each other in a way that others couldn't.”
Other members reiterated this sentiment saying that they felt they did not always have “full access” as most of the cohort members were off-campus. They credited cohort member, Ann Traynor, who works as the Director of Academic Advising and Certification Officer at the Neag School of Education for assisting the cohort with many on-campus responsibilities and giving them an inside perspective about the university. Each member had to be disciplined with how they split their time, but as a team they complemented each other's obligations and responsibilities to tackle the workload, together.
While they came from different backgrounds, and had different research interests the cohort was able to share research while building each other’s confidence. Their research included:
- Improving cultural competence through professional development
- Teachers’ emotional responses to coaching
- Culturally responsive instruction and the recruitment and retention of teachers of color
- College readiness, persistence and success through the lens of equity and policy
- How educational policy and policy implementation can create or perpetuate inequities, especially for students of color and first-generation college students
Across the board, cohort members brought passion and dedication while engaging in quality research and creating meaningful work around these critical issues. They identified overlapping themes and helped each other whenever they could. This type of support is critical in framing the cohort's culture while maintaining a work-life balance.
This unique group unanimously agreed their success was a result of Ed.D’s faculty. Meg Smith stressed the value of how each professor challenged the cohort members academically, while concurrently building their confidence. She also stated the “professors of the Ed.D. program universally are absolute experts in their field selected because they understand challenges of working, and they have the absolute keenest sense of what you need to know in each sub field to enhance practice and scholarship.”
Smith explained that faculty, specifically Dr. Sarah Woulfin, went out of her way to make sure she was creating meaningful work, while also ensuring that she knew her work was of the caliber to present at conferences such as the AERA Annual Meeting. Lara White also emphasized how meaningful it was to have the faculty's support,
“I loved the level of care and intelligence of our department. Dr. Woulfin ensured that we never felt alone and always provided help and assurance of our endeavors.”
Support from the entire faculty illustrated a passion for educational leadership that members were able to feed off of and inspired their work. Roszena Haskins described how the program and its faculty “established an engaging learning community where I especially enjoyed the dissertation research process for which I had three strong advisors who understood my strengths and responded to my academic needs.”
The community of support among faculty and within the cohort itself drove motivation for members to create meaningful work and stay disciplined to finishing the program in a timely manner. Teamwork and passion drove their success which led them to finishing their degree in four years while tackling critical issues surrounding education within Connecticut.
The Department of Educational Leadership and Ed.D. program extends deep congratulations to the women of the 2013 cohort on their completion of the Ed.D. program and thanks them for their hard work, dedication and, commitment to their degree, the program and each other.