New EdD cohort welcomes student affairs to the mix



Fall 2020 EdD cohortBrad Kinsinger was facing a decision. In search of a Ph.D. program, he saw great opportunities, though it would mean a move. Then he learned about the new postsecondary education: student affairs intensive study area (ISA) within the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program at the University of Northern Iowa College of Education.

“This program has provided a path to pursue my doctoral degree in a scenario where we didn't have to uproot our family and I could continue working in a position at Hawkeye that I love,” says Kinsinger, currently the director of the Global Agriculture Learning Center at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo. 

Kinsinger joined a total, combined cohort of 32 students for the 2020 kick-off of a revamped doctoral program focused on meeting the needs of part-time, working students like him. Now a combination of online and hybrid learning offered in conjunction with UNI Online and Distance Education, students attain a degree through a streamlined 48-hour plan of study--down from 60. 

In addition to the new PSE ISA, the program encompasses three other ISAs: educational leadership (includes special education director), curriculum and instruction and allied health and community services. The emphasis of this initial cohort is educational leadership and PSE. 

The addition of the PSE ISA is actually a revival. David Schmid, assistant professor and ISA coordinator with the Department of Educational Psychology, Foundations and Leadership Studies, was in the last class to earn its PSE doctoral degrees at UNI before that iteration closed in 2011. Since then, as a faculty member leading the master’s-level PSE program, he had received ongoing inquiries. “I knew that we had a market and could serve a need, so it was brought up for discussion and happily accepted as a new ISA beginning with this fall’s cohort,” he says.

Broadening interests and goals

Gary Kinsinger PSE ISADoctoral study was not top-of-mind as Kinsinger moved from serving as an agricultural educator and FFA advisor at West Branch (Iowa) Community Schools to a new position at Hawkeye in 2010. “If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be pursuing a doctoral degree I would not believe a word you were saying,” he says. 

However, his broadening interests and role in global agricultural education at Hawkeye led him to pursue his master’s degree. About halfway through, conducting research and writing his thesis, he knew a doctoral program was next. “Furthering my education provides countless opportunities whether I stay in my current position or explore further,” he says. 

Janel Newman joined UNI as assistant dean of students in 2018. She has worked in the areas of residential programming and student conduct in positions in New York and Missouri, earning her master’s in organizational performance and leadership along the way. 

“I always knew I wanted to get my doctorate, it was just a matter of when and where,” Newman says. “When I started working here, my supervisor Allyson Rafanello (‘20, Ed.D.) was halfway through her doctoral program and she supported and encouraged my desire to take the step to start now. Sometimes things align.”

The online option offers a latitude that both Kinsinger and Newman appreciate, though they lookJanel Newman EdD cohort forward to the face-to-face engagement of the “post-pandemic” version of the program. 

Kinsinger completed his master’s online, so he was accustomed to the format--though he considers the UNI version “much improved” from previous experience. 

“While I prefer being in the classroom and the interaction that it can bring, the online format provides excellent opportunities to learn from others who may not be able to attend class in person in the Cedar Valley,” Kinsinger says. “I look forward to our weekly Zoom class sessions and discussions. While the coursework is challenging, it is rewarding and often a highlight of the week to connect with so many great professionals in education.”

“As a working professional and a parent, remote learning allows for flexibility for me with evening classes,” Newman concurs. “Due to COVID, we were not able to meet in person, but that is the only drawback, not getting to connect with cohort members outside of class and really get to know one another.”

Despite the distancing in place, Newman says the new cohort is quite engaged. “We each bring different experiences and knowledge to the conversations during class, so the learning is never-ending,” she says.

As he begins this new adventure, Kinsinger noted the support of family, mentors and colleagues at UNI and around the world. “All of the professors that I have had the privilege of working with have been extremely supportive of my journey and are always challenging me to grow professionally and personally,” he says. 

A program that meets student needs

David Schmid EdD ProgramSchmid says most of the PSE students are full-time professionals in student affairs positions or already in academia. “We have individuals with three to over 20 years of experience in higher education currently in the program. I am proud that our program is so eclectic as it speaks to the different needs that a degree such as ours can meet for our students,” he says. 

Schmid acknowledges some “bumps” in these first months. “But what hasn't there been with COVID-19?” he says. “We are still working out some of the kinks and the students are working on their dissertation topics and committees already in their first semester.”

As this cohort gets under way, the Ed.D. faculty are already assessing progress and evaluating future opportunities. UNI Online and Distance Education staff are also providing ongoing support to students and to COE faculty for the development of high-quality online courses. The next cohort for all four ISAs is slated to begin in fall 2022.  

“We’ve seen great enthusiasm for the new program and we’re already hearing from people in Iowa and beyond with interest in the next cohort,” says Oksana Grybovych Hafermann, associate dean for academic affairs, who oversees the program.

The Ed.D. degree is one of only two doctoral degrees awarded by the Graduate College at UNI. 

For more information on individual ISAs and their program coordinator contact information, go to the College of Education Ed.D. program website. To be notified when we begin accepting applications, contact Online and Distance Education.