WMU Offering New Ed Doctorate

    GRAND RAPIDS — Local professionals in higher education wanting to add to their credentials and advance their careers will have an opportunity to begin doing both next autumn.

    Western Michigan University will debut a new Ph.D. program specifically designed for higher-ed pros in time for the fall semester. It’s a doctoral degree in the administration of higher education, and classes will be offered at both Graduate Centers in Grand Rapids.

    WMU Regional Director James Schultz told the Business Journal that enrollment in the program is largely expected to come from those currently employed at the 14 institutions of higher learning located throughout the metro area.

    College professors who want to move into administration are one target for the program. Those working in student affairs that want to be a dean of students or a vice president of student affairs are another. And college fund-raisers who may be interested in becoming a vice president of development are yet another target.

    Schultz called the new program a general degree in higher-ed administration, the first of its kind for the school. Western has offered a Ph.D. in educational leadership for years, but that program has had its focus on K-12 administration.

    The new program centers its attention on the collegiate and university levels, meaning most of the demand for it should come from those employed at Aquinas, Grand Valley, Calvin, Hope, GRCC, Grace, Davenport and other schools in the region.

    “We’re adding the higher-ed administration courses to this, so that people can specialize in higher ed rather than K-12. The core courses in this program and the research will all be higher-ed related,” said Schultz.

    Ninety hours will be needed to complete the program, a total that includes credits earned at the Master’s level. A dissertation will also be required and students can take up to six years to earn the Ph.D.

    Leadership, professional inquiry, higher education and a specialty cognate and electives are the program’s four areas. General education leadership courses make up the first, while the professional inquiry core is the research and dissertation portion of the program.

    “Included in those 90 hours, and included in that professional-inquiry area, are up to six credits of professional field experience. Because we’re targeting people who are already employed in higher education, those folks can probably put together something that is tied into their current job,” said Schultz.

    “Folks not employed in higher ed but are trying to get there would be placed in a position in higher ed for the field experience component,” he said. “Everybody has to have some experience in higher education before they can graduate with this degree.”

    WMU actually started the program this past fall with a cohort at Ferris State University. Twenty-seven students are enrolled in it and are doing their course work on the Big Rapids campus. When Western opens the program to local professionals next fall, classes will be held in the Graduate Centers at 200 Ionia Ave. SW and 2333 East Beltline Ave. SE.

    “When the cohort finishes, the program is done. This is what we will do at Ferris. We’re going to work with these people while they work through their dissertations and then we will probably meet the market need for the Big Rapids area for a while,” said Schultz.

    “But we think there are probably two or three cohorts available in the Grand Rapids area because the colleges are expanding here and there are plenty of them here,” he added.

    “And we’ve had lots of calls for this from folks who have master’s degrees, enjoy what they’re doing and live in Grand Rapids, but want to enhance their professional development.”

    Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer, an assistant professor of Teaching, Learning and Leadership, will head the new program from her office in the downtown Graduate Center on Ionia. For more information on the program, call the WMU Graduate Center at 771-4100.

    Although the FSU cohort is new, it isn’t the first higher-ed doctoral cohort that Western has offered on another campus.

    About 15 years ago, Schultz said, WMU taught a doctorate in education to faculty and administrators at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

    Because that program was very successful, as the one at FSU is turning out to be, Schultz has a good feeling about the higher-ed Ph.D. program coming to town next fall.

    “The demand is out there, for one thing, with all these institutions in town, and this is a professional credential,” he said.

    “We want to make it accessible right here for folks in Grand Rapids. They won’t have to go to Kalamazoo for classes. They don’t have to go anywhere else.”

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