I graduated from Gonzaga University with a MA in Communication and Leadership Studies. Prior to that, and since then, I've inquired on situating myself for a doctoral program. Here I share my suggestions for you on how to choose a doctorate program, and share my program choice.
I accepted admission to Grand Canyon University's EdD in Organizational Leadership and Development to start this coming July 2012. It's a 3.5 year on average time to complete conducted online with one week on-campus residencies in June 2013 and 2014. I appreciate most that the program scaffolds the dissertation into the beginning and allows creative freedom.
Considering a doctoral program? I recommend inquiring and researching doctorate programs prior to applying to them. I speak of this "career interview" method elsewhere on choosing a thesis topic. Over the last 3 years, I've spoken with directors, faculty, and learners about their doctoral program or choice. I surveyed the landscape, and learned what program designs benefit learner success. I developed my application portfolio via consulting, volunteering, networking, and writing the statements required. Best of all this fantastic bunch became my academic network and some friends.
I reflected on my desired contribution, for the desired outcome does not necessarily sit in my control. I thought about what I wanted to learn, and in what process. I regard applied research programs highly, and appreciate blended learning platforms that utilize communication technology so that learners can apply what they learn in their locale.
I like interdisciplinarity as my generation and after must diversify our portfolio and contribution. My consulting projects grow my network for future research projects while aiding me to situate my contribution in my community. From that information I sought a program that will provide a return on investment for my current and future clients.
I also desired a program that allowed me creative freedom, maintained a credible reputation, required quality scholarship, and would provide a vital and viable alumni network. Through the alumni network we share resources and career opportunities.
Note that "traditional" and "non-traditional" labels no longer stick considering that most graduate learners are adults with family and work responsibilities. No longer can people afford to wait for a once annual intake, and then uproot their families and employment to live in rural areas, spend tuition $20K+ and 6-8 years of study to end up ABD (all but dissertation), or a casualty of the less than paltry 50% completion rate. Frankly, I find the "traditional" model completely out of date and ill-equipped to serve learners and university's hosting locales. Instead I prefer programs that retool for sustainability, community development, and applied research. Virtuously, I look for meaning, benefit, and access. Access the ETS report on the future of graduate education for more information.
Know what you're doing and why. Read 100 reasons not to go to graduate school. Still want to embark on your journey? Then reflect on your vocation, expectations, and desire. Know what you want to receive and give.
Many doctorates exist: professional, research, and liberal arts. Doctor of Arts, Education, Business, and Philosophy name a few. Professional doctorates tend to be more project-based; whereas, PhDs more research-based. The research-based degrees often require you to locate your research in a certain method and with a faculty member whose research interests overlap. Know generational trends. Examine said trends futurism or foresight, for those may impact your experience, expectations, and outcomes.
I sought programs with high completion rates, affordable tuition fees, and in what I determined a reasonable amount of duration, residency, and course requirements. I especially sought a program that scaffolded the dissertation into the design, or where learners started their dissertation at the beginning instead of the end. I opted for creative freedom, scholarly value, and fiscal responsibility. Sustainability and logistics became high priorities.
Contrary to the wildcard approach of applying to lots of programs hoping to enroll in one, I applied sparingly to programs based on the prior strategies. It's expensive and time consuming to order transcripts and pay application fees. There's an emotional cost as well. I must have invested $50-$350 USD per application. Some offered admission, others did not; I turned down some offers, and accepted one. Value the no from either you or the program as a decision. Demystify this lofty process as iterative decision-making. Wonderful people invited me to apply to their programs, and through this process I learned where to invest my resources.
Through my inquiry I learned how I can contribute to higher education reform via program design and virtual campus development. Develop your intermedia channels online. Make a presence or namecard to which you can direct your peers and faculty in your e-conversations. I curate and blog on these topics (here, here, and here). Key throughout your inquiry: Develop your application as you go. Write that letter of intent, program, or purpose statement or research proposal with what you have done, are doing, and will do. That which you state you want to do, then do now. Be that change that you intend to learn. Doing so will reduce feelings of inferiority complex or fraudulance because you will demonstrate credibility. I felt pretentious writing lofty goals in my statements until I applied those goals now.
Volunteering imparts freedom for you to proffer your desired contribution now. Partner with community organizations where you can volunteer a method or modality that you say you desire to study. It took time to develop my portfolio as applied instead of just a stated goal. For instance, the last 1.5 years I've volunteered and contracted my methods and modalities in my city of Renton, Wash. I define this action as community development. For instance, I produced community profiles via intermedia, marketing city and businesses, and event photography. Contribute to your education holistically. Avoid separating your work, family, service, and education. Select a program that allows healthy overlap.
Prepare recreationally, your employment, and academically. Care for yourself and your associates. Go enjoy your friends. Eat healthy, drink tea and smoothies, and exercise. Travel. Pray, meditate, reflect, reconcile, and do other such healing behaviors that you find worthwhile. Resolve lessons learned. Work on those projects to prepare or that you've been wanting to do for some time. For me that involved writing and editing manuscripts. Enhance your skillsets such as via certificates so that you add variety or increase your income earning potential.
Academically, apply to scholarships. Situate your Master's study or thesis for your doctoral focus. Submit content to edited works or peer-reviewed journals and conferences. Think in themes. It can feel demoralizing to delay "adulthood" or motherhood experiences or a sustainable wage for education, but whatever sacraficies that you choose, find those that you can choose cheerfully and constructively. Follow-up with your volunteer, academic, and employment network. Update them on your goals and compile letters of recommendation. Thank your supporters. Show appreciation. Reciprocate.
Emerge and Celebrate
Embrace emergent design, or learning as you go. It's ok to correct or change your mind, only know your reasons. Celebrate every achievement or gain with some kind of ritual or happiness. Buy that school t-shirt or bumper decal. Host a reception or fundraiser event. Encourage others' quest.
Believe your Faith-Perspective
The Christian faith helped me with perspective. I learned that "Let everything has breath praise the Lord" (Psa. 150:6), and recalled my New Year's reflection to Courage, Savor, and Relax. A doctorate will be, by anecdotal estimates, 4X's the work of your Master's. Doctoral programs also demand more specificity. So it pays dividends to research upfront.
Lead by Vocational Virtue
Forgive, reconcile, as much as depends on you, to enjoy a fresh start set apart. Locate loving ways to look ahead to your desired future for yourself, your research, your career, and your relationships. Guard you heart as a life wellspring, yet share your heart to know life. Choose your confidantes wisely, yet be that trusted friend that you want. Whatever you want in life, be that virtue. Be that virtue before you expect such a virtue from others. While virtuous living can isolate, your prime directive takes importance. Focus your contribution as a service of some kind to society. Align with those who share your vision and express that vision virtuously. Know joy in the process and results. Make every effort to be at and to do for peace and building up.
Temper Resolve with Restraint
Even so I often compared my doctoral quest to a rubik's cube. With each new short-listed program, it all locked up at one tiny cube that failed to match all the others. I struggled most with patience and wanting to keep in step with my peers, or not be left behind. Neither impatience nor bandwagons boast good enough reasons to enroll hastily in a doctoral program. I'm thankful I restrained by inquiring, and I am grateful for discernment.
After all this inquiry, my doctoral decision came down to one of virtue and logistics and design. That which you love, love with tempered restraint. Interestingly, the time to complete of the program I chose averages much sooner, so past worries are now moot as, God-willing, I'll graduate in what I deem a reasonable timeframe anyway. Of course, there's much work to do until then!
So without further ado, I'm figuratively polishing my saddle, or preparing for my July start at Grand Canyon University's EdD in Organizational Leadership and Development. This hybrid program bridges a professional education and business doctorate. I appreciate GCU's pillars for academic advancement, volunteerism, and wellness. I feel encouraged by the shared faith.
I am excited to learn systems thinking, leadership progressions, stakeholders' role, individual differences and organizational outcomes, leading across cultures, and strategic decision making, and to write my dissertation straightaway. I enjoyed the library walkthrough and am grateful for resources and a supportive network. I look forward to photographing campus and Phoenix during my residencies! I am glad for how my previous education and current consulting overlap and progress to this doctorate.
This doctorate will benefit my work in developing organizations via consulting communication strategy, intermedia production, integration, and engagement, narrative inquiry, creative content such as photography and writing, and leadership for organizational and community development.
Request & Thanks
I welcome prayers and happy thoughts for a fiscally healthy, acadmically strong, and overall rousing and beneficial success. Thank you to those supporters and encouragers thus far!
Thank you for reading,