So, as some of you may know – I am an Assistant Dean who is currently working on an Ed.D. in Higher Education. I recently completed my first year of study and am currently in the middle of 2 courses which take place over an 8 day period in July. My program completes in May, 2018 and I will receive my Doctorate degree in Higher Education. I often get asked the question: Why are you pursuing this degree? You have the highest position in your school that a staff person can hold. I’ve thought a lot about this question over the past year and even questioned it myself. To help work through my challenges with this question, I felt it might be best to share my reasoning with everyone to help solidify my strong desire to see this through to May, 2018.
For as long as I can remember, my parents instilled in me the importance of education. They believed that in order to get ahead in life you needed a strong educational background. Growing up, I was pushed to work hard in school, through not only my studies but also extra-curricular activities. I was a straight A student who was active in student council, band, and athletics – some considered me an overachiever. As my high school experience was drawing to an end I made a personal decision which would derail my educational aspirations. I chose to forego college for love. I married young and started a family. This is a decision I do not regret – I have three great children and an amazing and supportive husband who is always in my corner.
When I did finally return to education, I played with college classes off and on for some 20 years. I just didn’t have the focus, family always came first in my book. When our youngest son was getting close to graduating from high school, two things happened. I suddenly realized I would no longer have a self-imposed personal obligation to “put my kids first” and I was told at work that I would not advance any further in my career without a degree (at the time I held a mid-level leadership position as a Financial Officer I). As I weighed my options to either be satisfied with my current role for the rest of my career or look for ways to advance, I decided it was time for me to finish my undergraduate degree. I looked at all my options and decided the best option for me was an online education through an accredited institution. This would be one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. The coursework was rigorous, and challenging. Courses were taught in 8 week blocks so I was able to stay focused and complete my degree in a short period of time. I proudly received my Bachelor’s degree in February 2010.
About the time I was wrapping up my undergraduate degree, the institution which I am employed at started a new program – a Master’s degree in education with a specialization in Higher Education Policy and Leadership. I loved my job working on a college campus so I wanted to find out more about this program. Through the encouragement of my family and colleagues I made the decision to enroll in the program. This program provided me with incredible insight into the inner workings of higher education and a passion to learn more. I graduated from this program in December, 2013 with my M.Ed. and in January, 2014 was promoted to Assistant Dean. My job is extremely demanding and requires me to handle the logistics and all operational aspects related to the school, with the exception of recruiting, retention and alumni relations. I joke that if something is not academic related, I have some sort of responsibility for the activity. I love working with academics and found during my time in the master’s program that I had an interest in the classroom, research and publishing as well. The issue for me was the realization that not many people have successfully moved from the type of staff position I hold to that of a faculty position so I wasn’t sure if this would even be possible – I doubted that there was an opportunity available to me.
The Dean of our school is not only my boss, but he is also someone who I consider a colleague, mentor and friend. While I was sure that I had completed my academic career and was satisfied with a masters degree, he saw more. He challenged me to consider a terminal degree and look for ways to engage on the faculty side of the house – through teaching, publishing and research. He believed in my ability to gain this degree and find a way to successfully transition to that of a faculty member. In the spring of 2014, the university approved a Doctorate of Education in Higher Education degree program and I knew again that this was the program for me. I spoke with several faculty about the demands of the program, what the course content looked like, and my family about the time constraints and expectations. With everyone’s support, I applied to the program.
My experience so far is that of personal exhaustion, stress, anxiety and satisfaction. It may sound strange to some, but to me, this program has been amazing and shown me that I am capable of so much more than I ever thought possible. I have come to realize that I am much smarter and more resilient than I have ever given myself credit for being and that if I want something bad enough then I will find a way to make it happen.
I realize this is a long post; however, I felt it important to provide my personal background and story so that my readers will understand one thing – even if you are told that you can’t do something, even if you don’t think you have the time, even if you don’t think you are smart enough, remember this: as long as you want it and believe in yourself – you can succeed!
I do admit that I am fortunate in that my family background emphasized the importance of education, but as you can see from my personal journey, I took a detour along the way. It doesn’t matter how old you are when you jump back on the educational bus, just that you have a desire to do more and improve yourself. Education has proven to be the key for me to advancing my career, my family, my personal respect of my own being, and my overall life.
And in case you’re wondering – I’ll be staring at my 54th birthday when I walk across the stage in May, 2018. Don’t let age scare you – family, friends, peers and faculty will help you along the way to ensure success! Education opens doors, helps make connections you might not otherwise have, and just provides each of us with the knowledge to navigate this crazy world – hence: EDUCATION MATTERS.