The Ed.D., approved in January by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, not only marks SHSU's emergence as a multi-doctorate institution, it provides an opportunity for the university to advance its reputation as a leader in educational research and development.
This is the second doctoral program to be created at SHSU. The first, a doctorate in criminal justice, was established in 1970.
"Approval of the doctorate in educational leadership is one of the most important developments in SHSU's 118-year history," said Bobby K. Marks, SHSU president. "In changing the university's designation from a one-doctorate institution, the Higher Education Board has affirmed SHSU's exceptional academic readiness and ushered in a new era of scholastic achievement."
"The degree complements SHSU's permanent and profound contribution to Texas education," he said, "while providing a unique opportunity to further the university's partnership with the educational community it serves."
To administer the new program the College of Education and Applied Science (CEAS) is constructing the Center for Research and Doctoral Studies in Educational Leadership on the third floor of SHSU's Teacher Education Center. The center will support the collaborative integration of the program's academic, research and field service components.
The $97,000 renovation was scheduled for completion in early spring and the first group of 15 doctoral students is scheduled to begin studies on campus this summer.
"In creating the center we are expanding our efforts to address the difficult challenges facing today's educators," said Dr. Kenneth Craycraft, CEAS dean.
"Our program, with its unique emphasis on the practical applications of scholarship, is designed to enhance the university's long-standing relationship with professional educators through a strong field-based component," he said. "In addition to rigorous academic and research responsibilities, our doctoral students will be charged with putting their ingenuity to work for their colleagues in the classroom."
In this area, Craycraft said, SHSU's Ed.D. program will be distinguished from traditional Ph.D. programs that have drawn criticism for pursuing esoteric research of little use to practitioners in the field.
"Our educational doctorate is specifically designed to help school administrators identify and remove obstacles to student achievement," the dean continued. "Our students will address some of the pressing issues schools are facing and promote solutions designed to improve the academic performance of the state's and nation's children."
The program's emphasis on field work and practical applications will in no way diminish its research and academic components which Craycraft said will be just as rigorous as traditional Ph.D. programs.
Another innovative attribute of SHSU's new doctoral offering is its unique interdisciplinary structure which takes advantage of faculty expertise in all four SHSU colleges.
The curriculum for a doctorate in educational leadership encompasses studies in education, business, computer science, political science, criminal justice and mathematics. Involving several colleges and academic departments not only strengthens the curriculum, Craycraft said, it also provides for better fiscal accountability.
"The coordinating board insists that universities live within their financial resources," said the dean. "By utilizing strengths across the university our new program meets that challenge. This interdisciplinary approach allows for prudent use of tax dollars while addressing student needs and showcasing the talent of our faculty campus-wide."
The doctoral program will be offered through CEAS's department of educational leadership and counseling chaired by Genevieve Brown. While the affiliate faculty--professors from other departments and colleges--will report to their respective chairs and deans, Brown will coordinate the center's activities across the university as well as in the field.
"We are fortunate, at Sam Houston, to have such qualified and dedicated faculty to enhance our program in such a diverse way," said Brown. "The input of our affiliate faculty has been and will continue to be one of the unique and strong points of our program."
Implementation of the Ed.D. fulfills a long-standing request from professional educators interested in pursuing an advanced degree at SHSU.
"With the master's program, the department of educational leadership and counseling has been working for many years with area school districts and their employees," said Brown. "In the process, these educators have developed a great deal of respect for the caliber of SHSU programs and faculty."
"Our Ed.D. program," she continued, "is the result of collaborative efforts by faculty, staff, former students, area school administrators and community leaders who assisted in its design, development and approval."
So far, more than 160 prospective students have expressed interest in SHSU's new Ed.D. offering, but the official evaluation of candidates won't begin until this spring. Applications for admission and a brochure detailing admission standards and program goals will soon be available through SHSU's Office of Graduate Studies at 409-294-1105.
Candidates chosen for the doctoral program will pursue their degrees under a cohort system, in which they are grouped, for the duration of their studies, with the same 15-member class.
"Research indicates that the cohort format tends to be very successful," said Craycraft. "Cohort students form a very close working relationship and support each other a great deal. As a result, the interaction between students is greater and the knowledge they acquire through the program is enhanced."
For the program's first cohort, Craycraft said, the admissions committee will give priority to qualified applicants who currently hold administrative positions in their school districts.
"We want to put together a group of individuals who are truly outstanding representatives of their field," said the dean.
Because of the rigorous demands on doctoral candidates, their employers will be called upon by the university to provide a significant level of support.
"We realize that by allowing an important member of their administration to enroll in a doctoral program, these school districts are making a significant human resource commitment," Craycraft said. "We plan to actively involve these employers in our endeavors, make sure they know our goals and how their schools can ultimately benefit from their employee's participation in our program."
One direct benefit to those districts will be realized by research and field studies conducted on their behalf.
"A successful institution is not one that just takes from an area, but one that gives back, one that is interested in its constituents," Craycraft said. "This is the reason our program will be very successful. It is a commitment from SHSU to those we serve."