Graduate School

The University of Mississippi

New Hybrid Ed.D. Trains Future University Administrators

Guyton HallOne of a university’s perhaps most valuable and yet least considered resources is a strong administrator, and the School of Education’s two year-old hybrid Ed.D. program is committed to producing just that. It is described by program coordinator Dr. John Holleman as being unique from the department’s older doctoral program in two ways: half of the program is conducted online, and rather than focusing on research, it is what he calls a “practitioner program”. Specifically, the program is geared towards someone who aspires to serve as a dean of students, student affairs or financial aid, rather than publish books and articles.

To be admitted to the Ed.D. cohort, students must have two years of work experience at a university, and they must currently be employed as a university administrator. And given that one of the requirements for entry is current employment, Holleman considers the hybrid nature of the program to be a huge resource: “The hybrid part we believe is very helpful and powerful. It’s not just a convenience thing for someone who’s working full time. It allows them to have time to reflect and access the material on demand…We use technology like Adobe Connect, which allows you to have synchronous meetings. We wouldn’t have been able to do this twenty years ago.”

The scheduling of in-person classes allows for just as much flexibility. Classes meet every four weeks, half in Oxford and half in Jackson at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The two working campuses have allowed the program to have what Holleman calls a wider “footprint” that expands into neighboring states, including Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and he considers it an asset to be able to service a wider area. Cohorts are small at only twenty-five entrants, giving the program only sixty-seven total current students. The small cohort size, however, leads to a high level of cohesiveness and collaboration.

Dr. Holleman said he particularly enjoys engaging with Ed.D. students. “It’s great to be working with folks that are currently in this area,” he said. “To be working with them and not delivering a lecture, working with them on applying what they’re learning…it’s helpful for them to be working adults in this area.”

The Ed.D. program also works extensively with the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED), which has helped them align with a prestigious national organization and informed their guiding principles and values. Each Ed.D. program, for example, has a signature emphasis. The University of Mississippi’s emphasis is in social justice and equity. Specifically, they are concerned with access for marginalized groups to universities, race relations, and inclusivity, all topics that the university as a whole has been striving to address more and more in recent years.

At the culmination of the three-year program, students will complete their final project, a Dissertation in Practice. Dissertation classes begin as early as the second semester, which Holleman said is to give the students time to observe their own workplaces and opportunities for improvement therein, then let the idea percolate and build. Unlike research-oriented dissertations, the program coordinator described DIPs as “application-oriented, practitioner-driven, and designed to be of value for them as a current administrator.”

Ronda Bryan, a current student, said that the DIP was a draw for her. “What originally attracted me to the hybrid Ed.D. program was that it culminated in a Dissertation in Practice.  In this program we consider critical issues within the four identified public agendas for higher education; access, affordability, attrition, and accountability.  We are to identify problems of practice and work to find possible solutions.  The information we receive through the online and in-class assignments helps us to consider these “critical issues” within the CPED principles of ethics, equity, and social justice.  In other words, we are encouraged to consider these higher education problems of practice and the impact they have statewide, nationally, and even globally.”


Author: Katelyn Miller