GETTING TO KNOW YOU
As the 4th Executive Ed.D. cohort began studies in January, a new associate director came on board with them.
WHEN THE MEMBERS of the 4th cohort of IHE’s Executive Ed.D. program came together for the first time last January, they were not the only ones new to the program. Leslie Gordon was barely a month into her job as associate director, succeeding Elisabeth Hughes, who had retired in November after several years in the position.
But Gordon was no stranger to UGA or academia. A UGA Honors graduate, with a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and a doctorate from Georgetown University, she had served as associate director of assessment in UGA’s Office of Academic Planning since 2011. Before that, she had spent two years as assistant to the vice president for instruction at UGA and also had served as an adjunct faculty member in the department of Romance languages, teaching courses in Spanish linguistics.
Gordon first met the new cohort at their hotel in downtown Athens, then escorted them to campus. “The walk gave them a few minutes to chat with each other,” she says, “and that continued over coffee when we got to Meigs.”
The group of 15 is diverse in terms of background and experience. While most hold MBAs or MPAs, there is an MEd and MPH in the group, plus one student with a Master of Sacred Theology and a Master of Divinity.
Most currently hold administrative positions at higher education institutions, and all are working full-time while striving to complete their degrees.
The two-year program—launched in 2010—is structured to accommodate busy working professionals, with Thursday-Sunday meetings in Atlanta throughout the year, as well as two week-long international trips, scheduled in the summer months.
At the initial get-acquainted meeting in Athens, the cohort met all IHE faculty and staff and got an overview of the institute from Director Libby Morris. They also met Executive Ed.D. Director Charles Knapp, whose distinguished career in higher education includes a decade as president of the University of Georgia.
Knapp meets with the cohort throughout the program, convening each weekend meeting with a discussion on leadership that includes a guest speaker with significant experience in higher education, business or public policy. He also travels with the group on international trips, which this year took them to the Netherlands to learn about European higher education systems.
“The cohort bonded quickly and have spent many hours together—not only in class, but at group dinners in Athens and Atlanta,” says Gordon. “The trip to the Netherlands provided more opportunities for the group to spend time together and also allowed for many conversations around emerging dissertation topics.”
The students are encouraged to consider research questions arising from their areas of expertise and ongoing interests and to quickly move into literature reviews and consideration of research methods. “The pace is brisk,” says Gordon. “Six months into the program, the students have submitted proposals for their dissertation topics, and they’re paired with major professors by the end of the summer.”
The research component of the program’s comprehensive curriculum helps students build the expertise necessary not only to complete the dissertation, but also to supervise and evaluate the research applied in managing complex organizations.
As the cohort begins its third semester this fall—and recruitment efforts get underway for the 5th cohort to begin in 2018—Gordon says she has enjoyed her first year in her new role.
“It’s a pleasure to join the Institute of Higher Education and to work with the accomplished professionals that we have in this cohort,” she says. “I have a great interest in the learning experience offered by this program, and the small cohort size allows me to observe more closely the individual paths to learning and to facilitate that process as much as I can. The interaction between the cohort members and the faculty creates a stimulating environment for inquiry and dialogue, and I enjoy studying that exchange. I look forward to watching this group advance in their dissertations and in their careers.”