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Doctoral degree recipients make history

Five students will make history May 13 by completing WKU’s first independent doctoral degree.

The first five graduates of WKU's Educational Leadership Doctoral Program were recognized at the Board of Regents meeting on April 29. From left are Edwin Craft, Matthew Constant, Kelly Scott Davis, Angela Gunter and John Baker. “When the next history of WKU is written, the five of you will be included as our first doctoral graduates," President Gary Ransdell said. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

The students are members of the first cohort of WKU’s Educational Leadership Doctoral Program.

“WKU has a long history of producing great students, I am glad that I have an opportunity to be a part of the history of WKU,” said Edwin Craft of Roundhill, director of Communication Technologies at WKU.

The other doctoral graduates agreed.

“I am honored to graduate with the first doctoral cohort at WKU,” said John Baker of Bowling Green, education coordinator and instructor in Leadership Studies at WKU.

The five will be hooded during WKU’s graduate ceremony at 7 p.m. May 13 at Diddle Arena.

Matthew Constant of Owensboro said he was humbled and honored to be part of the first graduates. “The support felt from the cohort model as well as several instructors along the way helped me realize my goal. I can’t thank them enough,” said Constant, director of Instructional Technology for Daviess County Public Schools.

WKU’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership was approved in February 2008 by the Council on Postsecondary Education with the first cohort of students admitted in July 2008. The program’s seventh cohort will begin classes this fall bringing the total number of students to 128.

“It’s an honor to be among the first to complete WKU’s doctoral program,” said Kelly Scott Davis of Bowling Green, area coordinator for the Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline. “The doctoral program offers professionals in our region the opportunity to affordably advance their education in a high quality program.”

The interdisciplinary program develops “practitioner scholars” in four specialty areas – P-12 Administrative Leadership, Teacher Leadership, Postsecondary Leadership and Organizational Leadership — equipped to assume leadership roles in the multiple venues where education takes place and to work with educational partners to improve academic performance and increase learning at all levels.

Using blended delivery methods, including traditional face-to-face classroom settings, distance-learning formats, online platforms and on-site practicum settings, the WKU program makes it possible for students to remain in their current professional positions while completing the doctoral degree.

“I feel like my classmates and I are real trailblazers,” said Angela Gunter of Owensboro, dean of Liberal Arts, English Department head and English teacher at Daviess County High School. “One of the best aspects of WKU’s doctoral program is that those in charge have always listened to and incorporated our cohort’s feedback regarding the structure and content of courses. I am also very thankful that I was able to incorporate issues from my classroom and school into my doctoral coursework throughout. The Ed.D. is meant to be a practitioner’s degree, and for me, it has been incredibly practical and useful in my job.”

Here is more about the doctoral degree recipients’ background, dissertation topic and plans:

John Baker (center) with Provost Gordon Emslie and Dr. Sam Evans, dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

John Baker

Area of study: Organizational Leadership

Current position: Education coordinator and instructor in Leadership Studies at WKU

Educational background: Baker graduated from high school in Berlin, Pa., then attended the U.S. Military Academy in West Point. He received a master’s degree in physical geography from University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in engineering management from Drexel University.

Dissertation topic: In his dissertation An Analysis of Peer Leadership Competencies and Skills, Baker researched those leadership competencies and skills most effective to influence peers (those of equal status and abilities) focusing on undergraduate students. “My goal focused on providing educators more insight to teaching effective leadership competencies and skills when students lead other students,” he said.

What’s next: Baker plans to continue his research on peer leadership, publish articles from his dissertation and work toward generalizing his study to include graduate, high school and non-traditional students with a goal to conduct research internationally on peer leadership.

Matthew Constant (center) with Provost Gordon Emslie and Dr. Sam Evans, dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

Matthew Constant

Area of study: P-12 Administrative Leadership

Current position: Director of Instructional Technology at Daviess County Public Schools

Educational background: Constant is graduate of Owensboro Catholic High School, received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Bellarmine University, master’s degree in vocational technical education from Murray State University and Rank I in educational administration from WKU.

Dissertation topic: In his dissertation One-to-one Laptop Project: Perceptions of Teachers, Parents, and Students, Constant took a look at the one-to-one laptop programs that are becoming more prevalent in K-12 institutions. His study utilized surveys of three stakeholder groups (parents, students, and teachers) related to a one-to-one laptop project in a moderately-sized rural Midwestern school district and explored perceptions about how often laptops were used in the classroom setting and across content areas (Language Arts, Social Studies, Mathematics, and Science).

What’s next: Constant plans to work with Dr. Marge Maxwell, his dissertation chair, to publish in the areas of one-to-one laptop programs as well as the use of technology to influence and engage higher-level thinking in classrooms.  He also will be teaching part-time for Brescia University and WKU in the fall.

Edwin Craft (center) with Provost Gordon Emslie and Dr. Sam Evans, dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

Thomas Edwin Craft Jr.

Area of study: Organizational Leadership

Current position: Director of Communication Technologies at WKU

Educational background: Craft graduated from Columbia (Miss.) High School and received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from University of Southern Mississippi and master’s in business administration from WKU.

Dissertation topic: In his dissertation Understanding Inter- and Intra-Generational Communication Methods Utilizing a Framework of Message Sensitivity, Craft conducted a study to determine if differences existed between generations surrounding their preferred communication methods. “Understanding the uniqueness of generations becomes imperative to the success of schools and organizations,” Craft said. “Once a generation can be understood, leaders can better understand expected outcomes anticipated by each generation and use those to gain the competitive edge needed to succeed.”

What’s next: Craft has accepted a position as Chief Information Officer at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., and will begin that job later this month.

Kelly Scott Davis (center) with Provost Gordon Emslie and Dr. Sam Evans, dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

Kelly Scott Davis

Area of study: Organizational Leadership

Current position: Area coordinator for the Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline

Educational background: Davis graduated from Union County High School and received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and specialist in education with an emphasis in school psychology, both from WKU. She also worked for 10 years as a school psychologist and behavior consultant for Warren County Public Schools.

Dissertation topic: In her dissertation Program Evaluation of Universal Behavioral Interventions and Supports in Kentucky, Davis examined the impact of PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) implementation on schools in Kentucky. Results indicated that schools in Kentucky implementing PBIS showed significant reductions in office discipline referral rates, out-of-school suspensions, the percentage of students retained, and high school dropout rates.

What’s next: Davis plans to continue her work at the Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline.

Angela Gunter (center) with Provost Gordon Emslie and Dr. Sam Evans, dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

Angela Gunter

Area of study: Teacher Leadership

Current position: Dean of Liberal Arts, English Department Head and English teacher at Daviess County High School; adjunct instructor at Owensboro Community and Technical College; first vice president for Kentucky Council of Teachers of English

Educational background: Gunter graduated from Union County High School, received a medical laboratory technology degree from Henderson Community College, a bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education with middle school endorsement from University of Southern Indiana and a master’s degree in library media education from WKU. She also earned National Board Teacher Certification in Adolescent and Young Adult Language Arts and Educational Technology Instructional K-12 Endorsement.

Dissertation topic: In her dissertation Motivation for High School Teachers to Read: Differences between Student and Teacher Perceptions and Differences among Student Perceptions, Gunter presents strategies for motivating students to read and measures the gaps between 65 high school teachers and 444 of their students regarding what motivates them to read.

What’s next: Gunter plans to continue her job as a classroom teacher but hopes to take advantage of opportunities for leadership roles. “I feel that some of my credibility as a leader of teachers is that I am still a classroom teacher,” she said. “As a relatively new teacher with only eight years of experience, I still have nearly 20 years before retirement, so maybe at some time in the future I will find a different position that I simply cannot turn down.”

Contact: Emily Dillard, (270) 745-3061.

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