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The University of Minnesota Duluth

BRIDGE - Summer 2007, Volume 25, #1


Doctoral Program faculty and staff: Helen Mongan-Rallis, Terrie Shannon, Mary Ann Marchel, Frank Guldbrandsen, Julia Williams, Bruce H. Munson, Paul Deputy, Jackie Millslagle, Turdy Hughes, and Joyce Strand.

Northern Minnesota Just Got Smarter

This spring, UMD announced the launch of the first doctoral program to be housed entirelyon the UMD campus. The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree program in teaching and learning will begin its initial course offerings in August 2007.

Designed to appeal to K-12 teachers and community college/ university faculty and administrators, the Doctoral Program in Education also promises to attract other professionals -- such as coaches, athletic trainers, criminal justice professionals, social workers, and community agency administrators. In addition, business professionals involved in educational and training activities will find the offerings interesting.

The program takes advantage of the expertise of UMD Department of Education faculty. "The skills of our faculty made the proposal for the doctoral program extremely strong," said Paul Deputy, Dean of the College of Education and Human Service Professions. "We were in a great place because we have people with vitality, depth of scholarship, and a range of perspectives."

Duluth isn't a stranger to doctoral programs. For over 10 years, UMD shared a portion of the UM-Twin Cities doctoral degree in educational leadership, providing space, faculty, and classes. Many graduates are now presidents, vice presidents, and academic deans in the Minnesota college and university system.

The concept for a doctorate in education started over 34 years ago, when Dean Hendrickson and Tom Boman planned the master's degree in education. They designed the master's degree with the vision that it would grow into a doctoral program. "We honor those who have gone before us; we stand on their shoulders," commented Frank Guldbrandsen, associate professor and instructor for the first course in the new program. "Dean and Tom planted an olive tree in the '70s that is now bearing fruit."

The process began in September 2005, when a faculty task force, made up of Frank Guldbrandsen, Jean Stevenson, Julia Williams, Joyce Strand, and Mary Ann Marchel, was appointed to write the proposal. The approval process was rigorous. Deputy said there were setbacks, but "faculty kept going because they knew we were making history, opening doors for 100 years to come."

Terrie Shannon, associate professor, agreed. "Jackie Millslagle, associate dean of the college, kept faculty focused on rewriting the proposal and jumping through the bureaucratic hoops. Faculty worked non-stop on course syllabi, matching content to program outcomes, and integrating cultural content." In early 2007, the approvals were final from the North Central Association Higher Learning Commission, a national governing board, along with the University of Minnesota administration and Board of Regents.

"Students are literally coming out of the woods," said Bruce Munson, professor and education department head. "Environmental educators, including a few from Wolf Ridge Environmental Center, are interested in the project."

Joyce Strand, the first appointed director of graduate studies for the program, said the number of prospects is high. "I receive at least five e-mails or phone calls a day from interested students," she said, "even on the weekend." The department is certain that finding 25 motivated students for the first class will be easy.

Applicants are aware of the promise this holds for advancing their careers. "That's because the program gives professionals recognition for the achievement they accomplish in research and learning," said Munson.

"Anybody that has a sense of their own potential, anyone who wants to reach further in their career, is a candidate for this program," said Deputy. The doctorate is designed to stretch people's minds. Deputy said, "A doctorate changes people's lives. They reach a different plane and that opens opportunities."

Teachers and other professionals can remain employed while pursuing a doctoral degree part-time. "Because it's a low-residency program, face-to-face time will be extended through on-line discussion and learning," said Guldbrandsen. That has an added benefit. "Online learning will help students learn to use on-line delivery in teaching," he said.

The program will be conducted for two weeks in the summer and one weekend a month for four years, along with substantial online instruction. "It's a significant commitment of time, effort, and money," said Strand. The first two years are devoted to core coursework, the third year includes written and oral projects, and in the fourth year students take on a final project.

The first class starts with an intensive session from August 6-17, 2007. Topics include global perspectives, history of education, politics and philosophy of education, and class, culture, and social movements in education.

In addition to the class sessions, several social topic events will be held. Students will be able to discuss the reading material in more social settings, like faculty homes. "Community building among the people accepted to the program is critical to the success," said Guldbrandsen.

One of Guldbrandsen's community building sessions centers around the book, Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. Faculty and students will learn with Sophie, a 15-year-old Norwegian girl, who begins her study with a philosophy teacher by trying to answer the questions, "Who are you?" "Where does the world come from?"

UMD's doctoral program has other unique characteristics. One is cultural sensitivity. The faculty are committed to indigenous education and are trained to view education through a Native American lens. Deputy said, "The American Indian focus is important. It's part of a certain Northern Minnesota view that will enhance the program." In addition to abstract theory, the curriculum is rooted in real life and real experiences.

"The new program will change the landscape of northern Minnesota for years to come," said Shannon. In many ways, we just got smarter.

June 15, 2007 is the application deadline for the first class, with decisions back to applicants by June 30, 2007. Orientation for the program and the first two-week course is scheduled for August 6-17, 2007.

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