The Ten Pillars vision calls Houston Baptist University to “Embrace the Challenge of Christian Graduate Education” and “Move to the Next Level as an Institution.” While HBU has previously embraced the challenge of Christian higher education, The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences (COEBS) further answered the call with the introduction of the Doctor of Education (EdD) in Executive Educational Leadership program. In the fall of 2016, HBU’s first cohort of 20 doctoral students began classes. When these students graduate, they will be qualified to sit for the superintendent exam, to step into positions at community colleges and universities, or to fill leadership roles across the educational system.
The doctoral program has been in the works for nearly three years. Before the program could begin, it had to be submitted for approval to the Southern Association of Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), HBU’s accreditation organization. Dr. Cynthia Simpson, provost at HBU, served as dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences during the planning of the program curriculum and preparation of the SACSCOC materials. The planning for the doctoral program included market analysis, budget development, curriculum development, college and department reorganization and an expansion in faculty and staff. “The process to submit for a move to the next level as an institution is extensive and the faculty and staff worked collaboratively to achieve this success,” stated Dr. Simpson. SACSCOC granted approval in December of 2015. Additionally, the COEBS was required to submit extensive documentation in order to receive Texas Education Agency (TEA) approval to certify students who plan to sit for the superintendent exam.
Furthermore, approval for financial aid from the federal government was necessary for students to qualify for federal loans. In terms of financial assistance, the doctoral program offers three types of scholarships for students: alumni scholarships, program-based scholarships and The Guild scholarships. The Guild, an HBU Christian women’s organization that has steadfastly supported graduate education at HBU through scholarships, generously donated funds to provide scholarships for students in the first doctoral cohort.
Dr. Dianne Reed, director of the EdD program, explained the application process to The Pillars: “It is intense, but it needs to be because we want to make sure we have chosen people who are dedicated and will finish. It is a rigorous program.” The program is a three-year commitment. “Our goal is for all students in the first cohort to graduate in 2019 with a dissertation completed.”
Dr. Simpson shared, “A unique feature of the program is the strong integration of faith into the curriculum. As with all of our HBU coursework, faculty are intentional in creating classes that bring Athens and Jerusalem together. In addition, one specific course in the program is Christian Worldview for Educational Leaders.”
To be considered, a prospective student must be in a leadership position professionally; such a position may be in a public school, private school, community college or elsewhere. The student must have a Master’s degree with a 3.0 GPA, as well as a GRE score of 291 or higher. They must also participate in an hour-long interview with a committee of faculty interviewers and complete a writing sample.
Though more than 80 students showed interest in the program, only 20 who met or exceeded the criteria were accepted. “We are very excited about the interest in this program. The momentum has continued into the fall 2017 with over 40 applicants,” stated Dr. Jeff Green, dean of the Graduate School. Each doctoral candidate has a dissertation chair and a committee of members who coach them during the dissertation process. The candidates will write a traditional five-chapter dissertation, and they are beginning to research their dissertation topics in their first courses this fall. Dr. Dianne Reed praised, “They have fabulous ideas! They are already staying late to talk about them.”
A difference between this EdD program and undergraduate, or even Master’s, degrees in education is that these students are directing schools, sometimes whole campuses, and they still come to class from 5-10 p.m. once a week. “They are motivated. They’re a strong group. I’m really proud of how the faculty pitched in during the extensive interview process, and we made a good selection of candidates,” Dr. Reed said. COEBS is planning on accepting 20 more candidates into the EdD program for the fall of next year with interviews beginning in March 2017.
HBU’s current doctoral students represent a variety of schools and work at various levels of education. More than six serve in leadership positions in Houston ISD while one works at Houston Community College. Another student relocated to Houston from Austin to participate in HBU’s doctoral program. Of the 20 students, three are men and 17 are women.
There are approximately 1,611 public schools in the Houston area serving 1,245,899 students, and approximately 554 private schools in the Houston area serving 93,216 students.
The HBU Executive Educational Leadership doctoral program comes in response to the needs of the community. Houston is growing; schools are expanding; and school leaders are retiring. Dr. McGaughey summed it up well: “The real area of need seems to be in the leadership of schools due to the proliferation of new schools. You need good leaders there and people to coordinate this growth.”
With this inaugural doctoral program, Houston Baptist University is now a national, comprehensive university offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a doctoral degree. Dr. Sloan’s vision is becoming a reality as Christian graduate education has moved to the next level with plans for additional doctoral programs on the HBU horizon.