Doane's Education department continues to thrive

When Dr. Cate Sommervold became director of Doane’s Doctorate in Education program in 2015, one of the first things she did was to create an advisory council, a swath of people from various areas of education who could fill in someone new to the Nebraska education community (objectively) on Doane’s Education Program.

Their responses erased any doubts she might have had. 

She heard about school administrators who look to hire Doane graduates first. She learned that many students in Education graduate programs earn their degree and move directly on to the next level of coursework. She heard phrases like “leadership”, “forward-thinking” and “relevant”.

“It explained why we have a waiting list of students to enter the doctoral program,” Sommervold said. “It’s because of this solid reputation that the undergraduate and graduate programs have built.”

The continuity and impact of the Education Program can’t be overstated. It spans three centuries, from prairie times to present day.  When Thomas Doane deeded land for a college near Crete, schoolhouses were emerging that needed quality teachers. By the 1929-30 academic year, nearly half of Doane’s graduating class of 31 students were certified to teach in public schools (according to A College on a Hill and Beyond).

Jump forward to 2016, when Doane created the College of Education as part of its new university structure, and to 2018, when Education is among the top three most popular majors of current Doane students. Four of Doane’s last five Fulbright Scholars were education majors.

May’s Commencement ceremony will include a historic moment, as the first students receive Doane’s Doctorate in Education. About 10 students are currently defending their dissertations. For one among them, the doctorate will be his fifth education degree from Doane.

The success of the College of Education is built around common practices:

Take risks.

Keep it relevant. Keep it applicable.

Remove roadblocks to serve students.

“We ask our academic programs to be innovative and evolve with students needs and if there is one example of that, it’s Education” said Joel Weyand, Vice President of Enrollment Services and Marketing.

The innovation started with faculty, said Lyn Forester, Ed.D., Dean of the College of Education.

“The people who really established Education as we know it -- Lowell Dodd ’52 (a professor at Doane for more than three decades) and Dr. Dick Dudley ’56 (longtime chair of the Education Department) -- they had a history of thinking out of the box and being entrepreneurs. If students had a desire to do something in education that Doane didn’t have, they created it and we continue to do that,” said Forester.

The innovations Education is recognized for include:

--Being one of the first in the nation to warranty the quality of its graduates and to guarantee its graduates employment.

--Having students complete a minimum of 240 hours working in schools prior to student teaching.

--Having new graduates complete 12 credit hours in the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction Program the summer after commencement. It means ⅓ of a master’s degree is done and a chance to start at a higher pay level. “It also makes them better teachers,” Forester said. “Principals tell us that Doane graduates teach more like 2nd and 3rd year teachers than first-year.”


Graduate Programs

When Doane’s Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction began in 1992 it was based on input from teachers and schools and became a model copied by other institutions. It remains a site-based program, with many classes offered in schools across Nebraska, and online.

Doane soon followed with its Master of Education in Educational Leadership (1996), its Education Specialist advanced degree (2011), a Master of Arts degree with an Emphasis in School Counseling (2013) and finally the Doctorate in Education.

The ‘scaffolding’ structure of the graduate programs is unique, Sommervold said, each program building on the other to create a seamless path from undergraduate to doctoral level.

The cadre structure at the graduate level is another strength, pointed out Jed Johnston, Ed.D., Dean of Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership. It allows students to move through their coursework with the same group of peers and instructors, resulting in long friendships and a network that increases the likelihood of success.

The Educational Leadership program began with about 10 students in Cadre 1. It’s up to Cadre 37 now, and boasts more than 1,100 graduates. “We’ve done this long enough that some of our graduates are now retiring,” he said. The numbers make for a significant impact in Nebraska. (It’s faster to count the Nebraska districts that don’t employ a graduate of Doane’s graduate programs than all who do). “This is about doing something that will impact your school and service to your community.”

At the doctoral level, that approach has drawn students from fields outside of education, such as health care administration and management. “The goal of the program is to create scholar leaders ...who know how to create, interpret and use research to make better decisions. Our students think critically and objectively and are good at what they do,” Sommervold said.

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