Why are you pursuing the EdD in higher education and student affairs at Ohio State?
I am always seeking out opportunities to learn and grow as a professional. I had heard about the higher education and student affairs (HESA) PhD program for years, but was not sure that the research focus of that program was the right fit for someone like me who was pursuing a career as a practitioner and already working full-time at Ohio State. When I heard that a HESA EdD program was developed, I immediately signed up to attend the first information session. There I learned that the professional doctorate program was designed for people just like me—mid-career professionals with experience in higher education settings who would like to learn more in order to elevate their careers to the next level. After talking with my family about the potential time commitment and hearing their enthusiastic encouragement, I decided to dive in head first. In addition to my own professional reasons, I wanted to show my kids that you are never too old to learn or pursue your goals.
Talk about your personal experience in higher education, and how it drew you to international affairs in higher education?
Growing up in rural Ohio, I was fascinated how the world literally opened up to me when I arrived at college. I studied world music and religion, international economics and finance, Japanese language and culture, and any other international class I could find. In my junior year, I participated in a study abroad program at Nihon University’s School of International Relations in Japan. I found the experience life changing. When I graduated, I went back to Japan to teach in a rural junior high school. Upon my return to the States, I tried jobs in other fields, but always felt pulled back to education, and particularly passionate about international education. I felt I had finally found my niche when I landed my first job in international education at a university. Nearly two decades and three institutions later, I remain in the field. I have been at Ohio State since 2004, and am currently serving as senior assistant director of the East Asian Studies Center in the Office of International Affairs. It is my hope that my work in international education impacts the lives of some students the way my international experiences in college profoundly impacted me.
How is this program preparing you for the next phase of your career?
This program is certainly expanding my understanding of the complex nature of higher education administration. It is providing me with skills across many domains—research, assessment, strategy, leadership, communication—that I hope to leverage for the next phase of my career.
It has also afforded me the opportunity to explore other areas of international education outside of my current job responsibilities that I hope to engage with more in the future. For example, in my student development course, I was able to focus my final project on identity development in international students, and in my higher education law course, my paper examined risk in study abroad administration. Having the opportunity to delve into these areas will certainly prepare me to be a more well-rounded international education professional in the future.
How does the EdD program connect what you are learning in class and the opportunities you face in your full-time profession?
I have been able to directly apply what I’ve learned in class to several projects in my work. In particular, I’ve found the assessment coursework to be especially relevant. My office applies for large federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education to support foreign language and area studies at Ohio State and beyond. The knowledge and skills I gained in the assessment course helped me to develop a strong assessment plan for our latest proposal, which was subsequently funded with nearly $2.2 million.
What has been the highlight of the higher education EdD for you?
As a first-generation college student, I never thought I would find myself in a doctoral program. I had to really challenge myself to take this on, but with each paper I write, each presentation I give, and each course I complete, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Building my confidence and proving to myself that I can do it is definitely a highlight of my experience.
How have you been able to balance your commitment to the EdD with your personal and professional lives?
I recently discovered in my “Strategy and Leadership” class that balance is one of my personal values. It’s very important to me to do well in my academic program, but not at the expense of other aspects of my life, such as my personal well-being, my family or my job. In order to make sure I have a sense of balance and do not feel too stressed out with schoolwork, I like to plan my time in advance and complete assignments as early as possible. It takes a good deal of discipline, but following the schedule I lay out for myself keeps me on track and ensures that I still have time to relax and do fun things with my friends and family. Also, to the extent that I can have some activities do double-duty, that really helps. For example, I try to do my reading at the dining room table with the kids while they are doing homework, and I also try to find ways to do class projects which benefit my work. I also recognize that I am very fortunate to have a supportive supervisor and a supportive family without whom none of this would be possible.
Talk about how your cohort has helped you navigate the doctoral program.
Coming in to the program, I was not sure what to expect in terms of the cohort. I quickly learned that we have an amazing wealth of knowledge and experience in the group that benefits us all. Because we all work full-time in different departments across higher education, if I have a question someone from the cohort is always able to point me in the right direction. I am consistently impressed with how each member of the cohort genuinely cares and wants to see all of us succeed. They are a wonderful source of support, unlike any I have experienced in other programs. They are generous with their time and flexible with each other’s competing priorities. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed with a class or an assignment, they are always there to tell me “You got this!”
How have you benefitted from learning in the same courses with PhD students?
Some of our courses are exclusively EdD cohort-based, while others, such as our courses on student development theory, higher education law and the impact of college on students, also incorporate PhD students. I think it has been mutually beneficial for us to be in the same classroom and share different perspectives with each other. I appreciate the depth of knowledge in their research areas, the expertise in research methods, the passion and the intellectual rigor that the PhD students bring to our classes. They have challenged me to think about things in new ways on numerous occasions. I believe they benefit from studying with EdD students as well, as we share with them our wealth of experiences from practice and challenge them to consider further how their research can be used to inform practice.
What advice would you give to a student coming into the HESA EdD?
Even though the program is rigorous and doing it on top of other personal and professional responsibilities is tough, you will have a cohort of individuals going through the same thing who are there to support and encourage you. Lean on each other. Trust that the faculty have your best interests at heart, and though they may have high expectations, they are flexible and supportive when life happens. Communicate with them. And, finally, do your best to plan and work ahead, but don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes it’s a struggle to complete a paper or you feel like you are running out of time to get it all done. We have all been there, but remember, as my cohort always tells me, “You got this!”