Shella Zelenz is studying to earn her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Change at Fielding Graduate University. She holds a Master of Arts in Education from University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Arts in Arts Administration and Music from Whitworth College.
Shella chose to pursue her doctor of education in educational leadership and change because she was dissatisfied with her son’s experience in school and wanted to make the educational system more receptive to the needs of individual students. After earning her degree, Shella hopes to develop new teaching methodologies and start her own school.
I decided to earn my doctor of education online because I am a full-time teacher and a single mom with a very busy schedule. In additional to caring for my children, I teach classes during the day and teach private lessons in the evenings. I start on my coursework once my kids are asleep. Studying online allows me to continue to work and be a parent while furthering my education and career goals.
I chose to pursue my degree in the field of educational leadership and change because I want to learn how to change the educational system. My son’s experience in school inspired me to improve the school system. Right now, education is very adult-oriented, and I think teachers focus too much on what is convenient for them rather than adjusting the way they teach to fit the needs of students.
I chose to earn my degree in educational leadership from Fielding Graduate University because of the program’s flexibility and duration as well as its progressive curriculum. When I was looking at graduate schools that offered degrees in educational leadership and change, a big factor for me was how much control I would have over the subjects I studied and over the amount of time I would spend in the program. Fielding Graduate University was a good choice for me because I wanted to study particular theories of educational leadership and change.
In addition to curriculum flexibility and program duration, I considered the overall cost of the graduate program. I even compared the cost of the program to how much money I could earn with a degree in educational leadership and change. In general, jobs in education do not pay well, so I think this is a very important factor to consider.
Fielding Graduate University has provided me with an advisor who I was able to select. The most important part of choosing an advisor is identifying a compatible partnership. It will be much easier to work with an advisor who understands you and agrees with you on a fundamental level. I chose the most radical professor in my program because we both share liberal values. If I had selected one of the more conservative mentors, I wouldn’t be writing anything remotely close to my current dissertation topic and I doubt that I would be as satisfied with my overall program.
My advisor has been crucial to my academic progress. He guided me toward potential dissertation topics after I told him about my general interest in reforming the educational system. Eventually I decided on my dissertation topic, which my advisor helped me narrow down so that it would be more manageable.
Educational leadership empowers teachers, school administrators, and officials to guide the educational system. My particular program focuses on educational leadership and change, which involves taking on a leadership role to bring about progress in the school system, or even starting a new form of schooling.
My program offers no set curriculum. I have to study certain knowledge areas, but I make a contract with a professor that outlines exactly what I plan to study and what materials I will use for each knowledge area. Then the professor approves it and works with me to make sure I meet all of the requirements.
In addition to studying ways to restructure schools, my coursework consists of researching and writing papers that are typically 30 pages in length. I purposefully chose to write about topics that were applicable to my dissertation so that each paper I wrote would contribute to the development of my dissertation. I was able to use these papers as starting points rather than researching from scratch. That is how I got through most of the program in 2 years, even though it takes other students around 5 years to finish.
Fielding Graduate University does not require students to take part in a residency program, but the school does offer national sessions in different parts of the country. For the national sessions, we spend a week at a hotel attending various workshops. Even though the national sessions are not mandatory, I highly recommend them to students if they can afford it.
The major benefit of my online classroom experience is the flexible curriculum. Instead of having a prepackaged set of courses that I needed to complete, I talked with my advisor at the beginning of the program and worked out a set of topics that I wanted to study within the broad subjects that the program covers. This flexibility allows me to create a unique course of learning for myself.
People often worry that an online curriculum does not encourage student interaction, but I interact with my peers via online communication and monthly cluster meetings. More specifically, I connect with classmates through Facebook, WebEx meetings, and the school’s website. The school’s website provides a forum in which students can post and respond to questions.
In addition to online communication, I attend monthly cluster meetings offered to Fielding Graduate University students who live near each other and near a professor. They usually focus on a specific topic to help students with their program. I was a virtual cluster leader, so I led the online version of cluster meetings for students who were not close to a group.
I think my systems thinking class will be most valuable for my future goals. Systems thinking explores the systems that we incorporate into our society and examines how they impact our world and our individual experiences. Education is one system among many. Though the class didn’t focus on education in particular, it gave me a deeper insight into how other systems impact education, and why our education system is the way it is.
The educational leadership and change faculty at Fielding Graduate University is very knowledgeable. I appreciate that they concentrate heavily on social justice issues. They support and encourage students to work on solving problems and inequalities in the educational system, rather than just sticking with the status quo.
However, at Fielding Graduate University, there is a balance between faculty members who really want to push the envelope and those who want to stay within the current educational model. If you push the envelope, you might learn how to make serious changes in the educational system. But if you stay inside the box, it will likely be easier for you to get a job. In order to avoid being pushed in an unwanted direction, it is extremely important to establish your value system and educational goals before enrolling in the program.
I interact with my professors via phone, email, and video chatting online. The professors are also branching out into Facebook, so they are available all the time.
If I could go back to college again, I would definitely apply for grants sooner. Instead of waiting until the last minute, I should have started searching for grant money to cover my tuition at the beginning of the program. This way I would have avoided missing grant application deadlines and accumulating a significant amount of student loan debt.
I would also advise prospective educational leadership and change students to make sure that they are passionate about working in the educational system. If you are not, it will be difficult to deal with parents, children, administrators, and teachers. These interactions can be stressful, oppressive and emotionally exhausting if you don’t love what you do.
Finally, in order to be a successful educational leadership and change student, you need to be self-disciplined. Although you may find the subject matter interesting, it can be quite challenging and tedious to sit down and write a 30-page research paper. Thus, it is critical that you remain motivated and resourceful with your time.