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WT’s first class of educational doctors to graduate this weekend

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 8:10 PM CST
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CANYON, Texas (KFDA) - The first 18 students in WT’S doctoral program in educational leadership will earn the highest degrees in their field on Dec. 11.

This program focuses on preparing educational leaders for rural areas and those in higher education and educational organizations.

“Although the program focuses on rural school leadership, both tracks equip educational leaders with a wide variety of tools to lead in any educational organization, of any size, and in any location,” said Dr. Eddie Henderson, dean of WT’s College of Education and Social Sciences.

WT says school districts serving fewer than 1,000 students make up more than 50 percent of the districts in Texas, creating a need for rural school leaders.

The program is designed to prepare a well-rounded school leader who is sensitive and knowledgeable about maximizing resources to move their school towards excellence.

“We are equipping them with the tools that they can approach their problems with some advanced means, especially with some of the research tools and techniques they now have in their tool belt,” said Dr. Gary Bigham, program coordinator.

In rural communities, sometimes there are more limited resources available for educational leaders.

“It takes a little different skill set because there are less resources, less personnel, also educational policy is generally directed towards urban school settings and less towards rural school settings,” said Dr. Henderson

There are also many different backgrounds.

“Many of these communities are located in agricultural areas, they may have a large percentage of individuals in the communities for whom English may not be their primary language, some of these communities have social economic needs, cultural needs and cultural differences,” said Dr. Henderson.

With many of the rural areas, being strongly involved in agriculture one of the graduates mentions many students want to go straight into the workforce for jobs in ranching and farming, so it is important to teach skills that are not just for higher education settings.

“That traditional track tough I’m going to college or I’m not going to college these days to some degree are there, but a lot of ways we remove further away from that that, I can get a certificate and then go right to the workforce and earn a livable wage,” said Dr. Mike Dominguez, Stratford ISD superintendent and graduate of the program.

Many of the graduates of this program already work as educational leaders in rural areas, so the research they completed through the program was able to be applied to their jobs.

“The program allowed me to choose a topic that number one that I enjoyed and I was passionate about, but it applied my work to use it to impact my campus and obviously the research side as well,” said Bethany Davis, assistant principal of Lamar Elementary, Pampa ISD and graduate of the program.

WT says the research through this program is very valuable to the whole community.

“Their research is focused on problems of practice, practice issues in rural communities and so this group of graduates has produced over 20 scholarly publications that are specific to research benefiting rural communities and rural schools, so that that’s a real advantage of our program and it has a direct positive impact on our regional mission, which is to improve the quality of life in our region and to improve the research related to our region,” said Dr. Henderson.

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