Paul Henn graduated from Concordia University St. Paul with an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and currently works as the Director of Learning Services for a school district in Minnesota. With more than a decade in the classroom and even more experience as a multi-sport coach, we asked Paul to tell us about his journey getting his doctorate from Concordia University St. Paul.
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
Working to engage and inspire our communities of learners is, and always has been, a passion of mine. There are so many committed professionals in the field of education, so many wonderful communities, and so many passionate learners that it is difficult to pinpoint all who have been so inspirational throughout my 19 years in education. Every day I have an opportunity to see new successes, to experience something I have yet to experience, and to engage with new people in the community. Education is unique in the ability to connect us with great communities, great learners, and great colleagues, all of which fuels my passion and advocacy for high quality and equitable learning opportunities.
Why did you choose Concordia University St. Paul for your doctorate in educational leadership?
Concordia University gave me the opportunity to connect with professionals of different experiences than what I have had. Bettering our educational system across the board meant greater exposure to all of the challenges we have across all walks of life. Concordia’s focus on responsive and equitable leadership in our schools was critical in my decision to pursue my Ed.D. degree and complete my graduate work with Concordia. As a cohort, we were able to be a part of the first group to complete this program, and the amount of professional guidance in our learning matched what we had received throughout both our master’s and specialist programs.
Concordia continued to give me an opportunity to connect with experienced leadership mentors and to this day take the time to reach out, check-in, and help advance our professional growth and opportunities. That level of personal connection is why Concordia is such a great experience.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Concordia University St. Paul and how do you use them today?
Well-rounded leadership involves an understanding of what each of your colleagues brings to the table. Being able to listen to a high-quality and experienced set of instructors, a diverse cohort of colleagues from out-state to urban educators, and a unique set of perspectives contributed to advancing our ability to connect leadership theory to practice. Working in teaching and learning, as well as data and analytics, has become an approach where we look at all of our people and all of our measures to create partnerships in learning that connect with the passions and interests of our learners. The skills and, more importantly, the examples and human capital gained through my program allow me to make as many of these connections as possible on a daily basis.
How has your doctorate degree impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you’d like to attain in the future?
The doctoral program and degree allowed for new learning and a new perspective on what we see daily in education. This has allowed me to connect the art and the science of teaching and learning in new ways and foster opportunities for all learners based on multiple measures and perspectives. The degree has opened doors for opportunities not only for myself professionally but also in what I can do to continue to move our educational organization forward. It was an experience that I cannot otherwise replace from a professional practice and a personal standpoint. It has helped me build a network of professionals that are valuable resources in advancing our community of learners.
What was a challenge you faced during your educational leadership doctorate program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
With a family and a profession, you may wonder how you will ever find the time to finish such a difficult task. Building a coalition of support, with your family first and your professional colleagues right after, can be the most empowering motivator you have as you go through your doctorate program. Work with your family and committee on setting a clear timeline, establishing goals, and celebrating successes that you can share with both. This is what kept me along a path to completion and is something you can share as a part of the journey with people impacted most by the program. There was no better feeling than having your family, friends, and colleagues watch as you walked across the stage!
What was the biggest takeaway from your educational leadership program?
I was very fortunate to go through all of Concordia Universisty St. Paul’s graduate programs, from a master’s in education leadership to a doctorate in educational leadership. My biggest takeaway when starting was all of the knowledge that can be applied immediately in practice. However, the transformational aspect will occur when you realize that you will have the opportunity to pay forward all of which was shared with you. For those of you that believe in being multipliers, this will be your takeaway, your challenge, and your mission as a leader in the educational field.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the Ed.D. educational leadership program at Concordia University St. Paul?
For every individual, you will have a different passion, a different problem to solve, and a different reason for taking on a doctorate program. Before you start, build your network of support and fill it with those that will inspire you through the end. Include your family, friends, and network of professionals as they will be your biggest guides through the challenges that may be tough to get through. Remember that you are not expected to solve a problem that is so broad that your research will never end but instead are just adding to the body of literature in one very targeted and specific area of a problem. In a 1000 piece puzzle, you are one piece, and you would be amazed how that one piece advances a solution (and creates new questions). Build your supports and don’t give up until you are finished.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Concordia has positioned its programs with some of the most knowledgeable and caring professionals around Minnesota. Feel confident that your experience will last far beyond the completion of any of your programs. It is hard to describe how motivated you will be to pay the opportunities forward that have been given to you in the same way Concordia’s committed faculty will do for you.