Coreen Anderson graduated from Gardner-Webb University with an Ed.D. in Education and currently works as a profession I and II and family and consumer science teacher at a high school in North Carolina. Having spent 25 years in education, we asked Coreen to share with us her experience at Gardner-Webb University.
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
I still recall my first grade class. Looking back, resources were scarce, many students were from homes where illiteracy was the norm, and poverty was generational. Yet, within the walls of that class, none of that mattered. My teacher Mrs. McCarty’s actions and attitudes required every student to learn. So, I became a voracious learner. She taught me that with hard work, anything is possible. It is that gift that I strive to impart to students. Every student deserves to know there is no glass ceiling. Through teaching, I strive to make a positive difference in helping to create a better citizenry.
Why did you choose Gardner-Webb University for your doctorate degree in education?
I think Gardner-Webb University (GWU) initially chose me! While I was pondering where to pursue my doctorate, I found a flyer in my mailbox. Prior to seeing the flyer, I could not recall hearing about GWU. Subsequently, I did some research. Surprisingly, I discovered the values I hold dear where espoused by GWU. Additionally, GWU offered programs that were sufficiently flexible so I could hold a full-time job, yet study. For me, a hybrid program was ideal. I craved the face-to-face dialogues/interactions on different educational issues. Then too, in an era where technology is a permanent fixture, I also wanted the online experience. Hence, I chose GWU.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Gardner-Webb University and how do you use them today?
Whether I think of my leadership skills, critical thinking skills, or any of the other 21st century skills I possess, I credit Gardner-Webb with honing these timeless skills. The practical nature of the courses encouraged the development of such skills. The courses encouraged professional engagements within my workplace. Moreover, I became more aware of the needs within my school and more proactive in addressing those needs. Subsequently, I now facilitate program area Professional Learning Communities (PLC). I also participate in different committees with an aim to increase student learning. Beyond that, I am more purposeful about creating opportunities for my students to develop and hone those same skills.
How has your doctorate degree in education impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you would like to attain in the future?
I am a more knowledge and competent educator after having completed my doctoral degree through Gardner-Webb University. In my program at GWU, promoting student learning was a mantra. This means I am equipped to provide equitable education to students. I am more intentional about the use of research-based teaching strategies and data to increase student learning. These practices will guide me as I aim to teach future teachers at the post-secondary level someday. At that point, my impact would transcend each student-teacher. The tentacles of such impact would touch a wider generation. Helping to create a generation of teachers who are passionate about student learning is the right step in creating a more competitive workforce.
What was a challenge you faced during your doctorate program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
Gathering information for the first three chapters in my dissertation was my biggest challenge at Gardner-Webb. Fortunately, my dissertation chair was superbly knowledgeable. Through her guidance and expertise, I was able to successfully navigate the dissertation process. I know her patience, knowledge, and ability to provide constructive feedback gave me much needed direction. When I sent her an email, I knew I would get a response within a day! This minimized the frustration that often plagues some students at other universities. Such direction was also pertinent in helping me to complete the program in less than three years.
What was your biggest take-away from your education doctorate program?
My biggest take-away was the insight I gained first-hand regarding the power of collaboration. Many assignments I completed to fulfill the requirements of my course necessitated collaborating with others. So, it was necessary to approach other educators within my school to establish committees within which I could complete projects like the Comprehensive Needs Assessment, Program Evaluation, and more. As my committee members and I identified relevant sources of data for each project, collected and analyzed data, and sought solutions to various challenges discovered in the data, I knew was experiencing the power of collaboration to foster more equitable education for all students.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the doctorate program in education at Gardner-Webb University?
A doctorate in education from Gardner-Webb University transcends your name on paper. It is a testament of genuine personal and professional growth. Beyond transferring content in relevant ways, I watched as many of my lecturers modelled the principles they taught. For example, I recalled several occasions when lecturers invited different gurus to teach specific topics within a course! To me, that was priceless. Additionally, many of the lecturers excelled in providing detailed yet timely feedback on assignments. Such feedback was crucial as it helped me to better understand the content. More importantly, it encouraged a growth mindset in me as I relied on such feedback to grow. Now, I live the said practices.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Gardner-Webb University boasts a community of professionals. While the professors and the lecturers are great, the support staff exceeded my expectations! Whether I needed technological help or had questions about any of the processes within GWU, they always responded promptly. They were professional, kind, and caring. I knew they cared about my success as an individual. To me, the GWU community understands the value of creating an environment where all stakeholders feel valued. Such an environment left an indelible mark on me. The multiplying effect of such practices are endless as I seek to replicate them with those around me.