Selecting the right university to pursue a doctoral degree might have been one of the most difficult decisions I have made in my life. Making a commitment where I would invest the amount of energy and effort, as well as time away from family, made the decision even tougher. Once making the decision to move forward with the pursuit of the degree, I realized that selecting the right university would be crucial.
Living in the area of a number of larger universities provided me with different institutions that offered the degree program I was pursuing. However, I knew that I needed a program that could offer an opportunity to build quality relationships with a supportive network of faculty. In addition, I wanted a university that provided smaller class sizes or cohort groups that I could join, so that we could transition through the program from beginning to end.
From the moment I stepped into my first class in the doctoral program in educational leadership at Gardner-Webb University, I knew that I had made the right decision to take me down the road toward earning my degree. From the first class, our professors echoed the same supportive message, that they would be a network for us. Our professors did point out from the beginning that the coursework and dissertation would be a long and arduous task. However, they would be there for us to provide guidance whenever we felt the need. Professors were willing to make the time commitment to consistently stay after class reading and working through our drafts. I really feel like the individualized support and guidance through this process enabled me to put together my dissertation and complete the program.
As we started at Gardner-Webb, our professors began the discussion about the steps we would take in order to put together a quality dissertation. When talking with colleagues that started doctoral programs but did not finish, they often looked at the dissertation as the largest stumbling block. Individuals often went through classes in other programs putting effort into the coursework only to run out of energy once the dissertation process began.
Some of my peers even noted that they felt like they were going through programs in isolation. When faced with the mountainous task of completing a dissertation, these colleagues often did not finish their degrees. Throughout the program, I often compared the dissertation to a marathon. It was a race that you did not want to run alone. With the professors and classmates at Gardner-Webb University, I was able to finish the race.
Small Class Sizes
One of the other reasons I selected Gardner-Webb University is that they enabled me the opportunity to be a part of the smaller class sizes that we had within our cohort group. Having attended larger universities in completion of both of my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I realized that it was easy to get lost in the shuffle at times.
At Gardner-Webb, the smaller class sizes enabled our professors to get to know us as both individuals and students. It provided us the chance to build tight bonds between classmates and professors that offered us ample support. Our professors at Gardner-Webb were willing to communicate around the clock offering prompt feedback or even picking up the phone whenever we were in need of help. The smaller class sizes also offered us easy access to university officials that could help troubleshoot, answer questions, and provide guidance whenever we needed it.
Since graduating, colleagues in pursuit their degree have often asked me about my experiences. I simply share my story. Those that have made the decision to join the program at Gardner-Webb University often share the same sentiments that I do. I still have professors and classmates from the degree program at Gardner-Webb that reach out and connect. To me Gardner-Webb was truly more than a university. The school is a family of people working together to support students.
While in the midst of a pandemic, it is easy to fall prey to the struggle and stress of daily life. It is during this time that I have tried to make a concerted effort to maintain hopefulness and enjoyment in putting together a daily list of things that I am thankful for. As I have worked to reflect on my graduate studies, I am very thankful to have been able to go through a doctoral program at Gardner-Webb University.
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