Phil Brownridge graduated from Georgian Court University with an M.A. in Supervision, Administration, and Curriculum and currently works as a principal and Director of Instruction for a high school in New Jersey. As a specialist in classroom management and trailblazer for station-based learning environments in his school, we asked Philip to tell us about his time at Georgian Court University.
Why did you work in education? What inspired you?
After graduating college, with no idea what I wanted to be, I was offered a position as a soccer coach and substitute teacher at the local high school. I had never given much thought to teaching until then. Once I stepped foot in the classroom, my mindset changed drastically. I quickly realized what an important role teachers play in the lives of so many teenagers. I was able to make connections with students and saw how much of an influence I could have. I decided that this is where I would spend the rest of my career.
Why did you choose Georgian Court University for your M.A. degree in supervision, administration, and curriculum?
There are a lot of colleges and universities to choose from, but only Georgian Court University offered all of the aspects that were important to me. I found class sizes small and relationships with my classmates and professors to be personal and engaging. The professors were exceptionally knowledgeable and helpful and could refer to me by name. The campus is serene, centrally located, and sparks pride and intellectual curiosity. The major opened doors in several different administrative positions allowing flexibility as I decided what was next for my administrative career. Also, Georgian Court is a respected university among employers which is critical when attempting to gain employment.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Georgian Court University, and how do you use them today?
During my time at Georgian Court University, I learned a great deal that has allowed me to enjoy so many successes throughout my career. My knowledge of how to write meaningful curriculum that is steeped in student-centered pedagogy has created transformational educational opportunities. I also developed a stronger understanding of special education, the laws associated with these classrooms, and how to make educational modifications that are best practices for all learners. Most importantly, I learned how to be a servant leader. This philosophy allows me to tend to the needs of my students, teachers, and community that count on me to make decisions based on best practices and morality.
How has your master’s degree impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you’d like to attain in the future?
For the last twelve years, I have been fortunate enough to serve as a high school principal. This is a very difficult position to obtain as there is only one principal per high school. Without earning my master’s degree from a reputable school, I would not have been afforded this opportunity. While the degree was necessary to earn the position, what I learned from Georgian Court has allowed me to continue success in this role. Throughout my career I have enjoyed developing new programs, introducing new technologies, and supporting novice teachers. What I am most proud of, which is a direct result of my education, is the relationships and communication that I have stressed over my career. Georgian Court stressed the importance of culture and climate, and that was a message that resonated with me then and drives my leadership style now.
What was a challenge you faced during your supervision, administration, and curriculum program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was understanding why I wanted to be a leader and what I had to offer to students and teachers. With no experience in a leadership role, it was important for me to establish a leadership platform that could drive the decision-making process. Throughout my time at Georgian Court, I was fortunate enough to have professors that not only asked the basic questions about curriculum, but they also challenged me to utilize the information in real-life scenarios. This higher-order questioning forced me to analyze what was important to me, what kind of leader I wanted to be, and to never lose sight of my values.
What was the biggest takeaway from your supervision, administration, and curriculum program?
The biggest takeaway for me was the definition of leadership. Being a leader is not about being the smartest person in the room, nor is it about being the loudest. Leadership is not based in a title or having the power to do something. Leadership is about communication, trust, and relationships. Leadership is about having the best questions, setting your teammates up for success, praising others for successes, and taking responsibility for failures. Leaders establish a culture, relay a vision, and act as a role model for the ideals that have been espoused. My professors at Georgian Court ensured that I left with a comprehensive understanding of what is important.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the M.A. supervision, administration, and curriculum degree program at Georgian Court University?
I would stress the importance of picking a program for the right reasons. When considering which institution to enroll in, consideration must be given to whether or not this program prepares you for where you want to go. Georgian Court is a local school that is respected by school districts around the state. Professors have connections to local districts that can lead to employment opportunities. Course offerings prepare students for the challenges being faced in today’s schools. Connections made with peers lead to lifelong friends and develop into a strong support group which is critical for a developing administrator. Overall, Georgian Court offers every opportunity for success in a great environment with knowledgeable and supportive professors who are dedicated to their students’ success.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
The challenges being faced by school administrators are more difficult and complicated than ever before. Challenges with social media, vaping, mental health, and the expectations for college and career readiness create expectations like never before. Rarely do administrators have time to disappear and analyze decisions. More often, problems arise as we walk down the halls and staff and students need answers immediately. Being knowledgeable about the concepts being discussed and establishing core beliefs ahead of time is pivotal for success. Georgian Court provided me with the necessary skills and understanding to be able to tackle any and all obstacles that I have faced.