SWU launches first doctorate program
In its first year, Southern Wesleyan University’s (SWU) online doctorate program in curriculum and assessment has 37 students enrolled. The faculty at SWU is excited about how well the program has taken off and looks forward to positive outcomes as it progresses.
Many of the students who are enrolled have previously completed undergraduate or master’s programs at SWU and are glad to return to the highly reputable university.
“Southern Wesleyan University offers the environment and flexibility I have been seeking in a doctor of education program,” said Shawntay White, current student and school principal. “Entering the world of online education has been a new and wonderful experience. I have found a place that has impacted my intellectual, professional and spiritual growth. I knew the courses would require self-motivation and the ability to work independently. However, I did not expect to have such caring, supportive and accessible professors. I have also formed encouraging and positive relationships with fellow students. I am ecstatic and blessed to be a part of the SWU family,” White said.
White is not alone in her delight at the program’s rigor and supportive environment. Many other students have expressed how they are impressed with the level of personal care provided in an online environment.
Zoom video conferencing is used to connect students to one another. Each week students have the opportunity to come together to do devotions and prayer through video chat outside of regular classes. An online chaplain is even available to provide support to students as needed.
Sandra McLendon, dean of SWU School of Education, recognizes the importance of embedding the Christian ethic of care throughout the program. Like all programs at SWU, this program is intentionally evangelical in addition to upholding a high academic standard.
One student shared how being a part of the online courses encouraged her to pick up her Bible for the first time in nearly 10 years because the caring ethic and Scripture are so embedded in coursework and discussions.
Hearing the news of a life being brought “back” is as fulfilling to the staff at SWU as having students walk across the stage at graduation. SWU’s mission is to educate the whole person, teaching them to be servants to go into the world to spread the word.
McLendon shared how she initially resisted adding an Ed.D. program because she wasn’t sure of the need for it. However, when “God laughed at her plans” she saw the pressing need for a program emphasizing leadership with accountability. It was then that she felt led to develop the Ed.D. in curriculum and assessment, and she began the process of creating a committee to help accomplish that.
Dr. Kimberly Strike, coordinator for doctoral studies, came on board to breathe life into the proposal for the new online doctoral program. The committee, which had been formed for nearly three years, handed off a well-written proposal providing the road map of what they sought in the new doctoral degree.
The hope of McLendon, Strike and the staff of SWU is that the dissertations produced during the program will not be used once and then shelved, but will be stepping stones leading to articles and presentations that can contribute to the field.
“We take it very seriously when we write our programs and courses, even when we write them online. We want our students to understand that this journey is not only about completing a degree or earning a title — it is about disseminating information and using it to share with others for the greater good,” Strike said.