Doane recognizes first graduates of Doctorate of Education program
Saturday marked a historic day for Doane University’s College of Education, as the first cohort of students to graduate from the Doctorate of Education program were recognized at Commencement.
Thirteen students graduated from the program, which began offering classes in September of 2016. The first cohort of graduates in the program work in a variety of positions in education, ranging from elementary school teacher to principal to assistant superintendent.
“This is a very exciting and monumental day,” said Cate Sommervold, director of the doctorate program. “The students have worked so hard. The amount of dedication that this group has shown, in addition to the amount of courage and stamina it takes to be the first group to go through this program, is really impressive.”
Doane’s doctorate program is the newest program offered in the College of Education, which also offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Doane’s College of Education is well-known for serving education professionals in the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction program and the Master of Education in Educational Leadership program.
“When we started the specialist program, immediately we knew it couldn’t stop there,” said Dr. Doug Christensen, professor of Leadership in Graduate Education. “We wanted a program that fit Doane, that would develop leaders, and to create something that’s practical -- that would allow students to implement their learning right away in their school district.”
Twenty-two students began the program in January of 2016, meaning Doane graduated nearly 60 percent of its first class at the earliest possible date. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the national average for students completing doctoral programs on schedule is 50 percent.
“When we started planning this program over three years ago, we were hoping for just a few graduates in the first class,” Christensen said. “It’s amazing that we have 13 graduates, but those numbers will only continue to grow. There aren’t many doctoral programs left that aren’t online and none of our program is online. Our students want face-to-face interaction, close relationships with professors, and that’s what we have to offer.”
Currently, roughly 75 students are in the program, which is comprised of 57 hours of post-graduate level coursework seminars and stand-alone courses, culminating in a dissertation.
One of the first 13 graduates of the program is Rachel Kluthe, a math teacher at Seward Middle School. Kluthe also earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Doane as well.
Two days after she was accepted into the program, she suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in a wakeboarding accident. It was a serious injury that kept her from teaching full-time for nearly six months. Kluthe couldn’t drive, read, or look at a screen for 10 minutes at a time.
Despite the major scare, Kluthe wanted to do everything she could to remain in the program and continue to pursue a degree.
“The cohort of people has been so supportive,” she said. “Getting encouragement from others, knowing I was going to make it through, and having a dissertation chair who believed in me and went to the ends of the earth to help me meet my goal to graduate was pretty incredible.”
Kluthe says she had to learn the material by having friends and family read it to her. After she was able to return to teaching, she wore prism lenses and a hat to combat some symptoms she faced.
Kluthe’s dissertation was a reflection of her own experiences, as she titled it “Back to School After a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Multiple Case Study of Teachers Facing the Invisible Injury.”
Kluthe says she will be speaking at next year’s Brain Injury of Alliance of Nebraska conference and hopes to advocate as much as possible for the community of people who have suffered brain injuries. While she still has a passion for teaching middle school, she says she would like to teach at the college level eventually in her career.
Kluthe says she would not have been able to finish the program without the support from her friends, family, and everyone at Doane, including Sommervold.
“The faculty understands that the students are working adults and will face some challenges,” Sommervold said. “We are always going to put the students first.”
She adds, “I think this program heightens Doane’s already impressive credibility within the College of Education. It lets people know that we are committed to providing high quality education from students who are pre-service through students who will be teaching the next group of students.”
More information on the Doctorate of Education program can be found on its program page.
Doctorate of Education graduates:
Karla Cooper - Lincoln, NE
Brittany Hajek - Crete, NE
Wilma Jackson - Crete, NE
Kami Jessop - Papillion, NE
Rachel Kluthe - Lincoln, NE
Alicia Kotlarz - Omaha, NE
Deirdre McKinley - Bellevue, NE
John Schwartz - Papillion, NE
Kati Settles - Papillion, NE
Troy Sidders - Omaha, NE
Lisa Smith - Hastings, NE
Kelcy Tapp - Omaha, NE
Denee Wehrs - Crete, NE