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Celebrating Women’s History Month with EdD program’s Dr. Kimberly Nolan

Apr. 01, 2022

March was Women’s History Month and we had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Kimberly Nolan, an associate teaching professor in the Doctor of Education program on our campus.

Two female students

“Our program uses the action research model,” she said. “Sometimes people think of research as theoretical, but our students and graduates are using what they’ve learned to make change in their own communities.”

Teaching both in-person and virtually, Dr. Nolan has been the regional lead for the Charlotte Campus program for the past six years. We spoke with her to learn more about how exactly women from our Northeastern University – Charlotte Doctor of Education program are making an impact.

Q: Let’s start by introducing the program. What can you tell us?

A: Northeastern University has a great reputation, but many people don’t realize we have regional campuses. (There are also campuses in Seattle, Silicon Valley, Vancouver, Toronto and London).  I spend most of my time letting people know about these enhanced learning opportunities. Having a way to meet other students in the same area is really helpful.

The Doctor of Education Program, or EdD as it’s called, has been around for 15 years. The Charlotte program is considered hybrid; it’s mostly virtual, with a requirement to be on campus only two Saturdays per term for two courses. If you live near Charlotte, it’s just a quick drive to attend those classes, meet other students for coffee or study together.

Q: What does the program offer and how does it stand out from other EdD programs? 

The program offers five degree concentrations. Typically, students take two courses at a time and complete the program in three years. We attract educators and leaders from the K-12 system, the nonprofit world and from higher education – all who are trying to advance themselves or their organizations. More than 50% of our students are women. Social justice is a big focus of the program, not just gender, but race, religion and in every possible way making sure that as we’re doing research, we are also bettering the community where we live.

That’s what makes our program stand out – that action research piece. Many times, it’s women helping women, because when you tackle issues like homelessness or minority representation in higher education, you help women directly.

Q: Can you talk about the specific ways women have used their studies to make positive change here in the Charlotte area?

Yes. Lila Ann Sauls, EdD, a program graduate and CEO of Homeless No More, researched solutions to homelessness, and her organization is about to increase its staffing and add 220 affordable housing units in South Carolina. Another student who just defended her dissertation is working on removing barriers and changing how her organization in South Carolina accepts transfer credits from community college students. Natasha Norins, who is defending her dissertation later this month, is working on improving gifted and talented programing in North Carolina middle schools.

Q: What are students surprised to learn about the Doctor of Education program?

A: How doable it is. We have a lot of first-generation doctoral students, and they aren’t even sure if they belong in the room, so to speak.

Some can’t take two courses at once, and that’s ok. It doesn’t make them any less of a doctoral student. If you are a single working mom, you may only be able to take one course at a time and it may take longer, but in the end, you’ll still earn a degree. Being mostly virtual, our program removes a lot of barriers. You don’t need a babysitter because you can work after you put your kids to bed. The low residency requirement means you don’t have to take off work, you can just drive to Charlotte a few times.

People are also impressed when they find out that most of our faculty are people of practice. They have worked in schools and in the positions where our students work and they know what the real world is like. Our half-time faculty are still in the field, so they understand the juggle and all the stress of the Covid years and so forth. Oftentimes, their staff members will join our program because they are inspired and see that it’s possible.

Q: This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for educators, especially those who are also parents. What are we to make of reports that many are thinking of leaving the profession?

A: I think there will always be some shortages, like there were before Covid. But plenty of people are still getting degrees to advance, like the students in our Doctor of Education program. It’s not a career people pick to become rich. It’s a passion career. You don’t wake up one day and say, “I want to be a millionaire.” You wake up and say, “I love kids and I love education and I think it’s important.”

If you want to be change-maker in the world of education or advocacy in the Charlotte region, find out more about the Professional Doctorate in Education.

Sometimes people think of research as theoretical, but our students and graduates are using what they’ve learned to make change in their own communities.

Dr. Kimberly Nolan

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