Interview with Donald Good, Ed.D. - Program Coordinator for the Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership - Higher Education Leadership Concentration at East Tennessee State University

About Donald Good, Ed.D.: Don Good is a Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). He is the Program Coordinator for ETSU’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership–Higher Education Leadership concentration. As Coordinator, Dr. Good oversees student admissions, student advising and research guidance, and faculty hiring and support. In addition, he teaches courses in the Ed.D. program and conducts research on student success, staff development, faith-based education, creative teaching methods, and the dynamics of leadership in higher education settings.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and Mathematics from Western Carolina University in 1978, his Master of Arts in Teaching in Mathematics from Winthrop University in 1984, and his Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of South Carolina in 1989.

Interview Questions

[] May we have an overview of East Tennessee State University’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, including its concentration options? What are the key learning outcomes for this program, and how does it prepare students optimally for a wide variety of roles in education innovation, academic systems improvement, and other education leadership?

[Dr. Good] Our online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership has three different concentrations: Administrative Endorsement, Higher Education Leadership, and School Leadership. Each of these concentrations has its own set of specialization courses, and they share the same 18 core course credits. Students also take advisor-guided electives. The core classes students take are Theories of Administration, Quantitative and Qualitative Research, Leadership Studies, Educational Statistics, and Research in Educational Leadership. These classes give students a strong foundation in the central theories of educational and organizational leadership, as well as advanced research methods and their applications to program development and improvement.

The Administrative Endorsement concentration has courses in interpersonal relations, professional needs and development, instructional leadership, institutional character and mission building, and education program implementation strategies.

The Higher Education Leadership concentration has classes on the adult learner and higher education administration, law, and finance. Students also complete an internship as part of their concentration requirements, as well as six credits of cognate courses, which are courses taken outside of our department that complement students’ chosen course of study.

Finally, the School Leadership concentration has classes in leadership for lifelong learning, organizational leadership law, policy analysis, and policy and politics in education. Students also complete an internship in an educational leadership setting, and must take six credits of cognate courses on top of their desired elective classes.

The vast majority of our students are working professionals. We do require that they have a master’s degree, and many of our graduates now hold leadership positions. For example, we have several college presidents and vice presidents who are graduates of our program, and we’ve also had a good number of deans, directors, and department chairs who now serve at institutions very much like ours–a medium-sized university with 15,000 students or so. Additionally, we have a good number of graduates who work as leaders in community colleges and public institutions such as the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, as well as some private colleges.

[] Could you please elaborate on the online learning technologies that East Tennessee State University’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership uses to deliver course materials and facilitate interactions between students and faculty?

[Dr. Good] The two forms of education technology that we probably use more often than anything else are Desire 2 Learn and Zoom. Desire 2 Learn is our learning management system, whereas Zoom is how we host our synchronous sessions and meetings. The ratio of asynchronous to synchronous instruction varies from course to course and by instructor. However, as most of our students are working professionals, we do prioritize asynchronous instruction. A lot of our instructors do incorporate optional synchronous elements in order to connect with students in real-time.

For example, in my classes, I don’t require anything to be synchronous (just in case time zones make it difficult for some students to attend), but throughout the semester I offer a number of virtual meetings in which people can participate if they want to discuss anything with each other or with me. This allows students to connect with me and with their peers, and to have their questions, concerns, and desired points of discussion addressed without having to go through an email or a more indirect way of communication. So while nothing is strictly required to be synchronous, many of my colleagues and I offer enrichment activities that are synchronous, and that is part of what makes our program so robust.

There is also a residency requirement, which ETSU is looking at revising potentially, but currently, students can fulfill residency in a couple of ways. Students can be full-time for a year, or be enrolled part-time continuously. In addition to that, we have residency activities that students participate in, and this is a series of events and activities that would be beyond the scope of their normal job, but would be useful for academic and professional purposes. For example, they may help a professor write a paper or they may make a scholarly presentation or attend a professional conference. They have flexibility in terms of how they fulfill their residency requirement as long as it aligns with certain parameters. It must be a professional or academic event or project that is related to higher education and leadership, and which is separate from their paid role.

[] East Tennessee State University’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership requires the completion of a Dissertation. What does the Dissertation involve, what process do students take to complete it, and what kinds of faculty/peer support do they receive during their work?

[Dr. Good] Students progress through the program in a cohort, and each cohort is assigned a specific faculty advisor. This faculty advisor helps shepherd students through the first few stages of the dissertation process. One of the last courses that students take is Research in Education Leadership, and that is in addition to the statistics course and the qualitative and quantitative research courses. All of these courses help students to flesh out their ideas so that they can narrow them down into potential dissertation topics. While officially we as faculty assign dissertation advisors to students, a lot of the time students have already selected a professor with whom they would like to work, and we will match students to faculty based on their stated preferences. This matching process takes place at the end of students’ coursework.

Students also have their qualifying exams at the end of their coursework, which are both written and oral, and test their grasp of important concepts in educational leadership, organizational and systems leadership, research, and data analysis for education improvement. And these examinations also serve to solidify students’ understanding of key theories, concepts, and research methodologies, which feeds into their work on their dissertation.

In terms of methodology, most of our dissertations are quantitative in nature, though we are getting more and more that are qualitative. For example, this morning we had a dissertation proposal presentation for a qualitative study of the relationship between absentee parents (in this case, the absence of fathers/father figures) and learning outcomes for their children. Our dissertation is a very standard five-chapter dissertation, but within that structure, students have a broad field of possible topics they can explore. By nature, the topic for each dissertation is highly student-driven, and as long as there is an education component and a leadership component, students can essentially examine whatever topic they desire. The vast majority of our students select topics that are directly relevant to their place of work and the challenges they would like to solve in their work. In this way, the dissertation not only fulfills their degree requirement, but also advances their career.

Students have a four-person committee for their dissertation–their chair, two faculty members from ETSU’s Education Leadership department, and a slot for a person outside of the department, so that students can benefit from an external perspective.

[] What role does faculty mentorship play in East Tennessee State University’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems while they are enrolled?

[Dr. Good] We as a faculty team go to great lengths to figure out how to best relate to our students and to build the kind of interaction that fosters strong mentorship. And some of this sort of naturally happens and some of it we have to actively make happen. And we’re constantly working to achieve this, and to also improve on how we achieve it. There is also a lot of co-mentoring that goes on, where students progress through the program together and also mentor each other as they take the same classes and bond with one another and share their respective experiences.

[] For students interested in East Tennessee State University’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Good] There are a couple of things that would make an application stand out. The first is the statement of intent, which explains how and why the program would be a good fit for the applicant, and what his or her educational goals are. The more articulate and focused students are in this letter of intent, the greater likelihood they have of getting our attention. Just as important are the letters of recommendation, and for those, what we are really looking for is more than just a checklist of “these are the applicant’s good qualities,” but rather, a letter that indicates a strong relationship and provides a fleshed out idea of the applicant and his or her strengths, work ethic, ability to work with others, etc. In addition to the statement of intent and letters of recommendation, we expect applicants to have a strong GPA and to submit a professional resume.

[] What makes East Tennessee State University’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership unique and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students? How does this program prepare students for advanced careers in higher education leadership and education systems improvement?

[Dr. Good] I think our track record speaks for itself. We have been offering this degree since 1972, and it was the first doctoral program offered at ETSU. We have a lot graduates who have obtained truly excellent and prominent positions. We have been at this a long time and we’re well-established, while at the same time being very flexible and constantly working to update our curriculum and modes of instruction.

We meet each student’s individual knowledge and training needs in education leadership, while also maintaining a core set of courses that provide students with the universal principles of effective leadership across contexts. And the quality of instruction and the nature of faculty and peer-to-peer mentorship are as high-caliber as those of our campus-based Ed.D. program offerings.

When the program first started in the early ‘70s, it was a K-12 administration program. It has since expanded into higher education, as mentioned previously, and now the higher education leadership program has become the largest of all of our programs. We have continued to evolve and expand with the times, and our students benefit from our longstanding legacy as well as our continued and diligent efforts to keep our faculty team and curriculum current and responsive to student needs.

Thank you, Dr. Good, for your excellent insight into East Tennessee State University’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program!