Interview with Kimberly S. Peer, Ed.D. - Program Coordinator for the Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership Program at Kent State University

About Kimberly S. Peer, Ed.D.: Kimberly S. Peer is a Full Professor of Athletic Training at Kent State University, where she also serves as Program Coordinator for the Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership. As Program Coordinator, Dr. Peer oversees curriculum development, student recruitment and admissions, faculty hiring and support, student advising, and marketing for the Ed.D. program. In addition, she oversees the Ed.D. program’s six concentrations, ensuring that all students within each concentration receive the advising and support they need within their concentration to progress through their dissertation work.

As a Full Professor, Dr. Peer specializes in health care ethics research, and teaches numerous courses, including classes in health care ethics, ethical leadership, research methods, statistics, and clinical inquiry. Dr. Peer has served the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC), and the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) in multiple leadership roles, and will be inducted in June 2024 into the NATA Hall of Fame for her long-standing contributions to the profession.

Prior to her position as Program Coordinator for the Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership, Dr. Peer oversaw the Athletic Training program at Kent State University, and spearheaded the Athletic Training concentration within the Ed.D. program. She began her career as a clinical practice specialist, working in private clinics and providing healthcare before moving into academic settings. She earned her Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration with a Cognate in Health Care Management from The University of Akron, her Master of Arts in Physical Education from Western Michigan University, and her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education with a Concentration in Athletic Training and a Minor in Education from Kent State University.

Interview Questions

[] Could you please provide an overview of Kent State University’s online Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership? How is this program structured, and what are its key learning outcomes? How does the curriculum optimally prepare students for leadership roles in a wide variety of educational and organizational contexts?

[Dr. Kimberly S. Peer] Kent State University’s Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership is a fully online, cohort-based program that lets students study leadership through several core lenses, including ethics, equity, and social justice across different disciplines. Our program has six concentration areas in Athletic Training, Cultural Foundations, Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Technology, Leadership in Educational Contexts, and Special Education.

As the name indicates, our program’s core is very focused on interprofessional leadership, and students of the same cohort progress through the core together regardless of their chosen concentration. We have students who come in from a wide range of areas, from student services personnel to vice presidents of admission, deans of regional campuses, secondary school teachers, and leadership/administration within larger university systems. We have people who are principals and superintendents, as well as faculty in higher education who want to advance in the academy, so we get students with a wide range of academic and professional experiences.

Our learning outcomes for the program are very focused on producing practitioners because our Ed.D. is a scholarly practitioner degree. We are a member of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) consortium, and we want to encourage an interprofessional collaborative approach in our program. Often higher education in general is seen as working in silos, where different teachers and departments have their own areas that they focus on, and in our program what we are more concerned with is encouraging people to break those walls down and collectively address the issues facing educational institutions at large, from a social justice and a systemic equity perspective.

Those would probably be our two strongest learning outcomes or themes within our program: the cultivation of that scholarly practitioner philosophy and the application of research to problem solving that it begets; and then the collaborative, interprofessional approach to solving the problems of practice that we face in education.

[] With so much diversity within each student cohort, how does the Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership at Kent State University ensure that it builds on each student’s unique professional background and serves all of its students’ individual professional goals?

[Dr. Kimberly S. Peer] That is a great question. That is, I believe, one of the great things about our core curriculum. It has been designed specifically for students to approach the course concepts and coursework through their own unique lens. For example, I teach the ethical leadership course in the program, and we have a project in that course that enables students to address a theory or decision-making model through the lens of their own professional practice, or through the lens of the professional practice they are striving to achieve. So, if they are an adjunct faculty member and they want to become a tenure-track faculty member, they might approach this project through a tenure-track faculty lens.

What Kent State’s program tries to do — and which I believe we do quite well — is help our students build a deep understanding of how problems within education transcend different disciplines, and that the frameworks for solutions to these problems can also transcend disciplines as a result. One does not have to be a formal educator to engage in and apply scholar-practitioner principles towards solving education-related or organizational problems. We want our students to take what they are learning in our classes and bring it to life in real-time in their work setting or their experience.

To provide another example, I have a student who works for an Air Force base as an HR professional. She is working on some professional development programming, and so her approach to the core coursework and assignments will be different than the approach of one of our other students who is a faculty member at a small liberal arts college.

I believe that the core is one of the most illuminating parts of the program. Students get to interact with other professionals from such a wide range of backgrounds, and discuss the differences as well as the common threads between the problems of practice they face in their daily work. As a faculty member, I have learned so much from my students, and I truly enjoy reading their papers because it pushes me to think differently about the problems we face as educators and as leaders. That diversity has been a true asset to our program.

[] Kent State University’s Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership is offered fully online. Could you please elaborate on the online learning technologies that this program uses to deliver course materials and facilitate interactions between students and faculty?

[Dr. Kimberly S. Peer] We use the Canvas system for our course delivery and for all student-instructor and peer-to-peer engagement. This program is 100 percent online and asynchronous, and was developed with the Division of Distance Learning at Kent State University. We worked closely with our distance education experts at Kent State to ensure consistency across all courses within the Ed.D. program, and to ensure that students have a seamless and easy experience navigating through not only the courses but also through discussion boards, assignments, and ways of accessing faculty advising and staff support.

While the required components of the program, such as course lectures and discussions, are all asynchronous to maximize flexibility for our students, the vast majority of whom work full-time while pursuing their degree, our faculty members host virtual office hours and we have many avenues for synchronous communication through Canvas and also through Microsoft Teams.

I meet with students frequently for quick 20-30 minute sessions to discuss their dissertations or to nail down a theoretical approach for a project. Sometimes we will talk for an hour if we need to discuss a topic or a research methodology more in-depth. That kind of faculty support is readily available for students. Discussions boards are also a place where students and faculty can engage in a dialogue, and students can ask questions or talk through ideas.

We are also a very dynamic and feedback-oriented program, where we solicit feedback on how we can make courses, assignments/projects, office hours, and the overall experience more user-friendly for students. Right now, we are doing a program review where our distance education expert team is coming in to review all of our student feedback to see how we can incorporate new technological changes for our next cohort.

[] Prior to writing their dissertation, students of this program must complete a comprehensive examination in the form of a capstone project. What are the parameters for this project, and how does it provide students with an opportunity to apply what they have learned to a concrete and career-relevant deliverable? What research approaches does Kent State University recommend students use to examine their particular topic or issue in education or leadership?

[Dr. Kimberly S. Peer] The capstone project is a virtual project where students create their own website and collect four artifacts during their time in the program. Each of these artifacts has to align with the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate’s (CPED) principles. There are six principles that govern doctorates in education, according to CPED, and students must write a narrative that explains how each of their artifacts aligns with these principles and has helped them become a better interprofessional leader within their field. They must also write a reflection about their strategies for incorporating what they have learned from the program into their dissertation and professional practice moving forward.

From there, students then create a fifth artifact, which is very interesting. The fifth artifact is a mini dissertation proposal, which is chapters one through three of their dissertation, and prepares students for their dissertation proposal defense. Within this dissertation proposal, students outline their problem of practice, their research questions, their methodology or methodologies, and a shortened review of their literature. Once they complete this artifact, they defend their entire portfolio before a faculty committee.

Students’ dissertation committee is comprised of four faculty members. The first is their dissertation chair, who must be in their concentration area. For example, if a student is in the Athletic Training concentration, their chair must be a faculty member in the Athletic Training department. If a student is in the Educational Technology department, their chair must be a faculty member in the Educational Technology department. Typically, the second committee member is also from within the student’s concentration area.

The third committee member can be from any department within the program, and the fourth committee member can be what is called an outside member who can be from outside of the School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration. This is so that students can have a committee member who can provide a different lens, or a 10,000-foot view on their dissertation and practice.

Faculty work with students throughout their enrollment to help them refine their research question and methodology, so that they are well prepared to transition into their dissertation once they complete and pass their comprehensive examination. We wanted the dissertation process to be iterative, and for students to have support from early on in the program.

During each semester, we talk with students about identifying problems of practice within their work setting and spheres of influence. We have them begin the process of collecting literature that is related to their areas of interest and the challenges they see in their field. We introduce them to different data collection methods and encourage them to start thinking about what kinds of methodologies resonate with them. Are they thinking about a mixed methods project, a qualitative or quantitative project, or more of an action research approach?

From their very first year, we meet with students to start talking with them about what their problem of practice might be, so that by the time they get to their portfolio/comprehensive exam and are starting to work on their mini proposal, they have thought it through and talked it out. We let a student’s problem of practice guide their selection of research approach, and support a variety of methodologies, from case studies to historical research to more traditional qualitative and quantitative methods. The nature of our concentrations requires us to look more broadly at research methodologies and to acknowledge that there cannot be just one single approach, but rather a diverse range within interprofessional leadership.

[] For students interested in Kent State University’s online Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Kimberly S. Peer] Students need to know their concentration upon applying to our program. So, a key piece of advice I have for prospective students is to investigate their concentrations of interest and to specifically talk to the faculty members who are in charge of those concentrations.

It is also important that students write a strong personal statement. Do not recycle your master’s level application. Your personal statement must be specific. Make sure that it is scholarly, well-written, and proof-read. Make sure that it is very connected to your concentration. We have competitive admissions and we only take in a certain number of students in each concentration, up to a certain date. Know what you want to study, and write about it well. Write professionally.

Letters of recommendation are also very important. The people who are recommending you should understand what you want to do in your career, and why you want to go back to school and get this degree. They should understand why you want to pursue a doctorate in interprofessional leadership, and be able to tie how they know you and your professional work to how this degree will help you reach your goals.

Our students, as mentioned earlier, come from a diversity of professional backgrounds, but one thing that they have in common is they are all quite academically and professionally successful. They all tend to look quite strong on paper. The personal statement and their interviews are where students get to truly personalize their application — these are the elements that make or break our decision because most of our applicants have a strong GPA.

[] What makes Kent State University’s online Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership unique and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students who want to step into leadership roles within their organization?

[Dr. Kimberly S. Peer] One of our greatest strengths is that Kent State University is a research one institution, so we have a strong research background, and that means that this Ed.D. program is quite rigorous. This program has expectations. Our students are challenged to think differently and to both examine and solve problems differently. They are tasked with learning how to facilitate change both at the everyday level and at the long-term and broader scale levels, though a combination of tactical strategy and scholarly inquiry.

Kent State University has a very strong reputation as a research one university, with rigorous and meaningful doctoral programs. Our graduates can feel confident having our Ed.D. on their curriculum vitae when they are looking for a job or seeking a promotion.

The relationships that students build with faculty and with their peers are another standout part of our program. Students develop invaluable connections with the faculty within their concentrations, and with the students in their cohort and within their concentrations. We have students from around the globe, and that has meant that our students benefit from global perspectives, and that our alumni network is going to have an international reach as our program continues to grow and expand. I am very excited to see how our Ed.D. continues to develop over the coming years.

Thank you, Dr. Peer, for your excellent insight into Kent State University’s uniquely rigorous and globally relevant Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership, and how it can serve future generations of educational and organizational leaders in achieving their goals!