Interview with Michele Gregoire Gill, Ph.D. - Program Coordinator for the Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Central Florida

About Michele Gregoire Gill, Ph.D.: Michele Gregoire Gill is a Professor of Educational Psychology and the Program Coordinator for the Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Central Florida. As Program Coordinator, Dr. Gill oversees the development of the Ed.D.’s curriculum, and also supervises faculty hiring and student recruitment, admissions, and advising. As a scholar of educational psychology, Dr. Gill has applied her research to improving educational outcomes in real academic settings. For example, she founded the Galileo School for Gifted Learning, and has authored the book Millennials’ Guide to K-12 Education: What No One Ever Told You About How to Help Your Child THRIVE in School.

Dr. Gill earned her Master of Arts in Education and her Ph.D., both with a focus in Educational Psychology, from the University of Florida. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), and in 2022 she received the Distinguished Contributions of Applications of Psychology to Education and Training Award from the APA.

Interview Questions

[] Could you please provide an overview of the University of Central Florida’s Online Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes for this program, and how does it empower students to evaluate and improve the efficacy of education programs and initiatives in their place of work and beyond?

[Dr. Michele Gill] This program is unique in that we spend the first year heavily into theory, with two research courses that are tailor-made for the program and which are tied to the theory courses students are taking. For example, I teach the first core course, which is an educational psychology course entitled Facilitating Learning, Development, and Motivation. Students learn about core theories of learning, motivation, and human development so that they can look at their organizations and identify challenges and opportunities.

The companion to this course is a class called Data, Assessment, and Accountability. I work closely with the faculty member who teaches that course to make sure that she is assisting students in developing the complementary skills to excel in my class, and vice versa. For example, students have to write a GAP analysis in my class, and to do so they have to be able to identify measures that have reliability and validity evidence for a proposed study. The faculty member who teaches the data course covers these concepts in reliability and validity, as well as what the good measures/metrics are for understanding particular constructs, etc. Since she and I work together in our courses like that, students see the concepts and practices we each teach as interconnected, rather than siloed.

It is a misconception to think that if you’re a scholar-practitioner, you don’t need theory. Theory allows you to interpret and solve problems. Now, you can interpret and solve problems to contribute to research and theory, and we don’t expect our students to do that. That is the Ph.D. level. We don’t expect our students to advance theory, but we expect them to understand it and its applications so that they can have a powerful impact on their professional spheres of influence. We don’t want students to just go and try to solve or fix a problem from an atheoretical perspective, because theory draws upon the collected knowledge and wisdom of so much scholarship, and it can really drive the efficacy of a program or initiative when used correctly.

In semester two, students take Organizational Theory in Education, a course that builds upon their first two core courses to help them examine complex problems of practice in their organizations. We want our students to understand how to see an education problem using different lenses. For example, one of the theories we include in the curriculum is cognitive load theory. Our students might be in nursing education or health education, they might be athletic trainers, they might be social studies teachers. We’ve had people from industry, such as bankers who lead human resources training. But they all have that common background in that their work concerns optimizing learning environments.

When we introduce the concept of cognitive load, we ask them to look at their organizations and identify, “What are the problems there? Could any of those problems be the result of your team/employees/students experiencing cognitive load? What would that look like? What is going on cognitively, how is information being taught?” So now our students are analyzing their programs from the perspective of cognitive load theory.

Then we switch; I always tell my students that it is like putting on a new pair of glasses. Let us now look at those same problems from a cultural, systemic issue lens. Let’s look at them in terms of the societal influences that are affecting students in that environment. Let’s look at their culture, let’s look at the education laws or the banking laws or their testing environment, the assessments they take. Let’s examine what influences their learning, success, achievement, and performance in their organization.

Take the Swiss psychologist, Piaget, for example—we incorporate his ideas about organizing knowledge. We ask our students to ask questions such as, “Do people in your organization hold deep misconceptions and is there a chance for them to revise their conceptual understanding of what their job entails? Do you give them opportunities to do that? Does the organization give them opportunities or do misconceptions permeate your organization?”

Then, students examine their organizational challenges through a motivation lens. For example, we have students study self-determination theory, and we have them ask questions like, “Does your organization provide the students/clients/trainees with opportunities for autonomy, competence, and relatedness? If they don’t, do you think that’s affecting motivation, engagement, learning, or performance in your organization?”

We have students look at their organization through a variety of motivational lenses. We look at self-efficacy, which is your belief in your ability, your capability of doing the job, whatever that particular job is. And we look at expectancy value theory. Our students and clients– do they believe that if they do X, Y, and Z, they have a chance of success? And then we look at motivation symbolically and politically, from a human resources framework.

We’re not expecting students to advance developmental, organizational, psychological, or motivational theory. But we are giving them lenses in their toolbox to see their organization in a different light. And all the projects in the first year are based on those lenses. Students pick a problem and, as mentioned previously, they conduct a GAP analysis, which is our signature pedagogy for the first year. It’s based on Clark and Estes’ original work, where they take a problem in their organization, and they look at that problem through multiple lenses, and then write up their analyses. So in my class, students look at their organizational challenge through multiple psychological lenses. In the second semester, they look at the problem through multiple organizational lenses.

At this point, students are not trying to change anything, they’re just trying to understand their organization better and build the groundwork for research-based solutions that are relevant to their organization. These GAP analysis papers are scholar-practitioner based. They cannot be published in formal journals—rather, they are reports that they could present to the board or organization leadership to say these are changes we need to make. They are targeted, specific, and actionable.

These papers give our students the chance to step back as an educational expert and say, “I’m looking at key complex problems in our organization and here are some data that can illuminate the issue and pave the way towards a solution. There is some internal data showing that efficacy is low in our employees. And the human resources feedback is showing that people are really burnt out. Based on the research on efficacy and burnout, I propose these solutions.”

These kinds of papers are very different from research papers, which have a broader and more generic reach, where a scholar seeks to understand how to increase efficacy in mathematics at the third grade level across many different schools. Our students are not asking disembodied research questions—their research is embodied in their organization of practice. In fact, students have to enter the program with a target organization in mind; that’s part of the admissions criteria. They have to have an organization in which they’re going to do their research and focus their complex problem of practice.

So the first year is all the foundational course content and work, then students complete their first lab of practice, which leads to their first milestone, which is where students actually complete a targeted project for their identified organization. It will be in the form of an unpaid project, internship, or externship, something where they’re going to get their hands dirty trying to solve or fix something in their organization. Maybe they want to study some data in their organization, maybe they want to create a professional development training. After that first year, students take a core course the fall and the spring, and they also start taking their specialization classes.

One of the strengths of our program I believe is our diligent use of institutional effectiveness data. We survey our students regularly—in the second semester, the fourth semester, the fifth semester, as well as at the end of the program, as we’re always trying to see where we can improve. We also assess various metrics, like how many of our students are passing the milestone, how many are graduating in three years, etc.

One thing we saw from the feedback years ago, was that some students felt they weren’t getting the support they needed on their dissertations. At the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate’s (CPED) annual convenings, colleagues discussed the fact that there’s often no real incentive to be a chair of an Ed.D. dissertation. So, some programs have 10, 20, even 30 students being advised by one person. Some programs even require students to hunt down their own dissertation chair and hope someone will say yes.

When I was revamping UCF’s program, I went to all the programs in the College of Community Innovation and Education at the time and I said, “Do you want to be a part of this Ed.D. program? If you do, you have to promise to provide advising and dissertation support to the students in your area. I also said they had to provide four or five classes that students can take that are after hours or online because most of our students work during the day.

We also required each specialization area to select one faculty member as the program advisor. This advisor would be expected to attend program faculty meetings and agree to be the default chair if students can’t identify a chair. That has made a huge difference because now every one of our students is covered. The faculty we have recruited from the College don’t necessarily have to be a student’s chair—if that student chooses another faculty member as chair, that is fine. But they now have someone watching out for them, a specialization area advisor who can point them in the right direction and connect them with the right people.

The first semester I serve as students’ primary advisor. I meet with all the students as their initial advisor and teach their first core course in the program. By second semester, students meet with their specialization area advisor to start discussing which courses they will take to comprise their specialization.

In terms of our formal specializations, we have the Curriculum and Instruction specialization, which is mostly for K-12 education leaders, but which can also be for higher ed, as it includes general curriculum theory. Educational Psychology, which delves into the learning sciences, English Language Arts, which is mostly K-12 teachers, and Exceptional Student Education, which is mostly K-12, although we get people who are interested in higher ed there too.

We also offer Gifted Education, Health & Human Performance, Instructional Design and Technology, Reading Education, which is K-12 focused, Social Science Education, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Methodology, Measurement, and Analysis (which focuses on data analytics and research methods). Some of our specializations come with a certificate, which can benefit students who need a certificate in order to receive a pay bump in their district.

We have incredible faculty heading our specializations. For example, Dr. Karen Biraimah, who heads the Global, International, and Comparative Education specialization, is amazing. She has a partnership with a university in Botswana, and she’s brought some of our students to Africa as part of their specialization program.

We are committed to continuous improvement and regularly add to and update our course and specialization offerings. For instance, the Health and Human Performance specialization area is brand new. We did a pilot test of the program, and it’s working out great. Faculty come from a different College at UCF, and many of our students come in as trainers who don’t want to be Ph.D. researchers in health and human performance, but rather want to teach others about health and human performance. They want to train P.E. teachers or teach physical education or human performance in a university or community college setting.

What makes our program particularly innovative is that we’re personalized. Right now, we are only admitting up to 25 students per cohort, which is why I believe we can provide such a customized experience for each of our students. From the get-go, we talk with them and ask them, “What do you want? Where do you see yourself making a difference? What career do you want to have in three years?” And as they answer our questions, we dig deeper and get more specific: “Do you see yourself as leadership in your program? Do you want to make the switch to higher ed? Or do you see yourself more as a consultant who solves diverse problems in different contexts?”

Through these conversations, we help students tailor their plan of study to courses that are relevant to them. Our program is unique in that our specializations are not tracks—students don’t have to take all of the courses in a particular specialization. We work with them to craft a program of study that truly reflects what they need and want to learn.

For example, a few years ago, I had a student who said, “I have a really strong psych background,” and she did. She told me, “I want to get better at statistical analyses, and gain a stronger research background.” Instead of having her take the psych courses in her specialization, which she had already effectively taken, we helped her craft a course of study that allowed her to become a much better methodologist to advance her career goals. We’ve had other people who said, “I really need the psych background and I want to do that,” so they take the full sequence. And then we’ve had other students who said, “I want to have some instructional design experience in my back pocket.” So we let them take one or two instructional design courses.

We even allow students to personalize the research sequence they take. After students take those beginning research courses that are our core courses that we’ve designed for them, their final research course is an elective in the research methodology program that is related to the dissertation question they’re asking. So if students are asking a qualitative research question, they can take ethnographic research or a specialized advanced qualitative research course. If they want to use a survey, they take a survey design class.

One of my students wanted to do structural equation modeling, which is very advanced–we never get Ed.D. students wanting to do that. But she was a Ph.D. student from a former university, she had the skills and background, and we were able to offer her that. Whereas if she went to a different Ed.D. program, she’d have to take courses in what the program’s signature pedagogy was. She wants to be a professor and do research, and she has the background, training, and skills to do so, so we opened the door for her to do more advanced work than the majority of our Ed.D. students do.

This kind of customizability and heavy advising means that a couple core faculty and I are really carrying a lot, which can be difficult, but we love it, and we also have great support from our other faculty when we need it. Our team is super strong, and that is a large part of how we make our program so successful from the student support standpoint. Every one of our specialization advisors could do my job–they’ve been vetted and are committed. I hosted a retreat for us at a retreat center where we had deep discussions about the program, and we established relationships with each other, so we really care about each other and about the program.

In addition, within each specialization, students have tons of flexibility in how they apply what they have learned. We’ve had students with jobs in the military come through our program, nurses, students in hospitality management, bankers, and even wellness consultants get their education doctorate here at UCF.

We are very open to unique partnerships with different faculty from different schools and departments, and this has even given us opportunities to provide funding for some of our students. We just added a K-8 math specialization to our program. One of our faculty members wrote an NSF grant for this area, which was funded. Now we are funding 14 local teachers to get their doctorate in mathematics education.

Similarly, several years ago we had a special ed grant partnership where one of our faculty members recruited special education professionals, such as assistant principals, who wanted to get their doctorate. We won the grant, which paid for students to come get their doctorate. Being open to faculty who want to forge creative partnerships with us enables us to benefit our students even more.

[] Could you please elaborate on the online learning technologies the University of Central Florida’s Online Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction uses to deliver course materials and facilitate interaction between students and faculty?

[Dr. Michele Gill] Our core classes for our online program are all synchronous live. I take mentorship of students very seriously, and this real-time solving of problems is key to that process. For example, last night we met in one of the core classes, and students were working on a paper where they needed a lot of scaffolding. We conducted a live video work session where students wrote in small groups, and then I would visit each group and students would read me what they wrote. I could provide them with real-time feedback that they could incorporate in the moment and ask me follow-up questions immediately. And as they were also in small groups, the groups were giving them feedback as well.

The specialization classes can be asynchronous, synchronous, or a combination of both—we leave it up to the faculty member who is teaching the course. We’ve even given students the option of taking some classes face-to-face, for those who want to come to campus. But as we were getting students from Miami and Jacksonville and Tampa, and it’s a burden for them to drive here every week, our core and specialization classes are available online, to put less stress on our students.

One thing that our local students should note—if they want to attend some classes or discussion sections in person, they cannot apply through UCF Online. If you apply through UCF Online then you must take only the online courses, synchronous or asynchronous, but you can’t come to campus for classes. The benefit of being a fully online student, however, is you get to save on the campus-related fees, such as the recreation center fee and other miscellaneous fees. Online is a cheaper option, so for our students who are further away, we recommend they take that. But the local students are welcome to pay the extra fees and come to campus for as many in-person classes as they like, and to use the campus resources in-person.

For our learning management system, we use Canvas, but we also have access at UCF to the Pegasus Innovation Lab, which is run by one of our Ed.D. alumni. It’s super exciting—faculty in our program sign up to be beta testers for every cool, fun new learning technology, as long as we think it’s going to increase student engagement. We have tested Engagli, InSpace, and other innovative alternatives to Zoom. We are also trying out this new gamified discussion platform called Yellowdig, which is an internal tool for students to build community within their cohort online. It’s just for the class itself but you can upload videos, documents, and audio files, and it looks like a typical social media site.

Our department chair also encouraged our program faculty to go through what’s called “10 Wednesdays of Learning” through UCF’s Center for Distributed Learning. Several of our faculty went through that. I attended many of these sessions, where we learned about using lightboard videos, and incorporating graphics and video animations and even drones into our courses to make them come alive. UCF is one of the top universities for innovation, and our online courses are exciting and dynamic because of that.

Before we transitioned our program completely online, we had something called professional seminars (ProSems). Before COVID, students would meet once a semester after work, and we’d have a speaker come give a talk, or we’d have some kind of deep-dive lesson. What we have found is that there are all kinds of implicit skills in a doctoral program. If you’re in a Ph.D. program, you’re probably in someone’s lab and they’re probably having lab meetings and they’re sharing things like, “Here’s how you publish, or here’s how you review a paper.” Students absorb these essential skills just by being in this lab-based environment. But with the Ed.D., with it being a commuter kind of class culture, you generally go to class and that’s it. There’s nothing else; you’re not hanging out on campus, even in a campus-based program.

Since our students work full-time, how do you teach those implicit skills? When COVID came, we adapted the ProSems by doing them online, but we realized that we were missing the opportunity to foster community. When we transitioned our program fully online, we knew that it would be a hard ask to require students to come to campus every semester for a ProSem. But what if we did a one-day, in-person intensive? We just implemented such an endeavor this past year, and it was a huge success. We made it a one-day intensive to ensure that our students wouldn’t have to pay extra costs for lodging; they could drive in from Jacksonville, which is about two hours, or Tampa, two and a half hours, and come in for the day and then leave, as the event is done by about 4:00 pm.

We jam-packed the intensive day with events. We had alumni, faculty, industry folks, and even current students who ran panels and sessions, and students were able to sign up for sessions of interest to them. All students got a pamphlet outlining where everything was going to be, and we hosted it at the Mortgage International Reading Center, which gave it a professional conference feel. Our department chair found funds for us to provide students with coffee and breakfast, and it was an amazing opportunity for different cohorts to meet each other and their advisors.

During the pandemic, none of these students had been able to meet their peers and faculty in-person. We allotted time for the advisors to go out to lunch with their advisees. At lunch, everybody got to sit with their specialization area advisor and meet their peers in the same specialization and talk to each other. Key alumni gave presentations on topics such as how to write your dissertation, how to manage your time, and how to be successful in the program. One of my colleagues, who worked in Washington, D.C. and has connections to several grant organizations, donated her time to review students’ CVs and advise them on building their CVs.

We had an alumni panel where we didn’t have any faculty there, by design. We wanted it to be only alumni and students, and for it to be a kind of “Ask Us Anything” forum format. Our students loved it. Alumni told them about their own pitfalls during the program, and how to navigate problems.

We also hosted a big panel of different faculty where students could ask us a multitude of questions about our research. Afterwards, they were able to meet all of us, not just their own advisor, and they could talk with us to see whether our field of research piqued their interest. These kinds of interactions are so enriching and productive, particularly because they can help students assemble the best dissertation committee for their needs. It can also forge connections and future research collaborations—I have had students approach me after these sessions to talk about some of the research I’ve been doing and their interest in being a part of one of my research endeavors.

For students who couldn’t come, we had detailed notes taken. It was not a kind of place you could record because it was an open room with different sitting areas and discussions going on simultaneously. But we did have detailed notes and handouts sent to everybody.

[] The University of Central Florida’s Online Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction requires the completion of a Laboratory of Practice experience prior to students’ work on their Dissertation in Practice (DiP). What does the Laboratory of Practice entail, and how does it help prepare students for their work on their Dissertation in Practice? On a related note, what kinds of faculty support do students receive during their work on their Dissertation?

[Dr. Michele Gill] Almost all of our students come in as employees of an organization, and they really have a very narrow view of what the problems are in their organization. Before our students decide on their dissertation topic, we want them to broaden their view. We want them to have a deeper understanding of their organization and the problems in their organization–not just from a research perspective, but also from a practical perspective.

We ask our students early on, “What kind of future career do you want? What do you want to gain experience in that you don’t have already?” And what I am so proud of about our program is that we can really respond to the stated interests and goals of our students, in a highly individualized and caring way.

We have some students who say, “I’m a teacher, or I am a coach, but I dream of one day being a faculty member in higher education.” We encourage those students to shadow a faculty member and assist in teaching a course in the summer. That faculty member meets with them regularly, and talks about instructional decision making, curriculum design, learning assessments, etc. Those students get to see what it’s like on the back end of teaching an undergraduate course.

We’ve had students who are teachers who want to go into school administration, or work in their district office. For them, their lab of practice often involves completing a project in collaboration with their principal or for the district office. We work with each student in our program individually to make sure that they are getting the mentorship, professional development, and academic training they need to reach their professional aspirations. One example that comes to mind is a student of ours who, as a result of her dissertation, was hired by her school district’s office. They loved the work she did for them, and they ended up hiring her.

We are trying to position all of our students for successful careers. What we want is for our students to have a broader view of the education field, their potential careers and career paths, and the problems that need to be solved.

If I could use one word to describe our whole program and its approach to the dissertation, it would be “personalized.” Many Ed.D. programs, to reduce stress on the faculty, pick one signature pedagogy—action research, or program evaluation, or improvement science. We don’t–we let students focus on whatever methodology and signature pedagogy that is going to answer the research questions they have. That is why we spend that first year, including the lab of practice, helping students ask good questions. We don’t think you can come up with a good dissertation until you’re asking good questions.

Students’ questions are typically very limited and yet overly general in that first semester, or they’re questions that have already been answered. They will be questions such as, “Are my students from low-income neighborhoods struggling with their reading?” Yes, we know that they are, now let’s think about what you can do to help support these students. Let’s not just research whether or not under-resourced students struggle in school—we know the answer to that already.

What are we going to do about it? This is where the personalized approach comes in—we help our students ask good questions, after which they complete their first milestone, which is that GAP analysis at their organization. Then year two is all about preparing the groundwork for their dissertation. Year two is concerned with developing a strong proposal, and to have it approved by one’s dissertation chair, which is milestone two. Milestone three is having your whole committee agree on your proposal, which involves reading and incorporating their feedback across multiple drafts.

We have faculty be very involved in their students’ early work on their dissertation, providing intensive feedback, guidance, and relevant readings for students to complete. The idea is that if you get the committee involved early at this proposal/prospectus stage, you should be able to have a solid dissertation that your whole committee will be behind because you’ve included them and their feedback, comments, and suggestions early in the process.

[] What role does mentorship play in the University of Central Florida’s Online Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems while in the program? More broadly, is there anything you would like students to know about the University of Central Florida’s College of Community Innovation and Education, such as its mission or additional resources that the College offers its online students?

[Dr. Michele Gill] We’ve covered a bit of the mentorship element that is so core to our program in the earlier questions, so I’ll go into some of the additional advising avenues and mentorship structures that we have in place. We just formed a new advisory board for the program, mostly alumni who hold prominent positions of leadership in their communities and workplaces. One is the Superintendent of Schools for Orange County. She’s on our advisory board, and so now she is going to help mentor some of our Ed.D. students, which I’m so excited about.

We also incorporate lab of practice mentors. In our labs of practice, students have field mentors, who are people in the field who serve as their advisors on-the-ground, and who report back to us on how our students are doing. These support structures are in addition to their faculty dissertation chair and committee. Additionally, in our college we have a graduate affairs office, and we are assigned our own liaison there who is amazing. She does a lot of work helping students and connecting them with resources. At the university level, the Graduate School offers classes for students on topics such as teaching at the university level, mental health and wellness, avoiding plagiarism, etc.

Another fantastic resource for students is the statistics and research lab in our college, which helps students get individualized support and mentoring on the statistical elements of their research questions. We have a writing center where students can be mentored in their writing skills. All of these programs and services are also available online. And in addition to students’ regular meetings with their faculty advisors, our program has a dedicated graduate teaching assistant who meets with our students to help with program-related questions.

[] For students interested in the University of Central Florida’s Online Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Michele Gill] We are strongly committed to giving people the opportunity to earn the doctorate they need to advance their careers or achieve the impact that they want to make. We don’t have any cutoff GPA or GRE scores, and we are in the process of getting rid of the GRE requirement because we think it reduces access due to biases in testing. But the one skill students really need to be successful, the one we hold high and uncompromising standards on, is writing. They have to have skills in scholarly writing.

The students who struggle the most are those who can’t adapt to this kind of writing. Students have to know how to identify and incorporate research to support their argument–anybody with a doctorate needs to be able to do that. All scholar practitioners, even if they never ever go into higher ed, need to become well-versed in this kind of scientific, academic, argument-based writing. Whether they are presenting a report or pitching an action plan to a board, students need to show that research supports their recommendations. They have to be able to be a critical consumer of research and be able to share and interpret that research.

Students don’t have to be experts in this type of writing when they first enroll, but they have to have the capability of learning that. What we used to do is look at the GRE writing score as an indicator of their potential for doing that. Now that our faculty has voted to waive the GRE requirement, we will likely have students submit a writing sample. So writing is really important. On a related note to that, we look closely at students’ application essays to see, “Is this program a good fit for them?” We sometimes get people who just want the doctorate to be called doctor. Those applicants are often a poor fit for the program because their motivation to complete the hard work involved isn’t sustained by just wanting a degree.

The Ed.D. is a big sacrifice—students are working at least 20 hours a week on their coursework and research; it’s not enough to sacrifice your family and your life just to have some letters after your name. Students have to want the degree because it’s going to advance them into a place where they can make a difference.

Our philosophy in the program is that each of us has a gift or talent to give the world. Some of us need those credentials to be able to get access to spaces where we can make a difference. That’s what I want–to make sure we give access to individuals who in turn want to increase accessibility and equity in education within their spheres of influence. We look for change makers who make it clear that the degree is going to help them have access to do the things they want to do with their career. That’s what’s very compelling to faculty.

We also don’t want applicants to come right after their bachelor’s degree. They have to have a master’s degree and, ideally, some work experience.

[] What makes the University of Central Florida’s Online Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction unique and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students? How does the program prepare students for advanced careers in education leadership across diverse settings?

[Dr. Michele Gill] In one word, “personalization.” We intentionally revised the program to be like this. I became program coordinator in 2017, and worked with faculty to help make the program even more closely aligned with the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate’s principles.

Our courses are mainly live to increase interactivity, so students get a chance to meet their cohort. We also, as mentioned previously, provide many opportunities for students to meet and develop strong bonds online and in-person, and we’ve seen those connections endure long after students graduate. It is a students-first program, in that we give students reasonable choices about the course work and research they do. We ask them how they want to advance, and we support them in their own individual path to success. We see these people as change makers, and we ask ourselves, “How can we be there to help you get to where you need to be to make those changes?”

When I first took over this program, I made it my mission to increase students’ sense of connection and efficacy in the program. It’s been a tough but rewarding journey. I do think we’ve met our goals of being personalized and creating change makers. If you look at our alumni, it is immensely gratifying see these motivated students making a difference in the world. That is what continues to fuel and inspire me to do this work every day.

Thank you, Dr. Gill, for your excellent insight into the University of Central Florida’s incredible and highly student-centric Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction!