Interview with Ric Dressen, Ed.D. - Chair of the Department of Doctoral Studies in Education at Concordia University, St. Paul

About Ric Dressen, Ed.D.: Ric Dressen is the Chair of the Department of Doctoral Studies in Education at Concordia University, St. Paul. As Chair, he oversees curriculum development, student recruitment, and student advising for Concordia University’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. He also teaches graduate courses as an Assistant Professor, including courses in organizational theory, public policy, and the foundational leadership course in the Ed.D. program.

Prior to his career in higher education, Dr. Dressen served as a superintendent for school districts throughout Minnesota, including Edina Public Schools, Alexandria Public Schools, and Waconia Public Schools. He also served as a principal for several schools in this same state. During this time, he also created and chaired The Superintendency Institute, to advance the mission of improving school superintendents and education systems leadership in Minnesota.

Dr. Dressen earned his Doctorate of Educational Administration from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and his Education Specialist Degree from St. Cloud University in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Interview Questions

[] May we have an overview of Concordia University, St. Paul’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership? What are the key learning outcomes for this program, and how does it prepare students for a wide variety of roles in education, advanced academic research, curriculum development and assessment, and educational outcomes improvement?

[Dr. Dressen] The Ed.D. in Educational Leadership is an applied practitioner doctoral degree. The program’s focus is developing the student’s talent and skills for leadership opportunities in whatever career path they pursue. Our foundation is built around the belief that students need to have a very well-defined leadership mission and value statements in order to build effective leadership strategies. We work with them to identify key applications and tools so they can be successful in moving organizations, communities, and systems forward.

Research and data analysis play an important role in the program. It blends scholarship and leadership learning through the 17 seven-week online courses that are asynchronous and synchronous. Students experience learning in a continuous course flow as a cohort. Classes range from seven to 16 students; the small class size ensures each student receives personal attention and individualized support from the professors.

Our program supports students in creating a personal leadership profile. This profile includes a leadership mission statement which guides the student’s work into the future. Students build upon the profile as they move through their coursework, defining and developing who they are as leaders, including in their research learning.

Throughout the program, students work on their dissertation project. As they complete the required 17 courses–which takes a little over two years–students will have accomplished a draft of their first three chapters of the five chapter dissertation.

Students in our program come from a variety of career paths, including healthcare, government, military, school leadership, higher education, business, law enforcement, and nonprofit organizations. The wide array of career experiences and goals enriches discussion and learning in course sessions. The online course access allows students throughout the world, including the United States, to attend and participate in the doctorate program. Uniting the many diverse career paths and learning locations as a cohort enhances the learning outcomes of every student.

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

[Dr. Dressen] The program accesses the Blackboard Learn management system. Each week students meet in a synchronous video-based session. They continue learning in between weekly sessions through online asynchronous discussion postings and video interactions. The learning is guided by additional resources and materials available on each course’s Blackboard Learn site.

Students also have opportunities to interact with faculty members and colleagues through available video access on the Blackboard Learn system. The value of building a strong learning community among the cohort members and faculty is stressed throughout the doctorate experience.

The program includes two required residencies on the Concordia University, St. Paul campus. The residencies are five days in length and are held during the third week of July. These residencies allow students to work closely with their dissertation committee and to personally connect with their instructors, particularly their dissertation chairs. During each residency, students enrich their leadership profile and form bonds with their fellow cohort members.

[] Concordia University, St. Paul’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership requires the completion of a dissertation, as well as a Leadership Profile and Portfolio. What does this Project involve, what process do students take to complete it, and what kinds of faculty/peer support do they receive during their work?

[Dr. Dressen] Our dissertation requirement follows a standard capstone format: the first chapter frames the area of study; the second chapter is the review of literature; the third chapter outlines the approach for the student’s study; the fourth chapter provides the summary of the completed study’s findings; finally, the fifth chapter interprets the study’s findings and provides recommendations based on the findings.

The dissertation model provides flexibility in terms of the type of research conducted and the approach to research. A majority of students’ research is in the qualitative arena. Quantitative research and project-based studies have also been completed by students. We are responsive to the students’ research needs and priorities. Our program is designed for students to complete the first three chapters of their dissertation during their first two years in the program. This approach places students on a pathway to completing their degree within four years.

The topic of the dissertation aligns with each student’s leadership goals, identified passion, and/or area of strong interest. It is their individual interests and professional goals that shape the dissertation work–the research and their coursework help develop their desired dissertation topic. Our students have explored many topics from “mobile devices in the classroom” to “the impact student interest surveys have on how school administrators lead or shape a graduate program.”

The leadership profile is a framework which guides students in assessing who they are as leaders and where they want to evolve. The program’s coursework is grounded in its mission. The mission is to develop equity-focused, ethically-driven, reflective servant leaders through responsive, relevant and real learning experiences. Throughout the course work, students learn and apply leadership strategies and tools which place their personal leadership mission statement into action.

Each student has a mentor-coach in the program. The mentor supports the student’s individual leadership development and conducts check-ins to bolster identified leadership and scholarship goals. A dissertation chair and committee provide oversight and assistance while the student is proceeding through the dissertation process.

The faculty is committed to staying connected with students after graduation to mentor and support them into the future. This commitment includes providing complimentary professional development and networking opportunities. Our motto is, “Once you become part of the Concordia St. Paul family, you are always part of the Concordia family”.

[] What role does faculty mentorship play in Concordia University, St. Paul’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. Dressen] Our faculty and adjunct instructors take pride in addressing the personal leadership and scholarship needs of our students. The program has a limited student enrollment to ensure faculty build a working relationship with each student. Our support provides personal coaching in the student’s professional life and in helping them balance graduate school with life experiences. A doctorate program can be stressful; our program incorporates personal health and wellness into the leadership courses.

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

[Dr. Dressen] We seek students desiring to bring their learning and knowledge into the program’s coursework setting. Students demonstrating initiative and a desire to learn and contribute in a collaborative online setting are valued in the application process. The Ed.D in Educational Leadership program is a team experience enhanced by collegial learning among the students and faculty.

The application components include: graduate school transcripts, a professional resume, and graduate-level writing samples. The application also requires the submittal of three letters of recommendation.

The program does not require the completion of any standardized tests for admission. A final step in the program admission process involves a personal online interview. The final acceptance decision is based on the collected data.

[] What makes Concordia University, St. Paul’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 strategic organizational leadership, curriculum assessment and improvement, and educational leadership?

[Dr. Dressen] The program is designed to team faculty with students in reaching each student’s leadership goals. Students receiving a doctorate degree from Concordia St. Paul will graduate with a personal leadership profile website that serves as a foundation for any career option they choose to pursue. The dissertation brings research alive and allows students to grow their expertise in an area of leadership to “make a difference in the world.”

The coursework and instructional support provided ensures each student can live the vision of “transforming communities through educational leadership.” This dynamic and applied learning experience will maximize each student’s leadership talents, preparing them for endless leadership opportunities into the future.

The doctorate program is competitively priced, both regionally and nationally. Concordia St. Paul provides a four-year pathway to completing the educational leadership doctorate degree. Our program has a mentorship model, a support structure and a personal outreach for every graduate to be a mission-driven servant leader at every level in every setting for every situation.

Thank you, Dr. Dressen, for your excellent insight into Concordia University, St. Paul’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership!