Interview with Seung Won Yoon, Ph.D. - Coordinator of the Doctoral Program in Higher Education at Texas A&M University-Commerce

About Seung Won Yoon, Ph.D.: Seung Won Yoon is the Coordinator of the Doctoral Program in Higher Education at Texas A&M University-Commerce. As Coordinator, he works very closely with other faculty members to continuously improve the curriculum, student experiences, quality of teaching, learning, and scholarship, and key outcomes including time to and rates of degree completion and graduation. Dr. Yoon’s research focuses on connecting leadership, learning/knowledge sharing, and workplace behaviors using social network analysis, data science, and multivariate statistics. He is also a Full Professor, the university faculty representative for the SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges), and Associate Editor for the Human Resource Development Quarterly (HRDQ, SSCI by Wiley). He teaches courses in organizational leadership, program evaluation, institutional effectiveness, introduction to higher education, and statistics.

Dr. Yoon received his undergraduate degree in English Language & Literature at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) in Seoul, South Korea, and his Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language and Doctorate in Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Interview Questions

[] May we have an overview of Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Online Ed.D. in Higher Education (HIED)? What are the key learning outcomes for this program, and how does it prepare students to lead educational programming and improvements, engage in education policy advocacy, and oversee student affairs in higher education?

[Dr. Yoon] Our program focuses on developing doctoral students as an exemplary leader administrator or faculty in higher education, particularly in 2-yr and 4-yr colleges. Our main student population includes administrators and staff members of higher education, community college faculty members, K12 or industry professionals who want to transition into higher education, and students who aspire to have a teaching or administrative career in higher education.

Our core courses focus on acquiring fundamental knowledge about the role of higher education, how it runs, who are key stakeholders and how to work with them, and how core issues and needs can become more specific to dissertation research ideas. Our electives cover all major areas of practice, such as higher education finance, institutional effectiveness/accreditation assessments, adult learning, diversity, policy issues, regulations, student affairs, organizational leadership, curriculum, teaching and learning, community college, technologies, and more. We also offer a course in internship. The internship course can be substituted if the student works full time in higher education already. In that course, students work with an experienced leader to gain authentic work experiences related to a higher education career, such as teaching, training, materials development, or working with students or community partners. Course faculty and the Department also assist with site selection upon requests. Special topics are also frequently used to make our curriculum most relevant and useful for current trends and demands.

[] Could you please elaborate on the online learning technologies that Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Online Ed.D. in Higher Education uses to deliver course materials and facilitate interactions between students and faculty?

[Dr. Yoon] The University uses D2L, one of the leading course/learning management systems (C/LMS) for course delivery. All courses are asynchronous. Faculty offer office hours at least three times spread throughout the week and many use a virtual conferencing tool, such as Zoom or Skype for office hours or mentoring. Students can access them easily through on-campus or off-campus meetings as well. Virtual conferencing tool and off-campus meetings are actively utilized while students are writing their dissertation.

One optional face-to-face orientation (also can be accessed through virtual participation) is offered at the beginning of Fall semester. To minimize travel, only the comprehensive exam (taken toward the end of coursework) and the proposal and final defense require on-campus presence. If special arrangements need to be made, we always do our best to accommodate the student’s particular needs.

[] Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Online Ed.D. in Higher Education requires the completion of a Dissertation. What does the Dissertation involve, what processes do students take to complete it, and what kinds of faculty/peer support do they receive during their work?

[Dr. Yoon] Because of our size strength (eight full time tenure track faculty members in the Higher Ed. Program), our research tools courses are specifically designed for our doctoral students. There are two levels (introductory and advanced) of quantitative and qualitative research methods courses. Introductory level courses are required, and one advanced level course is required depending on the student’s dissertation design. Additional courses such as literature review and doctoral proseminar are offered for students to further integrate them with research tools courses.

Our curriculum committee also identify subject courses that can help the students explore and narrow down their potential dissertation topics. Dissertation topic examples include student retention, first year experiences, student engagement, faculty-student interaction, dual credit, online learning, adult/non-traditional students, leadership influence, and many more. From the beginning of coursework, each student works closely with his/her faculty advisor to plan his/her coursework. In the fall, we conduct an annual progress review for every student and communicate with a progress status/recommendation email.

[] What role does faculty mentorship play in Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Online Ed.D. in Higher Education? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems while they are enrolled?

[Dr. Yoon] We take student mentoring very seriously. Faculty advisors are assigned right away upon admission. Communications from me and the faculty advisor start from identifying the student’s short, mid, and long-term career goals and needs, and which channel (me, faculty advisor, and university resources (e.g., annual graduate research symposium)) can be utilized. Dissertation committee is formed around the time students take the comprehensive exam, toward the end of their coursework.

Students are explicitly encouraged to find research buddies and work together during and after coursework, and informal peer groups are commonly used in 718, the dissertation writing course. Our online students also have access to various university resources including the writing center, online library that subscribes major databases, and librarians (for searching journal articles and dissertations).

[] For students interested in Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Online Ed.D. in Higher Education, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Yoon] Personal statement (in our case, a short writing sample) is one document we review very closely – every doctoral advisor reviews each and every application. Relevance, fit, and potential usefulness of the program to the student’s goals are what we look for. Although past or present Higher Ed work experiences are important and helpful, we also have students who want to transition into a higher education setting. We still feel that your personal statement must clearly show how and why a doctorate in higher education from us is relevant and very important for your career goals and needs.

We also require two letters of recommendation from administrators or faculty holding a doctoral degree. The university has a very easy to utilize online application submission system, called ApplyTexas. Admission is on a rolling basis, and we process applications promptly.

[] What makes Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Online Ed.D. in Higher Education unique and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students? How does this program prepare students for advanced careers in higher education administration, program development, and improvement?

[Dr. Yoon] We are one of the largest higher education programs in the country. Our doctoral program was the first doctorate offered by the University in 1962 and ranks second in Texas in the preparation of college presidents and chief academic officers (Leist & Travis, 2013). Currently, there are eight tenured/tenure-track faculty members in the Higher Ed. Doctoral program. Together with research tools courses specific to our program students only, this means greater numbers and availability of courses and faculty expertise to assist with various dissertation topics.

All faculty members actively publish and play various leadership roles within communities or professional associations. Our alumni are many and distributed throughout the DFW area, state, and many other regions. The University and the program are very student-centered – you will see this from our prompt communications and responses right from the application inquiry. Last but not least, we also offer a Master’s degree in Higher Education with two emphases, one in administration and the other in college teaching.

Thank you, Dr. Yoon, for your excellent insight into Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Online Ed.D. in Higher Education!