UWA seeks SACS approval for first doctoral program

Published 10:42 am Tuesday, January 16, 2018

UWA: With approval, degree would be first of its kind in U.S.

The University of West Alabama has announced plans for offering its first doctoral program in the near future. Pending approval from its accrediting body, UWA will soon offer through its Julia S. Tutwiler College of Education a unique Ed.D. in rural education.

The proposed program will offer two tracks to best meet the needs of educators. The teaching and learning track is designed for teacher leaders in a variety of settings, instructional coaches, directors, team leaders, and lead teachers. A track for organizational change and leadership is designed for curriculum leaders, instructional leaders in a variety of settings, directors, team leaders, lead teachers, higher education leaders, or leaders of non-profit organizations.

“ACHE’s approval of our Ed.D. in Rural Education is outstanding news for our university,” said UWA President Ken Tucker. “This innovative and unique doctoral program, the only one of its kind in the nation, has the potential of being a national model for other universities in rural environments.”

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The University received approval from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education in early December, and the proposed degree program will go before the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges in the summer of 2018. Should SACS approve the proposed degree program, UWA will begin offering the Ed.D. in rural education in the fall of 2018.

“The entire UWA family is excited about our unique doctorate of education degree in rural education and are very thankful to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education for their support and approval,” Tucker said. “Pending SACS approval, this will be the first and only doctoral degree in our university’s history.”

The proposed program is geared toward working adults, with courses created in conjunction with partner schools in an effort to provide relevant experiences unique to rural education.

According to dean of the College, the proposed degree offering answers a growing demand from both within the UWA community and beyond.

“The demand from our current students and alumni for an advanced degree such as a doctoral program has been an ongoing request for the last several years,” explained Dr. Jan Miller, dean of education at UWA. “It is common practice for an advanced graduate student to want to continue his or her education. Our current students, alumni and prospective students have expressed their excitement about the opportunity to learn and to network with others throughout the state and the nation to improve rural education and rural communities.”

Miller said that the plan for an advanced degree in rural education has developed as part of the college’s commitment to meeting the region’s greatest needs with the unique tools and programs necessary.

“UWA’s Ed.D. in rural education is our response to a growing demand to educate highly qualified professionals trained in rural K-12 education and trained in better understanding the dynamics within rural communities,” Miller said. “Thriving rural communities need thriving rural schools.”

UWA’s commitment to rural education has continually grown over recent years, including the establishment of the Black Belt Teaching Corps, partnerships with the National Rural Education Association and the Rural Schools Collaborative, a position as the Alabama Affiliate for Rural Education, and a broad slate of programs and initiatives designed to equip rural educators. The college is a Teacher Quality Partnership grant recipient, awarded $3.3 million for training the region’s best educators.

“Dr. Jan Miller, dean of the College of Education and Online Programs, and Dr. B.J. Kimbrough, dean of Graduate Studies, were the primary architects of the proposal and deserve accolades on the excellent work they did,” Tucker said. “This degree, once approved by SACSCOC, will align nicely with that part of our mission which addresses rural education and rural economic and workforce development.”

UWA Provost Dr. Tim Edwards said that the program offering brings a new opportunity to the region and to the nation.

“This new doctoral program in rural education has transformative potential for this institution and this region,” Edwards said. “As our graduate dean, Dr. Kimbrough, says, ‘It’s a game changer.’ And it truly is. But really it’s just one more aspect of a larger transformational vision President Tucker has charged our university with realizing. Exciting times are ahead at UWA.”

For more information on UWA’s plans for offering an Ed.D. in rural education pending approval from SACS, please contact College of Education Dean Dr. Jan Miller at jmiller@uwa.edu.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, January 10 issue of the Demopolis Times.)