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Comments from Higher Education Program Graduates

In the spring of 2012, we began a process to provide more useful information to those who might be interested in our graduate degree programs in higher education. One of the recommendations from our current students was that we add comments from our graduates.

In the summer of 2012, an email was sent to graduates of the three degree programs in higher education (i.e., M.A., Ed.D., and Ph.D.) asking them to comment on their degree. The request asked them to take a few minutes to compose a couple sentences about the degree program and to comment about how the degree in higher education has been useful in their career.

The comments below, edited in some cases for length, are what they said.

“It’s hard to imagine a better place to study the complexity of higher education than at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Due to the breadth of fields studied and offered at the University of Minnesota, as a graduate student, hands-on-access to even the most obscure facets of higher education seemed to be at your fingertips.

The ability to find innovative solutions while accounting for all parties and policies involved is a skill not easily obtained though extremely valuable in administration. I feel confident that the Higher Education program at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has greatly increased my ability to not only understand complex issues but to be an integral player in developing and implementing sound policy in pursuit of the goals established by higher education institutions.

One of the greatest qualities I found in the Higher Education program through the OLPD department at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was the breadth of knowledge and skill development. Through the program, I was able to attain skills which have dramatically increased my perspective and ability to take part in complex problem solving and the continued innovation of higher education.”

Aaron Austin, M.A. 2012

“Having just completed my dissertation, I look back on my five years in the Higher Education program with wonderful memories and a lot of gratitude. From orientation through completion, the program kept me moving on a clear, organized, and challenging pathway. It was exciting, and I would recommend it to others looking to grow and become more effective and marketable in the field.

The course of study is exceedingly well designed, traversing the history of U.S. higher education, policy, student development, organizational leadership, and more. The material we covered included both established literature and the best of emerging research and theory. I found the learning very directly applicable to my work, first as a vice president of a small college and later as executive director of a college scholarship foundation

The faculty demonstrated a passion for teaching, are highly accessible and responsive to students, all while conducting important scholarship and service in their areas of interest. My adviser was steadfastly supportive and yet managed to push me beyond what I thought were my limitations as a researcher.

Coming into the department as a full-time professional with three kids at home, I was sensitive to the monetary and time commitment I was taking on with my Ph.D. program. Happily, I found the whole experience an excellent use of both resources. I feel that I got far more out of it than just a credential.”

Gwendolyn Freed, Ph.D. 2012
Executive Director, Wallin Education Partners

“The M.A. program in higher education is and will continue to be valuable to my career because it taught me how to be a leader in the constantly changing social, political, and economic environment of higher education. Through literature, team case projects, and guest speaker discussions, the program taught me how to navigate the complex culture of higher education to effectively communicate with and engage all stakeholders, use data in decision-making processes, and identify strategies that will help to drive change in a politically favorable way.”

Megan Gonyo, M.A. 2012

“The Ph.D. program in higher education introduced me to the systems and sectors of American higher education. This broad perspective assisted me to see the ‘big picture’ and to discern the implications of my administrative decisions. The program requires a high level of scholarship that has served me well in clarifying perspectives, seeking alternatives, and determining validity. I learned how to assess learning and evaluate programs. The program facilitated my becoming an academic administrator by expecting me to analyze and synthesize on the way to making and communicating reasoned decisions.”

Linka Holley, Ph.D. 2012
St. Mary’s University of Minnesota

“I am thrilled to be a graduate of the UMN OLPD Higher Education program. As a student, I interacted with world-class professors and researchers on a daily basis and developed life-long relationships with faculty and fellow students. This degree has enabled me to pursue my short-term career goals and has prepared me well for significant leadership roles in higher education.”

James M. Hunter, Ph.D. 2012
Dean of the School of Online Studies and Graduate School, Crown College

“I’m so proud to be a graduate of the OLPD Higher Education program. The curriculum highlights core competencies, but is flexible enough to allow you to explore personal and professional interests as well. After graduating from the program, I am confident in my knowledge of the field of higher education. Additionally, the faculty are very approachable, expect the best out of you, and are well-respected in the field. In addition to preparing you as scholar-practitioners, they want to make sure they are helping you move towards your professional and scholarly goals. Many faculty members gladly wrote letters of support for tenure-track positions and dissertation awards on my behalf (and I'm happy to say I've secured both), and it's not unusual for them to forward me the latest articles or books related to my research interests even after graduation! I'm a bit biased, but if you are looking for an exceptional higher education program, I encourage you to really explore our program.”

Donald “D.J.” Mitchell, Jr., Ph.D. 2012
Assistant Professor of Higher Education, Grand Valley State University

“As of September 4, 2012, I will be working at the Medical School. Duties include assisting a department chair with administrative tasks such as putting together tenure files, supervision of his administrative staff and student workers, preparing conference materials, etc. It should be a terrific fit for my skill set supplemented by the knowledge I acquired through a graduate program in higher education in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development.”

Sherri Novitsky, M.A. 2012
Executive Liaison, Chair of the Surgery Department, Medical School, University of Minnesota

“As a doctoral student, I felt I was in the hands of caring and dedicated faculty members, who treated me not just as a student, but above all, as a human being and as an emerging scholar. Being in this program opened many wonderful doors to me. The program allowed me great flexibility to expand my interests (both in terms of coursework and research/scholarship). By the time I graduated, I had accumulated a body of knowledge, analytical skills, and experiences that gave me a competitive edge. I particularly gained a great understanding of policy issues in higher education (at institutional, state, and federal levels), and this has been instrumental in my current profession as an institutional research associate.”

Felly Chiteng Kot, Ph.D. 2011
Research Associate, Office of Institutional Research, Georgia State University

“The Higher Education program encouraged me to effectively balance general and specialized courses. I finished the program with a broad understanding of how college affects students, the history of higher education in the U.S., contemporary challenges and opportunities within U.S. higher education, and influential student development theories. I also was able to focus on my specific interest area, the ways that identities mediate higher education experiences, and to tailor multiple course assignments and outside work to my particular interests. I found the professors interested in my personal and professional success and eager to partner with me on scholarly work. I was able to finish the Ph.D. in four years due to excellent financial and emotional support within the department. My degree in higher education prepared me well to excel as chief of staff at a liberal arts college, and it will make me an excellent candidate for a college presidency in the future. My doctoral study also provided me with an invaluable network of higher education scholars who continue to invigorate and inform my work.”

Kathryn Enke, Ph.D. 2011
Chief of Staff and Executive Assistant to the President, College of Saint Benedict

“I came to the Ph.D. program after completing a master’s in higher education in another university in the U.S. and after gaining administrative experience in higher education in my home country (Kazakhstan). My experience in Kazakhstan showed that one of the weaknesses of my master's training was that it was focused on American higher education and I did not have formal understanding of issues more relevant to higher education in the context of developing countries. Thus, an important goal for my Ph.D. training was to gain such formal understanding. I intentionally chose the program in higher education at the University of Minnesota because I knew that it is offered in parallel with the program in comparative and international education, where I hoped to take some of the electives.

It is only after enrolling in the program that I understood that there were many more features to the program that allowed me to meet my goal. First, because of the organic co-existence of the two programs, many faculty in the Higher Education program try to satisfy interests of students like myself, so they intentionally integrate topics on global trends and practices in the courses that in conventional higher education programs tend to concentrate on the U.S. issues only. In addition to that, students are allowed and even encouraged to analyze international and development topics in their course projects.

Second, many of the students in the Comparative and International Education program are from other countries and, frequently, they try to take at least some of the coursework from the Higher Education program. This enriches discussions and group-work in higher education courses because these students bring real-life understanding of higher education issues in different countries and contexts. Due to the cohort organization of the program, many comparative and international education students stick together outside the classroom. While I was somewhat isolated from conventional students in higher education many of whom are part-timers and have families, I was able to integrate with the cohort of comparative and international education students who entered their program simultaneously with me.

Third, quite a few faculty in both programs have direct interest and expertise in international and comparative higher education. This allows one to easily find several advisers on almost any topic of interest within international higher education. I had the benefit of interacting with two primary advisers from each of the programs. Each of them provided a unique perspective and played an important role in my learning.

Fourth, the Ph.D. program requirements are flexible enough to allow an individual to pursue very unique individual curricula. I was able to not only gain understanding of higher education reform in the international context, but also to gain understanding of economic and science- and innovation-related aspects of higher education by taking courses from different departments of the University. In addition to that, I was able to learn unconventional research methods that I subsequently used in my dissertation and continue to work in my current work.

Fifth, the department offers regular brown-bag series where students and faculty from both programs may present the results of their research. These series stimulates cross-fertilization of ideas, allows students and faculty to identify new topics and methods for their research, to find collaborators, as well as to broaden understanding of issues covered in classes, including issues in international higher education.

Finally, the department offers good conference participation support for presenting students, which creates an excellent incentive to produce publishable work and to travel to professional meetings, including two conferences key to my interests - annual meetings of the Association for the Study of Higher Education and of the Comparative and International Education Society.”

Aliya Kuzhabekova, Kazakhstan, Ph.D. 2011
Former Bolashak Scholar, Research Specialist, Center for Science and Technology Policy,
Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

“My M.A. degree in higher education from the University of Minnesota set me up for a successful start to my career in higher education administration. I was introduced to interesting concepts from approachable and renowned faculty members. My coursework, coupled with campus work experiences in student activities and collegiate student services, gave me the background and context needed to understand and thrive in this field.”

Marissa Lehman, M.A. 2011
Student Services Coordinator, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

“The experience in the Ed.D. program at the University of Minnesota is about writing, thinking and reasoning at the highest level by using the tools of discourse, analysis, and assessment. We developed the foundation to find ways to contribute to a more rational, productive system for all, (whatever that system may be) while recognizing the complexities in doing so and the rights and needs of others. The program is about examination, application, and change in our lives and our professions. The Ed.D. program has universal application – and has opened doors in areas we thought were only remote possibilities.”

Kathleen Kim Roufs, Ed.D. 2011

“Earning a doctorate in higher education policy and administration has given me new insights, energy, and opportunities. I had spent several years as a higher education administrator, I was aware of the many challenges facing colleges and universities. The doctoral program showed me the potential for applying theory and research toward improved practices. I have since started my own consulting firm, and enjoy helping my clients discover opportunities for improving higher education practices and outcomes.”

John G. Asmussen, Ph.D. 2010
CPA, Asmussen Research & Consulting LLC

“I was truly privileged to obtain my Ph.D. degree in higher education. The program provided me with invaluable opportunities to interact with established scholars not only from higher education field but also from adjacent disciplines like educational psychology and to get involved in various professional development activities. Through the program, I could learn about critical issues in higher education and hone my research skills to answer the policy questions raised from the cumulated knowledge.”

Giljae Lee, Ph.D. 2010
Director, Office of Institutional Research, University of Minnesota-Duluth

“The Higher Education program at the University of Minnesota has profoundly changed how I perceive the purpose of higher education. The Higher Education program formalized my abilities to assure student success while navigating the complexity of the ever-changing college environment. I highly recommend the Higher Education program at the University of Minnesota to professionals working successfully on a college or university campus.”

Dr. Michael Grenier, Ed.D. 2009
Professor of Art, Augsburg College, Rochester Campus

“The balance of research and application within the Ph.D. program in higher education shaped the scholarly-practitioner approach that I use in my work. In turn, the degree opened several career pathways, including research, administration, policy development, and consulting. My experience in the program, however, provided much more than career advancement. The interactions among faculty, peers, research, and curriculum expanded my worldview and ways of knowing beyond the study of higher education. Because of the program, I know the detailed landscape of higher education and the awesomeness of higher learning.”

Andy Howe, Ph.D. 2009
Director of Assessment and Academic Skills, Walden University

“My Ph.D. in higher education has granted me the flexibility to fit into a variety of organizations. I can work as an administrator at a university, and I can teach, as well. My Ph.D. program in higher education was rigorous, and I feel well-prepared to work in any university setting. Currently, I work at Western Governors University, where I work as a mentor and coach. I love my job because it is with a university that serves as a very real example of the vast and sweeping changes that are occurring in higher education.”

Debra Payne, Ph.D. 2009
Western Governors University

“Having initially decided to pursue a degree in higher education policy and administration as a means to broaden my opportunities to teach and research in my previous field, I wasn’t anticipating the future that has unfolded. The program at the University of Minnesota intrigued me with the complexity and significance of studying higher education itself, leading my career and research focus down a new path. Not only has the program shaped me as a higher education scholar, it also has helped me understand and successfully navigate the context in which I work. Beginning with my first visit to the department as a prospective graduate student, the faculty and current students were genuinely welcoming and the environment intellectually alive. In my years as a student I was never without an optimal balance of challenge and support from each of the faculty I encountered. Even years later as a colleague, I continue to engage in personally meaningful and professionally valuable relationships with my faculty mentors. My experience in the Higher Education program has been an intellectually stimulating, rewarding, and life-changing journey.”

Lynn Shollen, Ph.D. 2009
Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies, Christopher Newport University, Newport News, VA

“Receiving my M.A. in higher education from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities played an enormous role in giving me the skills needed to confidently and competently enter into the higher education profession. Reflecting upon my education, every facet of my experience was positive and relevant to the work I do on a daily basis. The faculty are extremely skilled and are able to strike a good balance between delving into the theory of student development and what we should expect to see in the real world. I would highly recommend pursing in higher education from the University of Minnesota.”

John Mleziva, M.A. 2008
Associate Director of Student Activities, Edgewood College

“The doctoral program in higher education policy and administration at the University of Minnesota was truly a turning point in my life and my professional career. The faculty members brought a high level of scholarship and research to the curriculum. Our program adviser provided ongoing support and encouragement. Over the course of the program, I had the opportunity to connect with colleagues from a variety of higher education institutions, and to share ideas, to challenge each other, and to form lifelong professional friendships. The program was delivered in such a way that it fit the lifestyle of busy, working adults. It definitely positioned me for advancement in the field of higher education.”

Diane Dingfelder, Ed.D. 2007
Executive Director of Outreach & Continuing Education, Winona State University

“A Ph.D. in higher education policy and administration helped me to have insight into the many federal and state policies regarding accountability these days and helped immensely with my work in assessment/accreditation. The research methods class I took about survey design and evaluation gave me certain skills that I use every day in my job.”

Fang Du, Ph.D. 2007
Director of Assessment and Program Development, University of Mount Union, Alliance, OH

“Earning my degree has allowed me to access numerous opportunities in a variety of public and private higher education settings. I have served in a number of roles, including policy analyst, academic dean, and coordinator of academic programs. My degree helped open doors which may not have been possible to access, while I continue to apply what I learned in my studies, particularly regarding higher education leadership, governance, and policymaking. I am also very grateful for being able to maintain contact with my adviser as I continue to progress in my career as a higher education administrator.”

Erin Heath Lever, Ph.D. 2007
Senior Analyst and Chief of Staff, Office of Planning and Analysis, University of Minnesota

“I obtained my Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in policy and administration of higher education, taking one class each term while I was working full-time for the Minnesota Office of Higher Education as director of the Student Financial Aid Division. I often found that the material I studied was useful as I wrote reports for the head of the agency or advised the legislature about the construction of financial aid programs for the State of Minnesota. My discussions with fellow students was good practice for giving testimony at hearings or explaining the logistics behind certain financial aid program configurations to the various directors of the agency.

I served on many advisory groups and boards for cross-agency projects and other planning commissions dealing with the state economy or the coordination of education and the workforce. The fact that I was in a Ph.D. program or that I had completed a Ph.D. program probably influenced the administrations to keep me when they were making budget cuts to the agency in tight financial times. Completing the Ph.D. gave me more credibility as I made presentations at regional and national conferences and helped make my presentations richer. The knowledge I gained also helped me answer the spontaneous questions asked during those presentations.

Interactions with the faculty helped connect me with notable researchers in the field of higher education which opened doors to other opportunities to contribute to the advancement of higher education in our society as I was asked to participate on certain boards and present information at research conferences dealing with higher education. My relationships with people I met at those events has further expanded my contact with others in the field of higher education nationally and internationally.

Working on a Ph.D. while working full-time and having a family with a husband and two kids meant I got little sleep but the end result was worth it a hundred times over.”

Cheryl Maplethorpe, Ph.D. 2007
Executive Corporate Financial Aid Director
Globe University/Minnesota School of Business
Broadview University/IPR
Minnesota School of Cosmetology

“I chose the M.A. program at the University of Minnesota because it offered something beyond a traditional student-affairs master's degree. The program's emphasis on policy and administration, combined with electives that allowed me to explore student affairs, was a perfect fit.

I began the program when I was in my late 20s and had already worked professionally in higher education for four years. During my entire master's coursework I was working full time, so I appreciated that most of the classes were offered in the evening. I was able to take what I learned in classes and immediately apply it to the work I was doing, and was able to balance work and school.”

Jeni Eltink, M.A. 2006
Director of Kirby Student Center, University of Minnesota-Duluth

“The Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota was crucial in my moving from mid-level leader (associate dean, department chair) to senior level executive (vice president and academic dean) in at least three ways.

First, the program allowed me to join the scholarly conversation about the many facets of higher education. I had been teaching at the college level for over 20 years and had held several administrative positions before I entered the Ph.D. program. I had the practical experience to go to the next level. The Ph.D. program allowed me a chance to read and discuss the history and foundational theories of higher education and leadership. I especially appreciated the breadth of the program, i.e. organizational theory, student development theory, higher ed. history, financial aid, faculty development, etc. I had the hands-on experience, but having the opportunity to spend time on the theory (especially with great faculty) was very important to me.

Second, it was important to me to do a research project and complete a dissertation. Having a background and most of my previous work in the performing arts, I was not really sure if I was capable of doing a credible scholarly research project. With the great support and guidance provided by the faculty, I was able to prove to myself that I could conduct research at the Ph.D. level and even make a modest contribution to the field. I now actually regret that I don’t have enough time to continue in this direction.

Finally (and least importantly), I needed the Ph.D. as a credential to move to a deanship. Without a Ph.D., my options for advancement were limited. Having a Ph.D. from a good institution and a strong program allowed me to better compete for senior executive positions.”

Steven J. Griffith, Ph.D. 2006
Senior Vice President and Academic Dean, Simpson College, Indianola, IA

“I completed the M.A. program as a full-time student while also completing a graduate assistantship on campus, however, many of my classmates attended on a part-time basis. One aspect of the program that I appreciated was the opportunity for master’s and doctorate students to take classes together, which provided a wide range of perspectives for class discussions. Having a degree in higher education has been very useful in my career path so far as I was hired full-time at the University immediately following my graduation. I am now completing the Ph.D. on a part-time basis as I continue to work at the University.”

Laura Knudson, M.A. 2006
Assistant Director, Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, University of Minnesota

“What I loved about the program was the inherent flexibility. My previous studies had been in the sciences, so my Ph.D. work entailed a fairly dramatic philosophical switch. I found the department eager to work with me to develop a program of study that addressed my professional needs and complemented what I brought into the program. The courses provided a solid foundation on which to build my studies. My adviser worked closely with me to help me in designing a research project that was of great interest to me and in which I was able to find answers to important questions about students in higher education.”

Kathleen Peterson, Ph.D. 2006

“In 1999, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in higher education administration. Serving as a program manager at Dunwoody College of Technology, I saw the profound impact a Dunwoody education had on many peoples’ lives and felt that as an administrator I could broaden that impact.

I knew that success in this field would require additional formal education. So, I looked to the University of Minnesota and the College of Education and Human Development. The Ph.D. focusing in higher education provided access to coursework that exposed me to leading research, best practices and an outstanding network of faculty and students.

Today, as president of Dunwoody College of Technology, I continue to use the knowledge I developed completing my Ph.D. to frame complex and ambiguous problems that confront the College. I also continue to network with fellow classmates, now graduates, to discuss current issues in higher education. The education I received at the University of Minnesota was outstanding, it established the foundation upon which I built a successful career in higher education and it continues to provide me with insight as I use my colleagues from the program, textbooks, and other readings as a constant source of information. This is absolutely a great program and it has been essential to my career.”

Rich Wagner, Ph.D. 2006
President, Dunwoody College of Technology

“The curriculum in the Higher Education Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota emphasizes and systematically exposes students to higher education policy research and study in the context of the environmental, organizational, and individual influences that affect it. These broad bases of understanding, and the emphasis on the central roles of research and leadership in these processes, provide a foundation that is extremely applicable in myriad sectors to inform, improve, and develop practice.”

Sarah A. Bunton, Ph.D. 2005
Research Director, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington D.C.

“In 2003, I was awarded an Edmund S. Muskie/Freedom Support Act Graduate Fellowship administered by the U.S. Department of State and I became a master’s student in higher education in the Department of Educational Policy and Administration at the University of Minnesota. My two years in EDPA far exceeded my expectations. The Department is an incredibly inspiring place to learn. The faculty push their students to the best they can be and provide tremendous help in learning, exploring research ideas, and searching for career opportunities. The Higher Education program provided me with management and technical skills and I benefitted from a wealth of experiential learning opportunities through student-run clubs, department-sponsored events, and internship opportunities.

In 2005, I graduated from the University of Minnesota. Earning an M.A. degree in higher education opened up opportunities that were not previously available to me, and I ended up receiving multiple job offers outside Ukraine. But I chose to return to my teaching and administrative position at Dnipropetrovsk National University. My international experience helped me a lot, as we were working on reforming the system of higher education in Ukraine. But again, I felt that I needed a broader academic background in the field of educational administration to cope with the challenges of the administrative position. And more important, the field of higher education has become my true passion. So, I applied and was admitted to the Ph.D. program in higher education.”

Olena Glushko Horner, M.A. 2005
Graduate Research Assistant, Office of Institutional Research, University of Minnesota

“I cannot imagine better preparation for a career in intercollegiate athletics. In light of the recent scandals that have plagued NCAA-member institutions, I believe a foundational understanding of higher education – its purpose, its history, and its evolution – is essential to anyone interested in pursuing a career in sports. The University of Minnesota’s program in higher education and its outstanding faculty are particularly strong at supporting students’ research interests and helping them figure out how those interests fit within the broader policy issues facing post-secondary institutions.”

Joe Karlgaard, M.A. 2003 and Ph.D. 2005
Senior Associate Director of Athletics, Stanford University

“The Higher Education program definitely laid a foundation for me to progress into a leadership position at the University. It opened doors to me, not only because of the education that I received, but because of all the people I met within my program. It provided a wonderful network of other higher education professionals. I would also say that having a good foundation of knowledge of higher education history and structure has been very helpful to me in my career, as has all of the practical skills I gained in the program (e.g., assessment, evaluation, leadership skills, etc.).”

Andrea Raich, M.A. 2005

“I would definitely say that the Higher Education program prepared me for my current position in institutional research. The theory and real world examples provided in classes as well as my various assistantships gave me the knowledge and experience to jump directly from the program into an IR directorship.”

Leonard Goldfine, Ph.D. 2003
Assistant Director, Office of Institutional Research, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

“I am very proud that I graduated from the University of Minnesota, educational policy and administration. The courses that I took were very interesting and useful in my professional work afterwards in my home country, Kyrgyz Republic. Although we have completely different societies and systems (U.S. and Kyrgyzstan), the principle theory that I gained from the University of Minnesota is applicable in Kyrgyzstan. Thus, since 2003 summer I have been using the gained knowledge from the University of Minnesota in my professional and career lives; particularly, program evaluation, student assessment, styles of communication, writing reports, conducting researches and others.

During the study at University of Minnesota the faculty and administration were very supportive and helpful. Some of the principles of academic lives were strange or complicated to me in the beginning stage of my study, since they were completely different from my experience; for instance, online communication with the faculty and the students, choosing and registration to the courses (including online registration) etc. However, when I accustomed to this style, I found it very convenient to me and I wish I had such approach here in Kyrgyzstan.

Since I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2003, I have been working in different levels of education system of Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. The positions that I have been holding are mostly managerial ones: Head of Master’s Program Department at Kyrgyz State University; Manager of Academic Affairs at Professional and Continuing Education, University of Central Asia; and Program Manager at USAID Quality Learning Project that is focused on reforms in education system of Kyrgyzstan. Although I have not fully being involved in teaching at university level, the gained knowledge from the higher education major is always useful in my career.

Thanks to the master’s degree from University of Minnesota my professional and personal lives have changed to the promising direction. Now I am an expert in educational reforms in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.”

Akylbek (Akyl) Joldoshov, M.A. 2003

"The program and degree have allowed me to live my dream of serving as a chief student affairs officer. I have had the honor of guiding a developmentally solid experience at a very reputable institution because of the degree and experience offered me in the Higher Education program!”

Paula M Knudson, Ph.D. 2003
Assistant Chancellor and Dean of Students, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse

“The Higher Education program in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development (formerly Educational Policy and Administration) provided me with a critical stepping stone for my continued career in the field of higher education. After working in higher education for a number of years, pursuing a Ph.D. in higher education was an opportunity to marry theory and practice in important ways. The Ph.D. program gave me additional lenses through which to interrogate my practice and my understanding of higher education as well as an opportunity to hone my research and writing skills. Pursuing the Ph.D. in higher education at the University of Minnesota was both personally and professionally rewarding and an extremely worthwhile investment in my future!”

Karen Zentner Bacig, Ph.D. 2002
Founder and Consultant, Sabio Strategies, and Instructor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

“The master's program in higher education has given me the knowledge and skills necessary to do my job at the University of Minnesota more effectively. I am able to better understand current trends in higher education. The program has opened doors for me and has given to me the competence needed to do my job well.”

Derek Maness, M.A. 2002
Director of Outreach and Recruitment, Office for Diversity in Graduate Education, University of Minnesota

“My degree in higher education has helped me, as a faculty member in higher education, to better understand and work within my institution’s framework. I have two degrees within my field and had been practicing and teaching that content for years prior to my acceptance into the University of Minnesota’s doctoral program in higher education. What I learned at the University of Minnesota’s doctoral program made me a better faculty member in multiple ways that have been evident in my teaching, scholarship, and professional service.”

Patrick Sexton, Ed.D. 2002
Professor and Director of Athletic Training Education, Minnesota State University, Mankato

“I was a dean of students while completing my coursework, and I didn't see myself on the ‘faculty track’ at the time. I remember how impressed I was with the faculty and how they made sure that the coursework was relevant to my day-to-day work as an administrator. At the same time, they set the highest of standards for all students, whether they planned to become faculty or administrators. I’m so thankful for this as I've found myself working in both capacities.

It has been 15 years since I completed my coursework, and I still go back and look at old notes and syllabi to review foundational theories and concepts or to see how faculty designed their classes and assignments. I know very few colleagues who can say the same thing about the coursework from their doctoral programs.

I must say that the program has a great reputation and has opened numerous doors for me. People are impressed when they hear that I earned my degree from the University of Minnesota - they know what that means.

It’s so rewarding when people ask about the faculty at the University of Minnesota because I've stayed in touch with so many of them. Not only did I study with great scholars - I studied with great people!”

John L. Hoffman, Ph.D. 2000
Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership, and Director, Doctor of Educational Leadership Program, California State University, Fullerton

“I chose a career in University Administration while still in college. Later, when choosing my advanced degree, I chose the University of Minnesota Higher Education program because I was attracted to the administrative nature of the degree. I thought it would suit me well even if I moved out of higher education. As it happened, I never left higher education, and I continue to find my degree to be extremely useful. When I tell people about the program, I generally say it was about 1/3 methodology, 1/3 administration and management, and 1/3 the study of higher education. All three components are extremely useful to my work. I use my quantitative and qualitative methodology skills daily in my work in institutional research. The opportunity to learn a high level of statistics has really helped conceptually in presenting and teaching methodology in a more accessible way to a broader audience. The administrative and organizational courses I took were fascinating at the time, and provide me now with enhanced skills in task and personnel management. I often think of the lessons I learned in my favorite classes on organizational behavior, and would love to go back and learn more. And finally, navigating the University community has been made easier because of the background I got on the history, economics, and sociology of the academy. Although I chose a path predominantly administrative, my education prepared me for adjunct work as well, and it enhanced my ability to communicate effectively with both administrators and faculty, around a variety of topics relevant to our work. I will always appreciate the choice I made in my Ph.D. program. I enjoyed it greatly at the time, and it has since proven over and over to be a wise choice.”

Jennie Robinson Kloos, Ph.D. 1999
Director of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN

“In general, my Ph.D. experience was all that I had hoped it would be. It took me six years to complete and I worked full time while I was enrolled in the coursework. I can say without hesitation, that throughout the ‘journey’, the faculty in all my courses were supportive and encouraging in all respects. Having the Ph.D. has afforded me the opportunity to occasionally teach masters level classes in accredited graduate programs at the university where I work. Many of the courses in my Ph.D. curriculum enhanced my understanding of the politics and organizational structure of higher education, thus making me a more knowledgeable professional who is less likely to be frustrated by higher education's bureaucracy and unique culture. One course in particular introduced me to the field of comparative education which directly relates to the role I now have as the Associate Director of Admissions and Undergraduate International Admissions Specialist for my university. After having been the international admissions specialist for over ten years (or just under a third of my university professional life), I still find it interesting and challenging in ways that other admissions roles had not.”

Diane Berge, Ph.D. 1998
Associate Director of Admissions and Undergraduate International Admissions Specialist, Minnesota State University, Mankato

“I am currently the director of a Simulation Center in one of the largest academic health centers in the country. Combined with my training and experience as a medical anthropologist, my Ph.D. in higher education prepared me well for the challenges I face on a day-to-day basis. My training in financial management, student outcomes assessment, program evaluation, and theory and research in teaching and learning have contributed directly to my professional success as a teacher, a researcher, an administrator, and a national leader in my field.”

Jane Miller, Ph.D. 1998
Director, Simulation Center, Academic Health Center, University of Minnesota

“My education in the higher education program at the University of Minnesota provided me with a sound theoretical foundation, excellent training in research methods, and a focus on practice that is often necessary in the types of career opportunities available to graduates in such programs. The faculty in the department are attentive to student needs and are committed to the development of students as scholars and practitioners.”

Stephen L. DesJardins, Ph.D. 1996
Professor, Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, School of Education, and Professor, Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan

“The Higher Education program in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota was an ideal environment for me to develop the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors necessary for success as a health policy researcher and a faculty member. I am especially indebted to the faculty who have been patient, wise, selfless and confident mentors throughout my career.”

Eric G. Campbell, Ph.D. 1996
Associate Professor, Director of Research, Mongan Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

“The structure and schedule of the program when I was in it made it easily possible to complete the Ph.D. even while working full time. I found the faculty in the program extraordinarily willing to work with students.”

Gary Engstrand, Ph.D. 1995
Coordinator, University Senate, University of Minnesota

“My degree has helped me advance significantly in my career. When I graduated in 1992, I was a nursing faculty member at the University of North Dakota, where I remained until 2009. After graduation I immediately assumed the role of department chair of about a 20-25 faculty nursing department. My understanding of organizations, politics within an organization, and assessment helped me considerably in that role. I was also an active researcher for about the next 15 years with a group who actually won an international nursing research dissemination award. My statistical knowledge in my doctoral education, though never as strong as I wish it had been, was a good basis for that work. The teaching strategies course definitely helped me as a teacher and luckily I was able to continue to teach throughout most of those years at UND. I served as an associate dean and interim dean (twice) during the last 4-5 years before leaving UND. In my role as Associate Dean, my knowledge of assessment was invaluable both at the college and university levels. I served as a co-chair for the university as we had a focused visit on assessment from the Higher Learning Commission. I’m now beginning my 4th year as dean of the College of Nursing at Montana State University. We have about 120 full and part-time faculty and five campuses and offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Our organization is complex and I find the work very demanding but I love it. Again, my Ph.D. preparation continues to help me especially with understanding how organizations work. Thanks for the great education.”

Helen I. Melland, Ph.D. 1992
Dean and Professor, College of Nursing - Montana State


Questions regarding the admissions process, admissions documents, or general information about the program should be directed to:

Dr. Jeremy Hernandez
Coordinator of Graduate Studies

Specific questions regarding course content should be directed to:

Dr. Karen Miksch
Coordinator, Higher Education Program Track

Revised July 9, 2015