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Urban Educational Leadership Doctoral Program
More Than Makes the Grade

Date: April 24, 2001
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photo by: Dottie Stover
Archive: General News, Campus News

UC's new doctoral program in Urban Educational Leadership (UEL) has quickly attracted the attention of educations, both in this country and around the world. The program is one of only a few in the country to train future educational leaders specifically for urban settings. The interdisciplinary program started last fall with 11 doctoral students, including one from west Africa.

Assistant Professor and UEL program co-coordinator Scott McLeod says program is expanding its vision outside the schools. "We recognize that education occurs in settings other than just the schools. Community agencies, juvenile justice systems, and prisons all provide education, so for people who would also want to be a leader in these urban settings, this program could be a good fit."

It's been a good fit so far for Deborah Witt, educational services manager for The Children's Home of Cincinnati. "I wanted to gain more knowledge about how to lead in urban educational settings, and I'm specifically interested in leadership of special programs. I'm a certified special education teacher and my master's degree is in educational psychology. I presently work with local school districts, helping them to design and implement alternative education programs for at-risk students."

Witt says the program's design is great, because it allows her to specialize and take courses outside of the College of Education. That supplements her own interests and broadens her educational experience. "I believe that the UEL program will provide me the opportunity to develop the necessary administrative skills to effectively lead and support a school staff towards meeting the needs of students and helping them achieve success in school."

Nancy Evers, professor of educational administration, says the challenges of educating urban populations are multifaceted, with varying cultures, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, and Evers adds other struggles can affect the family at home. "Schools need to view themselves as part of that infrastructure...not little islands where you send children and where those issues are not expected to affect their education. Schools need to be more involved in their communities, and our students are exploring how to build those bridges."

Evers adds that many of the current doctoral students hold positions in the schools and community. "Some are teachers, principals and assistant principals. All of the students come from different backgrounds and therefore can share different experiences."

image of  Obeng-Darko

Evelyn Obeng-Darko is a UEL doctoral student and graduate assistant for the program and formerly taught at a junior college in Ghana, West Africa. She says the idea of taking a community focus to improve education appealed to her. "My dream is to set up a school back home and utilize the community around it. The school cannot solve every problem of children. We need the services of a community to offer a balanced education.

"The difference I see between schools in Ghana and schools in the United States is that here in the U.S., there are a lot of educational agencies working with the schools. We don't have that in Ghana. Schools are trying to do teaching and learning, and trying to solve problems for children who have special needs and they don't have the expertise to address that. That's one area I plan to explore when I go back to Ghana."

Each student is required to develop a specialization, and this is where the interdisciplinary aspect plays a role. For instance, Mary Brydon-Miller, assistant professor of education and UEL program co-coordinator, explains that a student exploring how to rehab crumbling buildings may want to study architecture and planning.

"If a student is interested in working with children with special needs, they might want to take courses in psychology or nursing. They'll be developing their specialization that they'll define along with their academic advisers."

During their first year in the program, students collaborate on group problems as they take a seminar each quarter. This quarter's seminar is examining urban educational leadership in the social and legal context. Brydon-Miller says students will spend their second year working in a community-based internship and putting together a research project that will require interaction in their communities.

Lionel Brown, UC adjunct professor and research associate, is the field placement coordinator for the student internships. During their second year in the program, the students will develop their specialization. They'll spend their third year researching and completing their dissertation.

Evers believes the program will make UC a national example in preparing leaders to serve urban youth and communities, and adds the only other UEL doctoral program in the country is Harvard's Urban Superintendents Program. She says the University of California at Berkley is in the developmental stages of creating such a program.

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