For many students, it was the flexibility provided by Troy University’s online Doctor of Philosophy in Global Leadership that first attracted them to the program. However, what has come as a bit of a surprise to some is the level of support they have received along their journey to the Ph.D.
Students across all cohorts of the program, which launched in fall 2020, came together face-to-face Sept. 16-18 for an Immersion Weekend at the University’s Phenix City Campus. The event featured keynote speakers, breakout sessions covering topics such as practicums, research methods and preparation for the dissertation process, and, most importantly, the opportunity to interact, face-to-face with faculty members and other students in the program.
“They appreciate the online program and the flexibility it offers, but they also have wanted that human, face-to-face connection,” said Dr. Dionne Rosser-Mims, Professor and Vice Chancellor of the Phenix City Campus. “We had talked about doing this from the very beginning, so it is not a new idea. Their feedback really underscored the importance of putting this type of event in place. I’m really proud of the bonds that have been formed because that personal connection and relationships that are being further strengthened by being here that is going to help sustain them during this journey.”
Dr. Rosser-Mims, Dr. Pamela Lemoine and Dr. Basil Read began organizing the weekend event following the program’s trip to London in the spring.
“During our London trip, the number one statement from the students was ‘we want to do this in the States where most of us can come in and meet face-to-face to have interaction.’ Most of our students are not static, they are moving from place to place, from one job to a higher job,” Dr. Lemoine said. “We have a diverse program and we are truly proud of that.”
Howell Nunez, a student in the program’s fourth cohort, made the trip from New York City to put what he called “the final seal” on the program.
“It gives me the opportunity to interact, face-to-face, with all of my teachers and other students,” said Nunez, who serves as Executive Administrator for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. “It is more of a formality because I’m very proactive and reach out, but being here, face-to-face puts the final seal on it, which is a really great thing.”
Nunez discovered TROY’s Global Leadership program after doing a lot of research to find a Ph.D. program that would meet his needs and help him reach his goals.
“I was looking for what I call the trifecta – a program that was online, had the accreditations I was looking for and that was manageable budget-wise,” he said. “This program at TROY met all of the criteria.”
What came as a bit of a surprise for Nunez was the level of support, attention and interaction he has received through the online program.
“The biggest aspect that I love about this program is the customer service that the school provides,” he said. “We get calls all the time asking if we are doing ok. I get emails asking if there is anything I need help with. I can send an email to one of my teachers and within hours I get a reply back or a phone call or they say ‘Let’s set up a Teams meeting.’ The hands-on that is offered from the teachers is, above all, the best I’ve ever seen. I am so connected with the other students, and we have become great friends. It is a fabulous opportunity, and I think the program was well designed and thought out.”
David VanLandingham, a student in the program second cohort, agreed.
“The program has been phenomenal. The faculty and administration have been nothing but supportive through the entire experience,” said VanLandingham, who serves as Director for Research and Compliance at Central Georgia Technical College in Macon, Ga. “I work in higher education myself and have many colleagues who also have worked on their doctorates. They are envious of the level of support I am receiving in this program at TROY.”
VanLandingham said the program’s cohort model has been a tremendous benefit to the experience.
“Just being able to be in this cohort model and being able to interact with people the entire time, as well as being able to come to events like these, I feel is very important,” he said. “We create that bond with each other and then can encourage each other through the entire process so that none of us fall to the side and we all can be successful in achieving our Ph.D. together.”
Rafael Pereira, a student in the program’s fifth cohort, hopes to take the knowledge and skills gained through the program back to his native Brazil to help provide global perspectives on leadership. A member of the Brazilian Marine Corps, Pereira discovered the program during his work with the U.S. Army at Fort Benning.
“I am working at Fort Benning, and I decided to look for a Ph.D. program,” he said. “I found TROY and was attracted to the Global Leadership Ph.D. program because it is related to my profession and the things I want to do in the future. My goal is to bring some knowledge back with me to Brazil related to leadership and I think this program is going equip me to do that.”
Pereira said he has been pleased with the program and the mentorship provided by professors.
“The program is really good, and I appreciate the guidance of Dr. Read and Dr. Lemoine,” he said. “When you are in an online program, it sometimes seems like you are just talking to machines, but coming here this weekend and being here in person has been very nice.”
Dr. Read, who provided the keynote address for the event on Friday evening, said the Immersive Weekend provides students with the opportunity to connect, both with faculty and other students.
“I hope that they take away from this weekend some new connections, particularly with faculty that they haven’t had an opportunity to meet in the past,” Dr. Read said. “It is a great chance for them to ask questions about the dissertation process in a group setting and hear from faculty about their own experiences with the dissertation process.”
Dr. Read spoke to the group about the important role that being culturally aware has in leadership, also noting that the ideas of leadership are much different today than in the past.
“Leadership today is much different than it was even 30 years ago,” he said. “The follower has a role to play. Both the follower and the leader own the quality and the character of leadership.”
Dr. Rosser-Mims said the weekend event proved that while the flexibility provided through online education is key in today’s world, there still is no substitute for personal connection.
“Online education is not only the future, it is where we are today,” she said. “While that is true, there is still this need and desire to have that personal interaction. With this type of program and some of the high-profile things that we are doing, these students need to have some touchpoints throughout their journey, and we are committed to doing that.”
To learn more about TROY’s Global Leadership Ph.D. program, visit troy.edu/globalleadership.