Doctoral Community Cohort installs new leaders

March 29, 2017 / by / 0 Comment

By Mark Heller
GCU News Bureau

Spending her professional life in education made helping others a habit for Cheryl Martin.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Martin was sold on going beyond the already challenging pursuit of her doctoral degree when she heard about the new Doctoral Community Cohort (DCC) group at Grand Canyon University. Cathy Ames and Rachel Behling spoke during Martin’s second class in 2014 about how and why they started the DCC, and a journey that seemed daunting and intimidating suddenly became clear.

Cheryl Martin

Now Martin, a teacher at West Point Elementary School in Surprise, Ariz., and a learner pursuing the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Special Education degree, is passing on some of the same knowledge and insights she has received during her doctoral journey. The benefactors are other current doctoral learners as well as prospective ones — many of them in programs outside education.

“Since the DCC has been such a powerful learning tool for me, I wanted to be a part of producing great DCC sessions to affect other doctoral learners,” she said. “As an Arizona teacher leader for K-12 education, I wanted to challenge myself to lead groups besides teachers. I am scaling my impact to reach a larger group of our learning community while I continue to learn along the way.”

Martin is more than halfway through her program. She’s enrolled in a dissertation course and is revising her first committee submission. Her goal is to graduate next spring, when her daughter is scheduled to graduate from high school.

For that, she credited the DCC learning community, which held its latest mini-conference for doctoral learners last week. The learning community is designed to help learners navigate the doctoral journey and dissertation process as it continues its expansion to include online students.

Candidates immersed themselves in not only their own research and dissertation preparations but also shared ideas, tips, resources and much more with peers as well as Dr. Michael Berger, dean of the College of Doctoral Studies, and other CDS staff and faculty. 

“The DC Cohort team has done an amazing job of demonstrating the kind of independent, self-directed scholarship that is necessary to be successful as a doctoral learner,” Berger said. “The college is very pleased to support their endeavors, but it is just that: support. They do almost all the planning and organization themselves.”

Robert Libberton

The DCC has co-vice presidents, Robert Libberton and Bridget Duzy. Libberton, a former health care executive who believes that “leadership is the precious responsibility of a chosen few,” said the chance to evolve from student to scholar inspired him to pursue a doctorate, and the chance to connect with like-minded, education-influenced peers was an “easy choice” in joining the DCC.

He also believes in something that anyone who has been a part of a cohort — master’s or doctoral — can attest: A “victory” for one learner becomes a triumph for all.  In the face of challenging workload, research and study, that makes the decision to take on DCC learning community leadership roles even easier.

“It is intrinsically rewarding to be a part of the solution and personally invest in the brilliance of a group,” said Libberton, who’s pursuing a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Organizational Development. “I enjoy the feeling of my personal dedication to the process of the team’s work. Seeing effort translate to accomplishment is delightful.”

Contact Mark Heller at (602) 693-7516 or

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