GCU reaches 1,000 signed doctoral dissertations
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
That was in December 2017, and the milestone dissertation belonged to a GCU faculty member — Dr. Melissa Beddow, Director of the Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science Program in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. Less than two years later, as Fall Commencement featured another 100-plus doctoral graduates, Berger announced that he already has signed the 1,000th dissertation.
As the newest doctoral grads took their march across the stage to be hooded and receive their degrees Friday morning, the doctoral faculty couldn’t have been prouder.
“We’ve had such an exponential increase in graduates in the last two years,” said Dr. Cynthia Bainbridge, Assistant Dean of the College of Doctoral Studies (CDS). “It’s very exciting.”
Receiving a doctoral degree is considered the most challenging task in a learner’s academic journey, and it is notable that the University is constantly evolving to better suit the needs of its learners.
“The program has been maturing in a lot of ways. We’ve been maturing in how we work with learners, how we set expectations with learners, the strategies that are the most effective. I think we’re getting a better understanding of who our learners are and how we can help them be successful, because that’s always the goal,” Berger said. “It’s a major step up in expert and interpersonal power. It’s going to give them a chance to be heard, and we want them out there making change.”
Dr. Ronald Berman, Assistant Dean of CDS, said that very focus on learner success through growth and innovation is one of the many qualities that sets GCU’s doctoral program apart.
“Our students’ success is our success because we demonstrate the ability to innovate,” Berman said. “The way we train our faculty, the way we’ve implemented technology, we don’t accept the notion that achieving a doctorate is impossible. We use every way we can to enable our learners’ success, and we’ve done that well over the last couple of years.”
Graduates go on to become experts in their fields and make significant impacts. For Dissertation Program Chair Dr. Patricia Chess, seeing GCU’s learners take that huge step makes it all worthwhile.
“I feel proud,” Chess said. “We’ve seen a lot of the challenges, and this is not an easy thing to accomplish. And so when we meet them at Commencement, it’s very exciting for us to watch them walk across the stage. We’re proud that we helped them reach those goals for themselves.”
Bainbridge said, “We see all of these learners, we know their names, we see them in class. Their names become very familiar during their time in the program, and so when they graduate and they come across that stage, we’re as proud of them as their families. Commencement is a really special day for the faculty and the staff and everybody that’s been involved in their journeys.”
It’s an accomplishment that few people reach, and what makes it more special is that it’s an achievement many learners never could have imagined growing up.
“We have a significant number of people who are not just the first person in their family to get a doctorate, they are the first person in their family to go to college,” Doctor of Education Program Chair Dr. Wayne Schmidt said. “That’s kind of exciting.”
For others, such as Doctor of Philosophy Program Chair Dr. Jim Hadley, witnessing the 1,000 dissertation milestone and watching just some of the learners who made that accomplishment possible at Commencement was an opportunity to reflect and appreciate its significance.
“I’m humbled by the opportunity to help change lives,” Hadley said. “One thousand people. That we get to be a part of their life is just humbling, so I really appreciate that.”
And the graduates at the 2019 Fall commencement ceremony appreciate it, too.
For Dr. Danny Morris, who received his degree as a Ph.D. in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Integrating Technology, Learning and Psychology, obtaining his degree had its fair share of obstacles, but his time within the doctoral program helped make it possible.
“I was able to get through with the faith of God and support of my family,” Morris said. “I was able to get through and persevere and complete my studies, and I just want to give honor to God for doing that.”
Morris decided to get his degree from GCU after doing some research and realizing that the University was the best fit for his doctoral needs. He hopes to use his degree to continue his research into finding permanent homes for foster children.
As learners begin this new chapter in their careers, Berger and his staff hope they will continue to utilize the skills they obtained in their program.
“I think the heart of any doctorate is the development of more critical thinking skills and the understanding of the process that is the systematic creation of new knowledge,” Berger said. “Whether you’re in psychology, leadership or business, that process is the most important thing I hope they take away.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]