New doctoral program quickly produces 1st grad
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Dr. Joavenell McCoy became a catalyst for future generations of her family by completing her doctorate in the early 1970s.
She was more than a pioneer in early childhood education. She also led the way for women in academia during an era when there weren’t many of them in graduate programs.
Her inspiration still resonates today. Her granddaughter, Dr. Mary Dainty, recently became the first graduate of the Counselor Education and Supervision program in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University, and the Texas native considers the degree a way to commemorate her late grandmother.
“This degree is somewhat of a legacy of the path my grandmother put into place, and it’s really been nice to be able to accomplish it,” she said. “I was in the program, probably my first year, when she passed away, but leading up to that she was like, ‘Keep going, Mary. You can do this. Don’t stop.’ Just knowing that she was able to do it in even harder times really put it into perspective that ‘Yeah, I can do this.’”
That perspective manifested itself in the length of time Dainty needed to complete her dissertation — an impressive three years, 10 months and five days.
Her grandmother would have been proud.
“I know that she’s probably looking down from heaven and just radiating with excitement by the fact that I completed my Ph.D. and want to go into academia,” Dainty said.
Becoming the first member of her cohort to graduate made the accomplishment that much sweeter.
“It’s really kind of surreal, to be honest,” Dainty said. “To be the first to graduate from a program is pretty … it’s just kind of a historical moment. That’s something that nobody can ever take away. It’s really just an awesome feeling.”
The five women in the cohort, like Dainty’s grandmother, are pioneers in the new program, setting the precedent for what’s possible. Program Chair Dr. Mustafa Moyenda said Dainty’s achievement in such a short time is no small feat.
“I remember Dr. Michael Berger (the CDS dean) telling me once when I came that it’s not very often that we get people who make it out of the program without having to take a dissertation extension course,” Moyenda said. “Having someone who did it and they came from our program — my God, that is like, that’s everything.”
Dainty’s completion of her degree was also an important milestone for the future of the CES program, Moyenda added. For the program to be an accreditation candidate alongside master’s degrees in counseling and school counseling, it had to produce a graduate, or a learner six months away from graduating, at the time of applying. Otherwise, the wait would have been 24 months for the master’s programs to receive accreditation before the application could be submitted.
Dainty’s completion of her degree made the ability to apply together possible.
“That is absolutely huge,” Moyenda said. “You never would expect it because everyone ends up in extension courses. You can’t tell how long a doctoral program is going to be because of the dissertation.
“Not only is that a feat in and of itself, but also what that then means for the program, the college and the University with regard to seeking accreditation.”
After completing her program late last year, Dainty still is getting used to the idea of being a doctoral graduate.
“It’s really bizarre but exciting,” she said. “I’ll be honest, there’s a part of it that hasn’t sunk in yet because when you come off of that doctoral journey you realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I have been working so hard,’ and your brain takes a little time to catch up not following that same routine. So I’m only right now just starting to wrap my head around the fact that I’m actually done.”
Just as her grandmother set an example for her, Dainty hopes she can inspire her 14-year-old son, William, who joined her husband, Paul, in supporting her.
“They were so excited. They’re just absolutely my biggest cheerleaders,” she said. “I can just tell. It’s weird to say, but I can see how proud they were just in their faces and their reactions. It was really good to see that reflected back.”
Her goal: Show William that anything is possible with enough hard work and dedication.
“He’s only just now getting to that age where he’s starting to really contemplate what he wants to do in the future for his own career,” she said. “He’s at that age where everything I was doing, he’ll remember. This isn’t something that he was too young to maybe not understand fully what it entailed.
“I think just by seeing that (he thinks), ‘Hey, I’ve got a working mom, and she completed her doctorate. You know, I can do this.’”
Despite having completed her degree, Dainty still communicates with and cheers on the other members of her cohort. Her secret to success is applicable to any doctoral degree program.
“One of the hardest and best lessons that I learned during this process was to accept feedback and criticism and keep moving forward,” she said. “When they’re giving you feedback during this process, it’s not because they want to make this journey difficult, it’s because they really want you to come out on top. They’re really doing their best to support you and help you finish. Just keep that in mind, don’t get bogged down in the feedback, just take it, make the changes and turn it back in.”
Fifty years later, McCoy’s legacy lives on. Dainty made sure of it.
Moyenda said it best:
“She led by example by getting it done.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].