An Interview with Dwayne Aikens
“Now that I have been in the program for a few years, I have been able to realize the full potential of my doctorate degree in leadership development. People in my community are actively following my progress through graduate school, so I feel like I am earning a degree not only for myself but for my community as well.”
Dwayne Aikens is studying to earn his online Doctor of Education in Leadership Development with an emphasis in Curriculum Instruction. He is a third year student at University of Phoenix. He previously earned a Master of Business Administration from University of Phoenix as well as a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Special Education from Xavier University of Louisiana.
Dwayne is studying leadership development because he wants to help advance the nonprofit educational organization that employs him. He chose to study online at University of Phoenix because he had such a positive experience in Phoenix’s MBA program.
In your own words, what is leadership development?
Leadership development is closely related to educational leadership because its aim is to prepare students to manage an educational institute. Students will learn how to use leadership theories and other philosophies associated with education in order to spearhead a school or an educational company by implementing changes in educational policy.
Do you have a specialty within the field of leadership development?
Yes, I chose to specialize in curriculum instruction because I wanted to learn how to create a precise and accurate curriculum. As the leader of a nonprofit youth leadership organization, I desired the necessary tools and knowledge to teach young people the best leadership philosophies and character traits.
Why did you choose to get an doctorate in leadership development online?
I chose to get my doctorate in leadership development online because I was already familiar with University of Phoenix’s presentation and class format. I earned my master of business administration degree from Phoenix and I enjoyed their program.
What do you find most and least enjoyable about studying leadership development?
The most enjoyable aspect of studying leadership development is participating in the online forums. Through my interactions with other students, I have learned how to manage different social situations and clearly present my opinions.
However, the least enjoyable part is the amount of tedious research that I am required to perform. I don’t particularly like researching topics for class that don’t interest me. The extra research requirements also take away time that I would otherwise spend working on my dissertation.
When you first considered pursuing an online EdD in leadership development what were your major concerns?
When I first considered pursuing my online EdD in leadership development, I was worried about my computer breaking down and not being able to turn in my assignments before the deadline. You really can’t afford to fall behind in online classes.
However, I wasn’t at all concerned about the value of my program. Now that I have been in the program for a few years, I have been able to realize the full potential of my doctorate degree in leadership development. People in my community are actively following my progress through graduate school, so I feel like I am earning a degree not only for myself but for my community as well.
How did you choose your graduate school?
I chose my graduate school based on class demographics and the quality of its professors. Based on my experience as a masters student at University of Phoenix, I knew that it offered a program with a great group of professors and students who would help me grow as a young businessman and individual and create my own identity as a doctoral student.
What is your program’s curriculum like?
My doctoral program in leadership development consists of coursework that leads up to a dissertation. So far I have taken classes in educational policy, leadership theory and curriculum instruction. Most coursework involves discussion postings, weekly papers and PowerPoint presentations. Each week, I must make 2 substantive posts on 3 different days.
In addition to classwork, I am required to complete a dissertation. This process involves taking a class that focuses on helping students write their first draft proposal. Students also take a class with a mentor who guides them in the dissertation writing process and provides relevant feedback.
What parts of your curriculum or particular classes do you think will be most valuable for your future goals?
I think my classes in educational policy will be most valuable for my goals because they teach me about different educational policies and theories that I can apply to educational systems that need revamping. This is an important knowledge base to have when I start actually working in the education field.
How do you interact with your professors?
I interact with my professors through several methods, including e-mail and phone calls. Usually, people post their questions for the professors through the class discussion forum, but I can also send them personal messages on the University of Phoenix’s website if I don’t want the entire class to see our conversation.
Are you able to interact with your peers while studying online?
Yes, I am able to interact with my peers using the discussion board, chat rooms and Facebook. Some of the students in my online classes have become my friends, so we converse and brainstorm ideas online.
What personality traits do you think would help a student to succeed in an leadership development program and what traits would hinder success?
In order to succeed in a leadership development program, a student needs to be self-motivated and wiling to receive criticism. It also doesn’t hurt to be authentic, empathetic and transparent. However, if you are close-minded, you will struggle in this field. A student needs to be willing to transform and embrace change.
What is your dissertation topic?
The topic of my dissertation focuses on determining the best practices associated with an after-school program in Oakland, California using qualitative research. In order to determine my topic, I researched the Department of Education websites to determine relevant concerns in the field. I also researched popular after-school programs using research tools such as ProQuest and Google Scholar.
Do you have an advisor, and if so, how does your advisor support your academic progress?
I do have an academic advisor who has been very supportive so far. He e-mails me regularly to make sure that I am on track with my courses, and he even calls frequently to congratulate me on my successes. I would advise other graduate students to take advantage of your advisor’s presence by making sure to communicate regularly. Don’t let it become a business relationship.
How does your on-campus undergraduate education differ from your online doctorate program?
The biggest difference between studying online and offline is not necessarily in the amount of social interaction that I have, but in the way that the interaction occurs. Offline school allows students to develop strong relationships with one another through fraternal organizations or out-of-class socializing. I still interact with my peers now that I am online, but I do it through technological media like Twitter and Facebook.
What are the biggest benefits and drawbacks that you have found in pursuing an online EdD in leadership development?
The biggest benefit to online schooling is the convenience that it offers me. I can develop my schedule in a way that doesn’t overwhelm me since I am able to study whenever and wherever I wish. However, I do have a hard time forcing myself to actually study when there are social opportunities available. I know that at the end of the day, my degree will benefit me more than going out, but it is always a tough decision to make.
What is your weekly schedule?
I spend about 10 hours each week doing coursework. I make sure to log on every day, even if I am already caught up on my work. I want to make sure I am aware of everything that is going on and that I am keeping up with research.
How do you balance your studies and your personal life?
The best way to keep my academic goals from taking over my personal life is to clearly separate the weekend from the weekdays. I try to get all of my work done by Friday so that I am able to spend a couple of days doing what I want instead of focusing on my school obligations.
What are your plans for after graduation?
After graduation, I plan to pursue both my educational and business efforts. For instance, I want to work to further develop my nonprofit after-school program, which is called We Lead Ours. In addition, I want to make sure that my dissertation is written and packaged in such a way that it will be published in hardcover and sold in bookstores.
What advice do you have for students who are considering an online doctorate in leadership development?
I would advise students who are considering an online doctorate in leadership development to figure out what their focus will be early on in their program. The field of leadership is very broad and students can choose from a number of specializations from curriculum development to educational policy.