An Interview with Travis Frank
“I think the reality of graduate school is that there are many situations that it won’t prepare you for because you have to learn how to deal with them on the job. That is the nature of the game, and you have to accept it and be prepared to face unfamiliar situations once you enter the workforce again.”
Travis Frank fulfilled the requirements for the K-12 Minnesota Principal License Program at Minnesota State University, Moorhead in 2007. His extensive education includes a Bachelor of Science in English Teaching, a Master of Education in K-12 Educational Leadership and a PhD in K-12 Education.
Travis is an educational leadership professional who started his career as a secondary-school teacher before moving into his current position as a high-school principal. In the future, he is interested in teaching college courses.
In your own words, what is educational leadership?
Educational leadership entails managing educational institutions. Educational leaders and administrators make sure that day-to-day operations run smoothly and identify problem areas that need improvement. On a very basic level, leadership means bringing the best out of the people that work for you. It means helping your employees to do the best that they can by improving their skills and heightening their work ethic.
Why did you choose to get a masters degree in educational leadership?
Initially, I was a high-school teacher, but I decided to get my graduate degrees because I wanted to learn how to help students in a different capacity. In my opinion, educational leadership and administration offers a greater challenge than teaching in many respects. When I was a teacher, my role within the institution was limited, whereas now that I am a principal, I am not only helping students but teachers too.
When you first considered pursuing a masters degree in educational leadership, what were your expectations?
My expectation of my masters degree programs was that I would be conducting large amount of research in order to tie educational theory into practice. I learned quite a lot of theory while working toward my MEd in K-12 Educational Leadership, but I still felt like I was missing the practical component. I was able to experience more of that in my educational specialist program at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. I imagined that I would leave that program with a better understanding of what it takes to be a leader in education. I thought that I would learn skills like organizational oversight and how to analyze problem areas.
My educational specialist program did provide me with many of those skills, but I think the reality of graduate school is that there are many situations that it won’t prepare you for because you have to learn how to deal with them on the job. That is the nature of the game and you have to accept it and be prepared to face unfamiliar situations once you enter the workforce again.
How did you choose your graduate school?
I chose to attend Minnesota State University, Moorhead because I thought that I might become an administrator in Minnesota, even though life didn’t work out that way. I am originally from North Dakota, but I thought that it would be worth spending the extra year to fulfill Minnesota principal requirements just in case.
What is your program’s curriculum like?
I entered the educational specialist program in order to fulfill the requirements to be a principal in Minnesota, so the program was meant to provide me with an additional credential that went above and beyond my MEd degree. In that program, I took classes like elementary administration and curriculum, business management in education, instructional models and technology/information systems. At the heart of the program, I participated in practicums at the elementary and secondary levels as well as in budget finance. Those practicums culminated in a portfolio that showcased my professional growth and abilities.
What parts of your curriculum or particular classes do you think will be most valuable for your future goals?
It seems to me that the secondary administration class I took was most beneficial. I liked it because it was based more in practicality than theory. When it comes down to it, a high-school principal needs the ability to solve problems in a practical and effective way.
However, I don’t think that the technology/information systems class I took was useful enough in my position to justify the phenomenal amount of work that it required. Unless you are in a position that requires you to manage databases every day, you’re going to forget everything that you learned.
What is your thesis topic?
I did not complete a thesis for the education specialist program. Instead, we were required to build a portfolio based on our 3 practicum experiences. At the conclusion of the practicums, I was required to write a 15- to 25-page self-reflection that assessed my capability of being a successful administrator.
Altogether, the practicums required me to partake in 320 hours split among elementary school, secondary school and budget finance. I was required to be an administrative intern in those environments, which entailed taking on a number of administrative duties on a day-to-day basis. Throughout those practicums, I was assessed on 22 different competencies like organizational oversight, judgment and written and verbal communication skills.
Do you have an advisor, and if so, how does your advisor support your academic progress?
I did have an advisor at Minnesota State University, Moorhead who was genuinely interested in my progress in the education I received at that school. He offered insights that were truthful and honest and didn’t beat around the bush. In fact, he went out of his way to take on some additional duties to be on the committee for my dissertation at another university.
What is your weekly schedule?
My weekly schedule was incredibly packed during my educational specialist program. I would estimate that I spent about 10 hours on homework per class each week during my masters program at the Minnesota State University, Moorhead. I attended that program during the summer months so that I didn’t have to balance school with work.
The homework came secondary to meeting with the class. Each class met for 1 to 2 weeks for a full day and part of an evening, which meant the courses were so tightly compacted that I felt like I barely slept for a week at a time. That is the way that summer classes tend to work, and it was the best option available to me at the time.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I have already finished the program at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, and I am currently in my fifth year as a high-school principal. I hope to continue as principal in this school district for the next few years, but I am not sure what my career plans are after that. The fact is that I am now over-qualified for my position, so I will seek a job that allows me to continue to pay my student loans and challenge my intellect.
Now that you have completed your educational leadership graduate program, if you could go back to college, what would you do differently?
Looking back on the coursework that I completed at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, I wouldn’t enter that degree program again. Its purpose was to prepare me to be a principal in the state of Minnesota, but that is not what I have chosen to do with my career. I did learn some new skills, but I gained an extra year’s worth of student loans in the process and I am not sure that it was worth it, all things considered.
What advice do you have for students who are considering a masters degree in educational leadership?
People who are thinking about getting a graduate degree in educational leadership need to consider their qualifications, their family and their career goals. First, in most states they need to have at least 3 years of professional teaching experience before they can enroll in an educational leadership program. Next, they need to think about the way that a graduate program will affect their family life because it will take away time with them and it will most likely place a financial strain on them. Finally, they need to ask themselves if they truly want to be an administrator, because it is not the same as being a teacher. Their salary will double, but the job description changes dramatically.