Higher Education and Human Resources

Education degree is Cornerstone University’s first doctoral program

Dean focuses on getting it right for the sake of students and the school.

June 17, 2016
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For the first time in its 75 years, Cornerstone University is offering a doctoral program.

The university launched its first-ever doctorate degree program in May. The Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership and Development will be run by Jeff Savage, associate dean of business, and Peter Osborn, vice president for adult learning.

The degree is designed for students who already have completed their master’s degree and aims to equip them to lead organizations through evidence-based decision making.

“We’re dealing with very high-achieving, professional people, so you really try to expose students to as many ideas and theories and models, and as much research and practical information as you can get,” Savage said. “We’re really pushing evidence-based, data-driven decision making.”

The program’s inaugural class of 13 students will graduate in three to four years. The students come from a wide range of backgrounds, from executives at Fortune 500 companies to those interested in ministry leadership and higher education.

The program consists of 60 credit hours, 48 through a series of a dozen eight-week online courses and three three-day intensives on Cornerstone’s campus, and 12 upon completion of a capstone research project.

Savage said the curriculum will focus on organizational assessment, developing strong research and analysis tools and adding critical thinking to the decision-making process.

“We want them to be able to consume, read, carry out their own research projects, and learn everything from change management to organizational behavior, structure and assessment financing,” he said. “It forces you to push the world away, to read, think and interact with others in a way that helps you to make better decisions.”

Savage said he has two main goals for the program’s first class: to not lose any students over the course of the program, and to hear from those students that the curriculum serves their needs.

Because the student body includes full-time professionals, Savage said the students will learn in real-time whether the program is addressing their needs in the real world.

“We’re not teaching undergrads; we’re teaching people who are as accomplished as we are,” he said. “So they’re going to know right away whether it has an impact or not, too. We’re going to get that feedback from the students.”

Savage said when the university did market research, no similar programs turned up in the area. However, Olivet Nazarene University recently moved into the Grand Rapids market and hosts a similar program.

Still, the Ed.D. program stands out in the region, and Cornerstone stands to enhance its educational reputation by adding it — and doing it well.

“We do feel that burden, which is why it’s such an important program for us,” Savage said. “One thing everyone wants from their school is for their degree to mean something more with each year. And when you add doctoral education, especially when done well, you graduate people and send them into the community where they’re making a value-added impact. I think it does elevate the status of the university.”

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