The first class of doctoral students to earn their degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University through classes taught by Longwood University professors will graduate May 10.

Through a collaboration with the educational leadership program at Virginia Commonwealth University, 14 students will receive their Ed.D. in Leadership. Longwood professors Dr. Nancy Riddell, Dr. Gerry Sokol and Dr. Audrey Church taught or coordinated all classes. The cohort of candidates hail from Appomattox, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland and Nottoway counties and from Longwood University.

"This is a milestone for Longwood University," said Church. "Leadership skills in this area are being enhanced, which is a win-win for both the students and the region. This program brings practical benefits to Southside Virginia."

A cohort model—a group of students goes through each phase of the intense course of study together—allows professors and students to focus on particular issues unique to this region. "We are growing leaders in Southside Virginia," said Riddell.

The VCU courses, are within the framework of the Carnegie Project Education Doctorate—an overhauled doctorate curriculum aimed at improving the efficacy of the degree. Designed to provide leaders with authentic experiences tested and studied in real-world settings, students gain both the knowledge and skills they need to be effective leaders and the opportunity for reflection that will enable them to succeed.

Those skills, say Longwood professors, are needed across a wide variety of businesses. "While this is within the educational leadership program, the doctorate is not specific to teachers," said Sokol. "We teach organizational development, philosophy and other leadership skills for professionals to put to work in the field immediately. The benefit of this is they can report back on how it’s working and we can address issues as they arise."

The collaboration continues a strong Longwood University tradition of community engagement and development. Offering local professionals the opportunity to earn a doctoral degree in Southside Virginia benefits not only those professionals enrolled in the program, but also the organizations that employ them.

"The partnership with VCU gives our professors an opportunity to teach at the doctoral level and experience the process first-hand," said Dr. Paul Chapman, dean of the College of Education and Human Services. "It’s quite rewarding, not only for our professors and the growth of the university, but also for the community that will directly benefit from the expertise of these graduates."

Another cohort has formed to begin classes at the end of May.

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