For many years, Saint Leo University has prided itself on offering both bachelor's and master's degrees in education. So, it only makes sense that the 129-year-old university would now offer a doctoral program in this field.

We got in touch with Dr. Fern Aefsky, director of Saint Leo's Graduate Studies in Education program, to discover what will make this Ed.D. with a school leadership concentration a top choice when it is offered in the fall of 2018.

Q: How did Saint Leo decide to offer this Doctor of Education program?

A: Saint Leo approved the Doctor of Education program in the Fall of 2017 after four years of development. An education advisory task force, faculty, and institutional administrators supported this work that resulted in the approved Doctor of Education program.

We currently offer an Ed.S. (Education Specialist) program. The ED.S. is an independent program but is also embedded into the ED.d. as the firs 39 credits of the doctoral program. Both programs are aligned with the most recent national standards in educational leadership and are based on shared practitioner needs.

Q: What is the difference between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D.?

A: Generally speaking, a Ph.D. is geared toward individuals interested in theoretical research and university teaching.

An Ed.D. is typically geared toward those seeking hands-on roles at higher levels of administration within an individual school, a school district, or in a related educational organization. Ed.D. graduates may have previous teaching experience but usually do not work in a classroom setting upon earning this degree. Instead, they oversee education programs to ensure students are being successful.

Q: Where will this new Ed.D. program be offered?

 A: This is an online program with a low residency requirement. During the summer after students begin the program, they'll come to University Campus in Saint Leo, Fla. for five days for an in-depth orientation on all services and resources available to them, as well as take one 3-credit course. It's also an opportunity for students to connect with faculty members, dissertation committee chairs, and fellow students.

Q: What types of individuals is this program geared toward?

A: This program is targeted at administrators within a Pre-K-12 school district, private school, or organizations in related fields (i.e., daycare centers or nonprofit agencies). This degree can benefit you in moving up into higher positions.

Q: What are the requirements for admission consideration to this program?

A: Prospective students must:

- Have a 3.25 or higher GPA in the Master of Education or related field

- Provide two professional letters of recommendation

- Provide a current résumé

- Submit a statement of professional goals, including your specific area of interest

- Provide official transcripts of undergraduate and graduate degrees

- Have three years of documented, related work experience

Q: How long is this program, and how many credit hours are required for completion?

A: This is a three-year cohort program. Students must complete a total of 60 credit hours of coursework, which includes dissertation hours.

The completion of the first 39 credit hours results in conferral of an Education Specialist degree. Completing this part of the overall Ed.D. allows students to submit this post-master's degree to their districts for additional pay, per their districts' contracts, which can vary by district.

Q: What kinds of skills will students walk away with from earning this Ed.D.?

A: Graduates will have the ability to:

- Engage all stakeholders in successful student achievement and school success.

- Identify and solve problems through application of critical analysis and problem solving

- Create and sustain partnerships

- Effectively identify and apply components of action research, change theory, strategic planning, and collaborative decision-making to improve the student learning experience within individual schools and entire districts

Q: What are some examples of the courses?

A: The curriculum includes:

- Educational Politics, Policy, & Leadership

- Diversity & Leadership

- Teacher and Leader Innovation

- Instructional Technology

- Assessment, Accountability, & Analytics

- Technology Innovation & Diffusion

- Four research courses and four courses to support the dissertation process

Q: What makes this program unique compared to others?

A: Saint Leo has been providing highly effective and quality distance learning education for nearly five decades. The university has a user-friendly online platform that comes with quick turnaround support from faculty members and a wealth of resources available to help students be successful in this online program.

Plus, the low-residency program spent at University Campus helps students connect with their instructors and peers.

Finally, all instructors are experienced and highly qualified (current or former Pre-k-12 administrators), which provides students in this practitioner-based program with state-of-the-art, experiential learning opportunities.

Q: What kinds of positions can graduates of this program expect to be considered for?

A: Possible opportunities include:

- Leadership positions, including superintendents, associate superintendents, directors, principals of various divisions of public, private, or parochial schools

- CEOs of nonprofit and for-profit agencies

- Teaching positions at colleges and universities

Q: How can students learn more about this Ed.D. program?

A: Those who are interested should contact Shakedra Hudson, Saint Leo's associate director of graduate admissions, at (352) 588-7521 or at More information is also available on the Ed.D. webpage.