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Online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership
STEVE CALHOUN: Good evening. My name's Steve Calhoun along with Alejandra Sanchez-Mata, who's also with us this evening. We're your program managers for the Master of Arts and Educational Leadership at Queen's University of Charlotte. Tonight we'll share some details about the online Master's in Educational Leadership. Now this program in Queen's can provide an excellent learning experience and prepare you for the challenges of school administration. You'll hear directly from our program director, Dr. Dixie Abernathy. Then, tell you more about the innovative online learning platform. And finally, we'll go over admissions requirements before opening to questions. Dr. Abernathy can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: Good evening. And thank you so much for this opportunity to meet a potential candidate for our Queen's University program and to discuss information into why our program is such a wonderful opportunity. As you stated, my name is Dixie Abernathy. I am so proud to currently serve as the director of the Master of Arts and Educational Leadership program here at Queen's University. I have taught for several years as an adjunct professor at Queen's University, prior to joining the full-time faculty in 2016.
I also had wonderful opportunities in teaching in the adjunct status for several other universities, including Gardner Webb University, Belmont Abbey College, Walden University, and University of Phoenix, in the bachelor, master's, and doctorate level courses. Prior to my work in higher education I enjoyed a wonderful and very fulfilling 30 year career as an educator in a public school system, the ninth largest school system here in the state of North Carolina. With the school system I have served as a classroom teacher, as an assistant principal at both the elementary and secondary level, as a principal at both the elementary and secondary level, and I also served for 10 years as the assistant superintendent of schools.
In that capacity I had the pleasure of supervising on the daily basis. 55 K through 12 principal, as well as leading the entire hiring and interviewing profit for all assistant principals and principals in that school system. So you can probably surmise from that little bit of biographical information I enjoy working with school administrators, I enjoy being a part of the growth and preparation of school leaders, and I certainly enjoy the promotion of what I consider to be the best educational leadership preparation in our region and our nation. And that is the Queen's University MEL Program.
STEVE CALHOUN: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Abernathy, for sharing your extensive background. We appreciate you being there for our students and how vital that those experienced pieces are for our students moving forward. Before we discuss the Masters in Educational Leadership I would like to give you a brief overview of Queen's University of Charlotte. Queens has regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Masters in Educational Leadership is offered through the Cato's School of Education at Queens. We are a private, coed university founded in 1857 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Queen's is ranked number 22 among regional universities in the South by US News World Report, and number 28 in best school values in the country. Masters in Educational Leadership Program is fully accredited in qualified candidates for a K through 12 principal licensure. Flexibility is a key component of the program with the coursework being 100% online, and a time for completion in as few as 22 months.
The Masters in Educational Leadership curriculum is a comprehensive guide to what it takes to successfully run improve a school. Each educational leadership course is designed to help you prepare for the challenges of school administration, from building a community to resolving disputes to mastering the finances to keep your school running. Dr. Abernathy, could you tell us more about the nuts and bolts of the curriculum and how the course content reflects the modern issues faced by school leaders?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: Yes. I certainly can. And thank you for that opportunity. We put a lot of thought and great care into our curricular progression and into the content of each of our courses. We realize that all of our candidates are very busy people and they are looking to learn a lot during this 11 course master's program. Because of that, we make sure that the content in our courses are aligned with what 21st century educational leaders are experiencing the challenges of the real world principle out in school today.
And I'm always encouraged and interested, especially with the discussions in our courses when students will make comments such as, oh, how interesting that we're discussing this topic. This just came up in my school this week. And I saw how my own principal addressed this situation. Now it's great that I get to discuss a similar topic with my classmate.
In our course progression, we cover such timely topics as leading in with diverse student population, leading in the global community and society, how the leader provides the platform for successful PLP, poor professional learning community. We certainly talk about the most updated information regarding school law and topics surrounding ethics. We obviously spend a lot of time regarding curriculum development and how we as school leaders use our supervisory skills to oversee and to monitor and to get feedback on the instruction in our school. And certainly, we talk a lot about how to be a data driven leader.
We all know that that is an important characteristic of educational leadership again in this century. And we have specific courses aimed at how you as a leader can most efficiently analyze data and use your conclusions to help drive instruction in your school. So all of these are values and beliefs and knowledge on our part that we make sure the underpinnings of our course progression.
And I would also say that our courses and our content are something that we are constantly looking at and seeing how we may need to update or improve that year after year, semester after semester. We take seriously asking for our students input. And we use that survey data as well as other qualitative feedback from our students to make adjustments and to seek out additional sources of great information by which we will teach.
A great example of that is many of you may be aware of the recent changes at the North Carolina legislative level with digital competencies and how important it is that our students and teachers are prepared for that. But a little part of that law also addresses how important it is for our educational leaders to also be highly digitally competent. And so as the result of that, we're continuing to look for ways to embed practice with digital tools and so forth for the candidates in our program.
STEVE CALHOUN: Excellent. Well, now students also complete an internship under a principle or system principle to gain some real world leadership experience. Dr. Abernathy, how would you-- or would you provide us with some additional information around this key component of the program? How's it structured? How the students incorporate the in-person internship experience into their online course environment?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: I would be happy to. And I couldn't agree with you more. This is a key and significant component of the program as a whole. The internship for your master's program comes at the very end of the program. It actually encompasses the final two courses of the 11 courses. And that is by design. During the first nine courses we are learning new content, we are acquiring new skills, we are walking through looking at the positive and negative exemplars of leadership, we are applying knowledge to mock-up situations, we are discussing with our classmates and our instructors.
But when we get to these last two courses of the program we are ready as administrative intern to practice what we have learned. And that is what our administrative internship is all about. It is two courses back to back, which is 16 weeks in length. And the intern is actually paired up with a mentor of their own choosing.
So if you as a candidate are particularly interested in learning under the guidance of a particular administrator in your own school, or a school that you're affiliated with and you would work with that mentor to acquire 200 hours of administrative experiences through which you are learning how to be an effective administrator through on the job type training and activity.
We give you information on the internships throughout the program so that you are ready to get started from day one of that 16 week experience. We ask for the input of your mentor and for check ups from them from their perspective as you are progressing and acquiring more skills and knowledge. And that internship experience is then embedded into a culminating capstone that reflects all of your hard work and what you have learned throughout the program. So the internship is very important.
During those two courses there are no papers that you are writing based on articles, or no homework if you will, that you are doing. It is all hands on learning out in your school and it is more reflection on your part. As you reflect on how you are growing and what additional questions you have based on what you are seeing and learning.
So from what I hear from our students that is a very exciting part of our program and an exciting time. And they are nearing the end of the program and being able to really apply in real situations the skills and knowledge competencies that they have acquired throughout the first nine courses of the program.
STEVE CALHOUN: Excellent. Well, clearly the integration of coursework and practical application provides a very solid foundation for the student. Other aspects add to the program highlights, such as the fact that there's no GRE, no application fee, low tuition, and for those enrolling in the summer of 2017 term, 10% off your first class. This program will prepare you for K through 12 principal licensure in North Carolina.
Those of you outside of North Carolina should check with your school district to confirm reciprocity. This degree is more than of half the licensure. This program will transform you with the practical and intangible skills needed to be an effective leader and make a difference for your students. Dr. Abernathy, could you elaborate on how this program prepares teachers to lead as effective principals and the changing face of education?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: Yes. I'd be happy to because as the teachers and counselors listening tonight will attest teachers and counselors are many times leader in their own right within their schools and they enjoy many leadership opportunity. But from school administration leaders are looking through challenges of the school often times through a different lens. And so we try to be very careful throughout our courses to approach every topic and every content from the lens of the administrator.
I can tell you when I'm in the online discussions with my students I am constantly asking them-- I say you're bringing up wonderful points and wonderful analysis. All right. Let's take it one step further. If you were the principal of this school, what would be your next step? Or if you were the assistant principal of this school, how would you communicate that change to your staff? And that's important for us as we are learning to be school administrators to practice how we make that shift from being teacher leaders into a leader of leaders, which is exactly what principals and assistant principals are in successful schools.
I will also say that I'm going to put a little plug-in here for our outstanding team of MEL professors who you will interact with and learn from throughout the progression of this program. They are very skilled and very in tune with the skills and the knowledge and the approaches that successful leaders have in successful schools. I will tell you all of these professors have supervised or have worked intimately with school administrators through a variety of different venues. And so they are very skilled at helping you as the candidate to grow in your understanding of be successful approaches that a leader can take in facing even the toughest of school challenges.
STEVE CALHOUN: OK. Now, all of this is available to you in a convenient online format. With our fully online program there's no campus on campus residency required. Our courses are asynchronous. So there are no specific times that you must log into a class. Our program is designed to offer working teachers the opportunity to balance personal, professional, and academic life needs. For some of you this may be the first experience with distance or online education. And you may have some questions or hesitations about what it's like to study online.
Here at Queen's we've designed our program to offer the same quality education offered on campus in a flexible format. We offer extensive support to our online students in its unique learning platform that enables you to stay engaged with coursework and interact with your instructors and fellow students regularly. Students will access course lectures and assignments via virtual classroom called, My Courses, with various interactive features to help you optimize your learning, stay engaged, and feel like part of the Queen's community.
A whole page of My Courses provides quick access to upcoming assignments, course announcements, and your calendar. The latest lectures and even videos from your professors, if they post them, are accessible from the home page. A couple key pieces of information can readily be found within the course, such as the instructors contact information and links to the library. There's a course wall where you can post quick updates to your classmates and faculty and you can see who's online at the same time as you.
Here's a closer look at some other features. It's an easy stay in touch with your peers throughout the program, engage in conversations about assigned readings, using the discussion formats in integrated Skype video and chat features. One of the really unique features about My Courses is the built in electronic portfolio tool. You can create a digital resume and collect your best course work and accomplish what's in one place to showcase to employers online. On top of all these great features My Courses is fully accessible on a tablet or mobile device. So you can do your homework from just about anywhere. Dr. Abernathy, how do you use My Courses to foster engagement among your online students?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: Well, that's a great question. And I use it in several ways. Before telling you those though I do wanted to say that My Courses is just a wonderful format for teaching, for learning, for engagement, for instruction, for feedback, for questions, for collaboration. I would assure any candidate who begins our program will find it to be very specific with very direct and step by step instructions for every assignment, every activity, and every project. So I cannot give it more glowing praise. It's just a wonderful, wonderful platform by which we are able to have a thriving online program.
I will say though to answer your question as to how I personally help my students to be engaged in the course, first and foremost is through a strong opportunity to discuss. Oftentimes, when I speak to students and they're thinking about an online program, but they're not sure because they like having discussions about things we have very rigorous discussions about every topic we learn from week to week. Oftentimes, in some weeks we even have two different discussions going on on two different threads.
As the instructor, I am involved in those. I am reading each post from each student, I am responding, I am probing, I am asking additional questions. Tell me more. What would you do if this were a little different or that? The peers or the students of each student, the additional peers or colleagues are also reacting to the posts that are in that discussion thread. So what we are doing is creating a very vigorous online discussion on each topic and we're learning from each other, and we're glowing through our questions and our ideas.
Other ways that I help myself as well as the students I'm teaching to stay engaged in our courses is by just active communication. Every week I will post general announcements to the entire class reminding them of certain things or giving them a heads up about something that they might need to really pay attention to in the days coming up. I invite them to ask questions of me. They can do so through personal email, through telephone call. All of our professors work to reply to all communications within 24 hours. So that is what we strive for, a 24 hour turnaround period as quickly as we possibly can.
But all of these directors on this team also work to give each of these courses a personal touch and to develop their very real and strong relationships with our students. Also our students are able to stay engaged through the My Courses platform through the support that they have from their peers. All of the students in the course are able to ask each other questions. We have a student lounge within the course where students are able to post questions or post ideas. And other students can respond and say, hey, I tried this or here's something you might want to think about.
And finally, the last thing that I would point out is the feedback on the assignments that are turned in, projects that are completed and submitted. You will find that our instructors are eager to give each of our students specific feedback, oftentimes encouraging full of praise, but also at times full of specific things that could be worked on, could be improved upon, ideas to try. And this opens up another stream of dialogue between the instructor and the student and one that can just grow and make the work and the learning experience even stronger with each passing week. So those are just a few examples of how I work to engage my students in everything that we are learning and thinking about through the My Courses platform.
STEVE CALHOUN: Those are excellent. Thank you so much for sharing. Now, before we move on to talk about admissions requirements, do you have any other thoughts that you'd like to share about the program?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: I would just commend it to anyone's careful consideration, I was once the teacher myself and decided that I wish to pursued school administration. And there were lots of important decisions for me to make at that point. And one of those decisions was time management. I know what a classroom teachers schedule looks like and I know how hard they work and I know how much they cherish time that they have with friends and family and time to think and plan and reflect.
So I would say to you that as far as the integrity of our Queen's University program and being rigor and the outstanding instructional team of professors we have gathered, I will say, when you reflect upon that, in addition to the flexibility that a completely online master's program would offer you as a master's candidate, it is just a win-win-win situation for you as the teacher leader and at the potential school administrative candidate. So I would just commend to our program to your consideration. And I again thank you for this opportunity to discuss it with you tonight.
STEVE CALHOUN: Oh thank you. Now before we move into the Q&A session, let's briefly go over the application requirements. Qualified students must have an active teaching license and have been teaching for at least three years. Also, along with a completed application form, applicants must provide transcripts from previously attended universities, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement and resume. It's now time for questions and answers. Please type your questions for Dr. Abernathy into the Questions tab and we will answer as many as we can time permitting. OK. Here's the first one we have. Dr. Abernathy, what type of activities count towards the hours for the internship?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: Wow. That's a fantastic question. And a lot of that is designed through the mentor and in turn themselves. At the very beginning of the internship one of the first things that is completed is an internship plan, if you will, where the mentor and the intern may say, here are the major things that we have decided that we're going to focus on as part of my internship growth and learning opportunity. So if the mentor believes that the good learning experience 99% of the time we will agree with them and approved for the intern to be involved in that.
But to give you some examples. That might be strategic work that the intern is leading or assisting with in terms of the school improvement plan, in terms of data analysis for the school. That may be work that the intern is doing to shadow the mentor as they are making classroom visits, as they are providing snapshots or walk through feedback to teachers. There may also be opportunities where the mentor is able to arrange an opportunity for the intern to get in on an observation, or to conduct a mock observation of a teacher in the school with a mock follow up conference.
There could be opportunities for the intern to read lesson plans and provide feedback; opportunities for the intern to analyze teacher working conditions survey data and to reflect on that or present that to the staff; opportunities for the intern to work with particular PLC's within the school to design professional development or to even conduct the professional development needs assessment; opportunities for the intern to study budget, to give input regarding financial decisions; opportunities to work with external groups related to the school, such as Outreach to Parent, Outreach to the Business Community.
So those were some I just pulled off the top of my head from the activities that I've seen with the interns I've worked with. So really the sky's the limit. There is so much to learn from the administrative internship experience. And it's going to be unique and different for each intern working with each unique mentor.
STEVE CALHOUN: All right. good. Dr. Abernathy, when would you say is the most opportune time to start the program?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: Well, I would say the hardest decision that you are going to make is the decision to start a graduate program. I know because I've been there twice. I've had to make the decision to start a master's and then I made the decision one day to start my doctorate. Once you get past that first step it is very exciting from that point. So to answer your question, I would say any time is a great time to decide to grow and expand upon your own knowledge and your own learning.
As far as timing goes though, I would say to those of you that are thinking about starting this summer session this would be a perfect opportunity when you think about the timeline and the progression and being ready to potentially, potentially apply for administrative vacancies when you complete the program. Because I will tell you from my experience, oftentimes, school districts, charter schools, private schools will advertise administrative positions in the spring and will be looking in the spring and early summer to fill positions for the following fall.
And has already discussed, our program can be completed in as little as 22 months. Starting in the summer would mean that a candidate would be potentially ending in the spring semesters, and then would certainly be in an excellent position if they so desire to apply for administrative vacancies for the following school year. So if a candidate is considering joining our program and is wondering, well, should I start in the summer or should I start in the fall, any time is a great time to start, but summer time as far as the timeline goes for hiring is a wonderful time to start.
STEVE CALHOUN: Very good. All right. Let's see what we have next. Are all classes asynchronous, Dr. Abernathy?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: Yes.
STEVE CALHOUN: All right. Very good. Next one after that is-- I'll take this one. What is the total cost of the program? The current cost is $390 per credit. And if you start in May-- now remember, as we have mentioned, you will save 10% off the first class. All right. Next one. Dr. Abernathy, can I become a principal in another state?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: If you are a candidate who's living in another state, our program is designed for licensure in the state of North Carolina. So I would commend to you for you to do some research on your end with your particular state and with your particular Department of Public Instruction and to seek out answers to that excellent question. But our particular program is designed and leads to administrative licensure for North Carolina.
STEVE CALHOUN: OK. And the next one is, now when we finish the program do we become automatically licensed? Dr. Abernathy.
DIXIE ABERNATHY: When you finish the program you should have the complete portfolio of items that you need to apply for licensure. And unless there's some sort of an issue with the process you should be in very good shape to receive that license.
STEVE CALHOUN: OK. Very good. And let's see. We have one more. Dr. Abernathy, what is the amount of time for course work each week?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: I would recommend that you go into the process with a realistic outlook that spending somewhere between 15 to 20 hours a week would most likely be sufficient to have a solid learning experience for each week of each course. Obviously, the more time you spend, whether it's an online program or face to face, no matter what kind of learning opportunity it is, the more time and effort you put into it, the more that you will get out of it. And we tell our students in our classroom that every day. But as far as time management, I would recommend that you chart out and assume that 15 to 20 hours a week would on average be what would be needed to enjoy the full benefit of our program.
STEVE CALHOUN: OK. We're running out of time. We'll take a couple more questions from here. Let's see. OK. Here's a good one. Dr. Abernathy, if I have administrative type duties in my every day at work, as I take on a leadership role, can those hours count toward my internship hours before I start the internship classes?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: That's actually a great question. And I'm going to break that down into two questions. And let me take the second part first. Will we allow activities that you're engaged in before your internship course to actually start? Will we allow some of those hours to count? And that answer is, we will but that is something that you need to coordinate with the instructor of your first internship course, or with me as the director of the program. So we are more than willing to look at those on a case by case basis. So the potential is there.
Now the first part of that question is a little bit more complicated. And I believe the gist of that question is, if you are a teacher and as part of your regular job at the school, you are assigned afternoon bus duty to do every afternoon. Can you then log those hours as your administrative internship experience? And the answer is that you can log a few of those hours because learning how to do bus duty and do it right is an administrative type deal and it's something that your mentor may want you to work on. But the fact is that it does not take 75 hours to learn how to do that.
It takes maybe three hours before you know how to do it and to do it well. So again, opportunities like that would be something that would lead to a great discussion with your mentor and with the instructor of your internship course, or with me as the director of the program. Now, did I answer that question sufficiently?
STEVE CALHOUN: Yeah, I think so. Now another one here just came in. What kind of homework can I expect? Are there exams in each class or is it more analytical and paper based?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: That's a great question. And it is more analytical and paper based. We don't have a lot of exams or tests built into our program. It's more of asking you to read and consider different sources, different reports, different opinion pieces, different videos. And then we want you to react. And at the same time that you're reading those external forces you have a wonderful textbook that are giving you great content based information. And then we are pairing that up with outside sources.
For instance, in your EDU 652 course, which is your human resources and finances course, you have a wonderful textbook through which you are reading about how a principal manages the budget of his or her school. But then in addition, we ask you to look over the state budget that was most recently adopted. We ask you to compare and contrast budget line items. And then we all come together in our discussion and we try to connect all those dots as to, what is the impact at the school level of the decisions being made at the state legislative level?
So there's a lot of those types of assignments where you are reacting and reflecting and writing a reflective paper about what your questions are or what you've learned or where you are reading about, for instance, the federal government's role in public education. And you are writing a one or two page summary paper about how that role has evolved over the past four or five decades. Those are the types of activities you will see yourself engaged in. Did that answer the question.
STEVE CALHOUN: Yes. Yes. Thank you so much. Now is there any final-- oh OK. One more and then I want to clearly stay mindful of Dr. Abernathy's time and let her get back to her other duties beyond this wonderful experience we've had here. So the one last question would be, is there a thesis in the program?
DIXIE ABERNATHY: There is not a traditional thesis that the author of this question may be thinking of. Many times a traditional thesis looks more like a mini dissertation, if you will. Our version of your masters culminating work, which is what a thesis is for many programs, our version of that is our capstone project. And the good news I want to share with our students. And this is another thing I love about the way our program is designed. Our capstone project is designed around five essentials strategic questions that any great educational leader will constantly be asking themselves.
The first question, for instance is, where are we now? What is the demographic contextual background of the school that I am leading? Question number two for another example. Question number two is, what is the student achievement data telling me about the progress and achievement of our students as individuals, as groups? Where are the gaps in learning? What should be our target goal? So you get an idea of what these different questions are and there are five of them. And reflecting and reacting to those questions is part of that culminating capstone project. But here's the good news.
You will complete question number one in your very first course. You will complete question number two in your second course. So what we've done is we've broken up that huge project into very manageable pieces, where you are working with individual instructors embedded within an eight week course. And you are progressing on that huge project bit by bit in a very logical sequential flow of a project. And then when you get to the end of the program to put it all together and you're deciding, OK. This school that I spent all this time with and now have completed this wonderful internship in.
What would be my action plan for this school? I know the data, I know the background, I know the demographics, I know where the gaps are, what our target should be. What should be the plan for this school? And you're going to develop a short several page long action plan of as the leader, as a prospective leader, as a potential future leader, what would your recommendation be as to what the strategies or goals moving forward should be for that school?
And all these pieces come nicely together in a capstone project. And it's an amazing piece of work. One that I can guarantee you that our students are very proud of when they get to the end of their program. And one as opposed to a thesis, one that is actually based in application, based in real world use of the skills and the knowledge that the future potential administrators have acquired as part of their male experience.
STEVE CALHOUN: Fantastic. Listen. Dr. Abernathy, on behalf of myself, Alejandra, all of the students in attendance, thank you so much for your time. I think this has been very valuable. I did want to make sure that all of our attendees are aware that we are accepting applications for May. If you wish to apply you simply go to www.online.queens.edu. You can access the application there. If you have additional questions, please don't hesitate.
Reach out to either myself, Steve Calhoun, or Alejandra Sanchez-Mata. We can be reached at-- you see the toll free number there, or 704-372-1886. You can email us at online at firstname.lastname@example.org. And clearly, any additional questions as I say, please don't hesitate. I think this has been a phenomenal opportunity for all of us. And I very much I wish each of you a wonderful evening and look forward to receiving some questions and hopefully some new students as we continue to grow this wonderful program moving forward. Dr. Abernathy, thank you once again so much for your time.
DIXIE ABERNATHY: Thank you. It has been my pleasure. And I look forward to hopefully having the honor to welcome many of our listeners this evening to our program this summer. It would be a wonderful honor for myself, as well as our team of professors. So thank you.
STEVE CALHOUN: Very good. Thank you and good night all.