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Converse College to offer first doctorate degree

January 6, 2019

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Converse College this fall will welcome its first doctoral students.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Changes approved the school’s request to become a doctoral degree-granting institution. The college will begin offering a 60-hour Doctorate in Professional Leadership, a doctor of education program, for two groups of 20 students at both the main campus in Spartanburg and the college’s satellite campus at the University Center of Greenville.

The students will take courses in leadership, management, personnel theory, entrepreneurialism and legislative decision-making, The Herald-Journal reported.

Converse began accepting applications for the new program last week.

“I think it’s an exciting new vista for us to explore,” Converse President Krista Newkirk said. “We have been offering graduate degree programs for 50 years now. This is the natural next step for us.”

The new program is being led by Dean of Graduate Studies and Distance Education Lienne Medford and Lee Givins, chairman of the school’s Department of Education.

Medford said the program is designed to be flexible enough to support students as they enter a variety of fields, not just education. She also said the degree would be useful to professionals who are working in their chosen field, saying the college’s corporate partner, Milliken & Co., had already reached out to express interest in the program.

“Say you have an MBA and you’re in management at one of those companies, you wouldn’t get a doctorate in engineering — that’s not your field,” Medford said. “So, professional leadership allows you to get a terminal degree, enhance your skill set and improve, hopefully, your job performance and what you’re doing for your company.”

Newkirk said the topic of leadership would also offer a skill set not found in other, more specialized degrees.

“A lot of degrees in specialized areas don’t really address the management issues that a leader would be faced with,” Newkirk said. “So, if you get a Ph.D. in business, it may be in accounting or economics, but what you’re really looking for is how to lead a company, how to lead a group or an organization.”

The dissertation for the program will require students to address a real-world problem.

The new program is different from many other doctoral programs in that students will complete their dissertations alongside their coursework, instead of after their coursework is finished. Newkirk and Medford said this choice was reflective of the college’s desire to reward student commitment.

“Especially for working professionals, because that is our primary audience here, we can say, ‘If you apply and are accepted, it will take you three years,‘” Medford said. “The big problem with doctoral work is people end up ‘ABD’ — ‘All But Dissertation.’ They finish their coursework, and then they’re just sort of cast adrift without their (classmates) as a support group, maybe without as close a relationship with the adviser, and they never finish. And that’s really a shame.”

Newkirk added, “We want to make sure their investment leads to success. We’re invested in them, and we want to make sure that when they start this program we get them to the finish line so that they can be successful in their next career step.”

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Information from: Herald-Journal, http://www.goupstate.com/

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