Rural and Diverse Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

SAU welcomes the 2022 Cohort into the Doctor of Education in Rural and Diverse Educational Leadership

October 1, 2022

Entering its second year, welcoming the first student residing outside the United States, and adding students from Texas and Oklahoma, SAU’s Doctor of Education in Rural and Diverse Educational Leadership grows to include 48 students from 6 states and 2 countries. Alongside 24 returning students who progressed into their second year of doctoral study, 24 students are enrolled in the new 2022 Cohort.

The new students come to SAU from Arkansas public school districts ranging from as small as Strong-Huttig School District (around 300 students K-12) to as large as Pulaski County Special School District (more than 11,000 students K-12). Students represent many organizational types including two fully online schools, one suburban private school, one Department of Defense Education Activity school, 8 institutions of higher learning, and one state agency. Students are as varied as the places from which they come.

SAU welcomes these teachers, healthcare providers, administrators, coaches, authors, and advocates. Through this diversity of experience, together the cohort will learn in a culture where they are both challenged and nurtured to meet the transformational leadership needs of schools, institutions, and communities.

Interactive Map of Ed.D. Students

Incoming student Cory Godbolt, Associate Dean of Students at Lyon College (Batesville, AR), aims “…to continue evolving as a higher education professional…as institutions continue to change.  I chose SAU because of the specificity offered in regard to the populations I wish to serve long term.” Godbolt’s research interests are inclusive leadership and fiscal management.

“I chose the Ed.D. at SAU because of the specificity offered in regard to the populations I wish to serve long term. Inclusive leadership and fiscal management of educational agencies are two focus areas that I wish to research further during my time as an Ed.D. student at SAU.”

Cory Godbolt
Asso. Dean of Students
Lyon College, Batesville, AR

Based in Asia and serving as teacher, coach, department chair and more, new student Catherine Mince reminds us,

Catherine Mince
Social Studies Teacher/Dept. Chair - CSI Literacy Chair, Women's Volleyball Head Coach
United States DoDEA,
Manama, Middle East

“The last few years have demonstrated how small our world has become and how incredibly diverse. As a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) teacher, since this program is online, it allows me to the opportunity to be part of my small community back home while working overseas.”

J.P. Wilson, Associate Professor and SAU’s Director of Bands didn’t have to look far to see the valuable opportunity available to him. He says,

“The program fits the schedule of an active educator and allows me to teach while building my skills for the regions I spend the most time in. It is affordable and the degree plan is very well structured toward the end goal. I hope to offer insight and strategies for public school teachers, working in rural areas that I visit on a regular basis. Growing up in a rural community, I realize the challenges that educators in those areas face. The door has opened to allow more progressive methods of education. I want to be involved in these changes and feel this program will give me the foundation I need to do so.”

J.P. Wilson
Director of Bands
SAU - Magnolia, AR

Even in the midst of changing times, Rhonda Perry, Principal and Instructional Faciliator with Strong-Huttig School District, wants to ensure the long tradition of local access to high-quality education. She wants research ways to “…continue the legacy of rural schools systems by facilitating new ways of learning that inspire change in the communities.” Realizing that great leaders shape great leaders, Perry says she is “…most excited about the possibilities of developing a generation of leaders.” 

Rhonda Perry
K-12 Principal, Strong-Huttig School Disctrict
Strong, AR

SAU is an institution that promotes the success of all students. I passionately believe in rural school systems and the unlimited possibilities of the students.

Lupe Peña, Director of Student Support Services at the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, applied to the doctoral program at SAU as a way to “…honor my parents…they instilled in me a love for education and a great respect for both my native and adoptive countries.” 

Education is powerful! I am committed to all learners across Arkansas and their untapped potential. I selected SAU’s Ed.D. because I wanted to be part of a cohort of educational leaders who are not satisfied with the status quo.

Lupe Peña
Director of Student Support Services, Arkansas Department of Education's Division of Elementary and Secondary Education

Program director Dr. Katherine Berry welcomes the 2022 Cohort with enthusiasm even as she reflects on the first year of the program, noting, “What we learned last year as we launched the Ed.D. at SAU is that there is an ever-shifting balance between challenge and triumph in schools, colleges and universities, and other institutions today. We see heartache and celebration, often on the same day. We see struggling and striving. We see success and failure. We see thriving and burnout. Our doctoral students are focused on these tensions and how to use them positively for the good of the students they serve across the educational continuum. The needs are vast and the issues are serious. In this climate, our doctoral students inspire us every day to continue growing this program. Each time a student decides to join our program, there is a new energy in finding someone else who wants to go on this journey with us.”

Faculty are already deeply engaged with the new cohort in an exploration of ideas that are being tested in educational laboratories within schools, colleges and universities, agencies, and organizations across the country, and now even overseas. Dr. Berry sums it up by saying, “There’s a lot of positive news coming out of SAU right now and it demonstrates the way we continue to focus on our institutional mission. The Ed.D. @ SAU extends the institutional mission in a new, exciting way. Each student who successfully completes our program will have the potential to create powerful ripples of positive change throughout the places they serve. That is why we are here – to prepare and equip transformational educational leaders.”

District Data pulled from:

Program Contact

Katherine Berry, Ed.D.
Associate Professor
Founding Program Director
College of Education
Senior Advisor for Advancement
870-235-4379 (office)
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