If you ask students in Brandman University’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Organizational Leadership program about their projects focusing on transformational change, you’re likely to hear:
- “Absolutely life-changing”
- “It gave me an opportunity to work with senior staff in a way that built my confidence and changed their minds.”
- “It tapped into both my knowledge and my passion for improving school for every learner.”
- “The realization of a dream.”
Saturday afternoon, the Delta Class of the Ed.D. program displayed their projects – all designed to change the way an organization operates. First, they explained them to other members of their class and members of the faculty, then to cohort mentors and prospective students for the program.
The corridor and various rooms of the Costa Mesa Hilton Hotel where the program’s four-day immersion was held were buzzing with enthusiasm, questions and answers. Success took many different forms among those presenting their projects, from saving a school district $800,000 to the personal growth that comes from learning how to empower others to achieve their goals.
Not just for educators
While many of the students come from the educational sector, as nearly all students in other university Ed.D. programs do, the Brandman program’s focus on building leaders stretches across multiple types of organizations including military, nonprofits, for-profit businesses, government agencies and a wide variety of educational programs from K-12 schools to universities.
Navy veteran Eric O’Neal focused on improving base security, drawing on his military knowledge, security expertise and recent events at other military installations in the U.S. to shape his project. In the process, he had to change military leaders’ mindsets about security, work with “a lot of alpha personalities” and find a way to finance any changes. “By working together, we got the funding,” said O’Neal.
Amy Besler, the principal of Bear River High School, said the analysis needed to create her transformational change project focused on creating “the school no one ever wants to leave” was key to making it possible. “I knew I had the heart for building a community but not the strategy,” she said. Even before completing her project, Besler’s efforts helped her school survive the heartbreak that followed the death of students in car accident.” Her goal is to continue building on the foundation created through her project with ever increasing student and parent involvement.
Nou Vang’s background is in education but her project focused on helping other Hmong women become leaders. She developed in-person and web-based networking systems to help them shift the cultural norms that she said Hmong women often respond to by unintentionally holding themselves back in their careers. She understands because she’s dealt with it herself, benefiting from support from her husband but still having to justify her career to members of her extended family. Since starting the project, Vang also learned to take her own advice, moving from assistant principal in a Yuba City school to principal in the Natomas Unified School District in northwestern Sacramento.
Gerald Dugas also focused on creating a supportive community. He created 12th District Fatherhood Initiative to reinforce support between fathers and their children by engaging absentee fathers in their children’s lives through weekly engagement and monthly training sessions. While finding funding continues to be an issue, Dugas spoke enthusiastically about the possibilities for making the father-son connection stronger in his community.
Margaret Kenrick, the director of the Benicia Ballet School and artistic director for Benicia Ballet Theater and a biology instructor at the community college level, wanted to expand performing arts education in Solano County. Her transformational change project forced her to focus on what was missing and to expand training into schools. On the plus side, she earned a $10,000 outreach grant to fund her project. On the minus side, the project didn’t turn out exactly as she envisioned it. “I learned a lot about building cooperation and including others.”