College of Ed receives state approval to begin offering Ph.D. degree in educational psychology

Charles Howell
Charles Howell

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has approved a request from NIU’s College of Education to offer a Ph.D. degree in educational psychology.

The program will be offered beginning this fall.

“This is a major step forward for the department and for the college,” said Charles Howell, chair of the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

“It means enhanced visibility, increased opportunity for our graduates, and recognition of our faculty’s leading role in research on motivation, student engagement, STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] teaching and learning and second-language acquisition.”

Jennifer Schmidt, an associate professor in the department, said she is thrilled that the college can offer this program for its students. Schmidt also recognizes what it means for the college and the university.

“This program is important to our students; they feel this degree will allow them to be more competitive in the academic marketplace and that it more accurately reflects the nature of the NIU Education Doctorate Program (Ed.D) that has existed for years,” she said.

“It is the first Ph.D. program in the College of Education, which represents a milestone in college tradition, and it is one of only a handful of advanced degree programs that has been added to the university in recent years.”

The Ph.D. program will prepare students to serve in the field of academia, working as professors or educational researchers.

Jennifer Schmidt
Jennifer Schmidt

“The program has a strong emphasis on human development, learning, and motivation in multiple contexts but offers flexibility for students to identify a specialized area of interest,” Schmidt said. “The program provides students with highly accessible faculty, engaging coursework and opportunities to assist faculty on externally funded research projects.”

The transition from the Ed.D. program to the Ph.D. program already has taken place.

Faculty and staff began the process years ago by reviewing the Ed.D. program for educational psychology and aligning its requirements with those of Ph.D. programs in comparable institutions. The changes have been in effect for three years while the department awaited approval for the doctoral program title.

All entering students, as well as current students graduating in fall 2012 or later, will be eligible to receive the degree if they meet its requirements.

“This program is the result of countless hours of faculty planning, data analysis, and report-writing,” Howell said. “Beginning with Dr. Jean Pierce in 2006, faculty members in Educational Psychology have worked assiduously to update the doctoral curriculum, raise standards for student performance, expand external funding and increase financial support available for full-time students.”

“The faculty is hopeful that the switch will be a draw for highly talented students and that we will be able to increase the number of students we can support for full time study,” Schmidt added.

by Janey Kubly

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