New Ph.D. Programs Begin In Atlanta and Macon

This month, two new Ph.D. programs at Mercer will welcome their first students. The Tift College of Education welcomes students to its second Ph.D. program, this one in curriculum and instruction, on the Macon and Atlanta campuses, while the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing welcomes its first doctoral students in Atlanta.

Nursing

The first six candidates in the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing’s new Ph.D. in nursing are in the midst of their first introduction to the Atlanta campus through a computer training and orientation. The dynamic program features a distance-learning delivery method for much of the coursework, allowing the students to continue in their positions as nurses and nursing educators. The program is only the fourth Ph.D. in nursing to be offered in Georgia, which is facing a critical shortage of nurse educators.

The students in the program will meet at the campus several times per semester and will also work remotely in virtual classrooms and via specialized Internet-based educational software. The inaugural class for the doctor of philosophy in nursing program brings together nurses from out-of state, as well as those residing in more rural areas of the state. 

“We had to design the program around the needs of working educators and nurses, because the nursing and nurse educator shortages in this area are so great our program had to be flexible enough to allow the students to remain at their jobs,” said Dr. Linda A. Streit, interim dean and associate dean for graduate programs at Georgia Baptist. “The students will have two days on campus for orientation and training to prepare for the coming semester.”

The program is designed to be done in a hybrid format and completed in 24 months, depending on the length of time taken on dissertation research. The program will create high-performing nursing educators and researchers to address the urgent need for nursing educators and leaders.

The program will prepare its graduates to:
• address the pressing need for advanced expertise in the application of theories and conceptual models to nursing education, practice and research;
• conduct research that advances nursing knowledge;
• evaluate the influences of ethical, social, political, demographic and economic issues on health care and nursing;
• assume leadership roles in education, practice and research to improve health care.

Dr. Streit also worked to secure grant funding to support students in the program through the Nurse Faculty Loan Program, a federal program designed to increase the number of nursing students pursuing careers as full-time faculty in schools of nursing. Funds from the program are administered by the Bureau of Health Professions, Health Resources and Service Administration and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The program received nearly $400,000 for the 2009-2010 academic year through a Nurse Faculty Loan Program grant of $189,215 and $206,850 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Nurse Faculty Loan Program.   The loan program offers significant loan forgiveness to students in master’s and doctoral nursing programs who train for, and become, full-time as faculty in nursing programs upon graduation. The new Ph.D. in nursing program was tailored to meet the needs of students pursuing this program, Dr. Streit said.

Curriculum and Instruction

The Tift College of Education designed the degree in curriculum and instruction to help teachers upgrade their own skills and become influential instructors and researchers within their schools, school systems and communities. The three-year program will educate experienced teachers to become able to influential forces in policy and research, either within a school, school system or as professors. The first 42 students in the hybrid evening/Online program will begin in cohorts.

“Graduates of this program will serve in schools, in higher education and in political arenas working toward the implementation of effective education today and in the future,” said Dr. Margaret Morris, chair of the teacher education programs for Macon and Eastman. “We created this program to meet the needs of those societal changes that are placing an ever-increasing emphasis upon the evolving role of the professional educator. Leadership in curriculum and instruction is crucial to today’s educational system, where accountability is at its highest level, tax dollars are limited and competition within a global community is escalating. Our program will prepare curriculum and instructional leaders who have a theoretical and practical knowledge base of the curriculum, the instruction and the learner.”

The program is designed for working professional teachers with at least three years of experience and a master’s level certification. The Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction will be offered in two tracks, the early learner track and the adolescent learner track. The program will take a minimum of three years, or nine semesters, including summers, to complete. Classes will be delivered in a hybrid format – both Online and in evening or weekend courses – allowing candidates to continue as teachers.

“In addition to upgrading a current teaching certificate to a T-7 level, completion of this program will prepare experienced teachers to develop, initiate and model best practices within their own classrooms and schools,” said Dr. Allison Gilmore, associate dean and chair of the Atlanta campus graduate teacher education program. “This degree will also provide them with the knowledge, the expertise and the degree credential needed to teach university-level classes and to contribute to the existing body of professional knowledge about curriculum and instruction through both quantitative and qualitative research. We are confident that graduates of this program will have a positive and substantial effect on educational practice through the development and implementation of new approaches and innovative strategies.”

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