ATLANTA — The first Ph.D. graduates from Mercer University’s Tift College of Education will take part in a special commencement honoring their achievement on Saturday, Aug. 15, at Mercer’s Atlanta campus. The event begins at 11 a.m. in the Sheffield Student Center. The 31 graduates hail from around the state and will receive their Ph.D. degrees in educational leadership, a program launched in 2006 on Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses.
Among the graduates are four school system executives and 10 principals and assistant principals, as well as several teachers. Many of the graduates were already accomplished leaders when they entered the program and have earned promotions as they completed their degrees, including Phillip D. Lanoue, who was recently named superintendent of Clarke County Schools, and Terry Watlington, who is now chief of staff for Fulton County Schools. Of the first cohort of graduates, 10 completed their coursework in Macon, while 21 worked from the Atlanta campus.
“We are extremely proud of this group; they have worked tirelessly to learn and apply sound leadership and research skills and their leadership distinguishes them, our college and the University,” said Dr. Carl Martray, dean of the Tift College of Education. “The state of Georgia faces many challenges in educating its young people and highly qualified school leaders are essential to that effort. We designed our program to educate leaders to meet these challenges. These graduates have answered the call to leadership and are already accomplishing those goals in their work as leaders for their schools and school systems.”
The graduates in the program continued to work as educators while attending classes in the evenings and on Saturdays, as well as through the summers. In addition to their coursework, each graduate completed extensive research and wrote and defended a dissertation on that research.
The Ph.D. program was designed to help meet the growing need for qualified school administrators who are consumers and producers of research and whose practices are influenced by sound inquiry. The program is divided into two tracks, and these graduates earned their degrees as part of the P-12 School Leadership track, which provides a terminal degree in educational leadership for school and school system leaders. The Tift College of Education launched the Higher Education Administration track, in 2007, and those candidates are set to graduate next year.