Ed.D. in Educational Administration & Leadership, 2008
School of Education
August 1, 2011
“My career in Student Development is allowing me to return the favors I received to future students.”
My interest in educational leadership and the pursuit of a doctorate degree began in high school but they truly blossomed during my undergraduate experience at CSU Long Beach. My college years were filled with intellectual and social challenges. My opinions were valued for the first time and I learned to appreciate diverse cultures and to take pride in my own identity. This was a powerful transformational journey that I would not have expected based on my negative experiences in K-12 education.
I come from a middle class home in Long Beach, California, where I attended public schools. Although my parents always encouraged me to attend college, they were limited in their knowledge and ability to provide me with the insight and strategy necessary to prepare for attending a prestigious college. I was always interested in the concept of higher education, but I really had no idea of what it took to position myself academically and socially in a way that would expand my postsecondary choices when the time came to apply. More importantly, I had no meaningful social connections with peers because I was struggling to come to terms with my identity as a gay man. I would have completely slipped through the cracks academically, were it not for the encouragement of my English teachers. They awakened my self-confidence and explained how college could be a place for me to flourish academically and socially once I escaped the fear and homophobia I was experiencing in high school.
Within a few years I was majoring in English at CSULB and heavily involved in extracurricular activities. I gained a sense of purpose and a feeling of belonging I never felt before. When I learned that a career in Student Affairs would allow me to return the favors I received to future students, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration at the University of Central Missouri. This experience ignited my passion for learning, student development, and scholarship. After graduation I intended to begin a doctorate within 5 years—but my plans for doctoral education had to wait another 10 years before I started the Joint Doctorate at UCI/CSULB.
In the meantime, I was fortunate to find exceptional mentors who guided me through increasingly responsible leadership positions in student affairs at public and private universities in Missouri, Kentucky, and California. I advised students and supervised professional staff in a variety of functional areas including student activities, leadership development, student media, career services, health and counseling services, and academic advising.
In 2003 I decided to apply to the first cohort of the CSU/UCI Joint Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Administration for two reasons. First, my career was stalling, I knew that I could not advance professionally without a title, and I had little money and time to devote to a traditional program. Second, I had questions about what I saw as a precipitous decline in men’s involvement in their education and in campus life. This was contrary to the positive experience I had in college and my belief in the transformative power of higher education. As a student affairs practitioner, I was at a loss to help many of my male students to find their purpose. For my dissertation, Understanding Men’s Engagement in Higher Education, I interviewed men who did not attend college at the traditional age and learned what they found most valuable about higher education as an adult.
I am indebted to Dr. Liane Brouillette and Dr. Michael Martinez for their guidance as I developed my study. As committee members they brought their unique expertise of methodology and scholarly writing to the project. I also credit my chair, Dr. Dawn Person, with giving me just the right balance of direction and freedom in the writing process.
In 2009, I made a career shift and decided to take a full time lecturer position at CSULB. I am also the coordinator of the Master of Science program in Student Development in Higher Education. I teach experiential education courses as well as law and ethics. I am also delighted to chair theses and dissertations and to teach research methods to the doctoral students in CSULB’s independent doctorate. My research interests include defining and evaluating professional values and dispositions in student affairs practice; masculinity and gender studies; qualitative research methodologies; and assessment of academic support services.
The doctorate degree opened up a whole new world of professional and personal opportunities beyond which I could have ever imagined as an insecure high school student. Throughout all of my work and student advising, I use my professional and personal experiences to enrich my pedagogy and to encourage my students to be true to their identities and to their calling to be educators.