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For Tyson Clyburn, EdD Pursuit Fulfills ‘Missing Puzzle Piece in Life’

By Emma Fulcher June 29, 2015

Tyson Clyburn is passionate about education. The Detroit native works full time as an alumni liaison while he pursues his doctoral degree in Transformational Leadership online from Concordia University-Portland. The lifelong learner makes a point to spend quality time with his family daily, stressing, “school is my passion.”

Tyson Clyburn

Clyburn is on track to complete his EdD coursework in 2018. He earned an online master’s in Higher and Post-Secondary Education. He has two bachelor’s degrees, the first in Language, Literature and Writing, and the second in History/Social Sciences with teaching credentials.

Clyburn spoke with us about his experience juggling online EdD classes while keeping up with work and family responsibilities.

Why are you pursuing the EdD in Transformational Leadership?

I chose the EdD program in Transformational Leadership because it is best aligned with what I hope for my future endeavors, for example, if I ever choose to return to working in educational administration.

Likewise, this degree will benefit me if I choose to ascend the corporate ladder in my current industry. This program has already provided me with a lot of insight as far as how I think and mentor currently at work. Transformational leadership also provides unique ways to transition a workplace to be a more positive, effective working system.

Why did you choose an online program from Concordia Portland?

I chose to embark on the program with Concordia Portland specifically for the flexibility of the online classes. The fact that there are no set times I am required to log in to complete my work is a huge plus.

I did my own research before beginning the program and was impressed by the positive reputation the school carried. The positive reviews online and hearing from actual students, helped me make my initial decision.

What has been your favorite aspect of the online doctorate program at Concordia Portland?

I’ve only taken four classes so far, but I’m really fond of the readings. The applied learning and individual growth I’m already noticing is very rewarding. Another favorite aspect would be the course material we are learning, for example, the different theories we have been discussing online. These classes are widening my perspective as to why we operate the way we do in our society.

My instructors have been great communicators. They are always ready to respond to my emails and questions. They have never belittled me, my work, or made me feel inferior. Plus they have always been willing to provide endless opportunities for me to redeem points I lost here or there on an assignment.

“They truly want you to succeed.”

What has been the most challenging?

The most challenging is learning to juggle the two classes while balancing everything else in life. But it is what I signed up for.

One of the core courses is transformational learning. That course talks about ‘moving away from knowledge transmission toward transformational learning.’ How do you see that playing out in today’s schools?

The transformational learning class has been my favorite so far because the material is more relatable to my own experiences.

As far as it playing out in today’s schools, it’s hard for me to say, because I’ve been out of the classroom (as a teacher) for a number of years. We’ve talked about the term “distorted assumptions” in class, which I think could be relevant for students today.

Historically, we are programmed to prejudge each other based on outer appearance. Transformational learning focuses on the importance of considering the whole individual, not just the outer appearance.

What were the major takeaways from that class?

Transformational learning taught me a lot about self-reflection, or memory, and the influence that peers and mentors have on children. These influences often follow us into adulthood. This class tied up a lot of loose ends from my personal childhood and helped me better understand the reasoning behind my ambitions and motivations as an adult.

How do you feel about the pacing of classes and the time commitment required to complete your program?

The pace of classes is great. I’m able to keep up and maintain my normal life. It’s all about your time management and self-discipline. I spend four hours a day studying, reading and completing assignments. I save big paper assignments for the weekend. As far as the pace of the classes, it’s what’s expected when you’re going into a doctoral program.

“You’re going to have to step it up a little bit.”

Is there any designated time off between courses?

Everyone is different, I chose to take some time off for personal reasons between the first set and second set of classes. We have set breaks usually between classes, allowing time to heal after all your hard work completing classes.

“I’ve found that school is not designed to take over your life, it’s designed to be that missing puzzle piece in your life.”

How do you balance your other responsibilities while completing coursework?

I have a daughter, and she’s my priority. After I get home from work, I spend at least an hour with her, giving her my undivided attention. Then I’ll go into my office around 7 p.m. to maybe midnight to work solely on my school priorities. I’m lucky to have my wife, my backbone, to support the rest of the household responsibilities so I can focus on my school tasks. Her support is what gets me by.

What advice would you give professionals who are considering pursuing an online doctorate?

“For people considering the EdD program, if your heart is in it, go for it.”

When you’re doing this program, you have to be motivated, you have to be dedicated. It’s imperative that you get yourself on a working schedule to manage your class responsibilities with everything else, too. It’s demanding, but it’s doable.

Be sure you look into the program first! Knowing what you want to get out of it is especially important. Make sure you have a conversation with an enrollment specialist to make sure it will align well with your lifestyle and schedule.

What advice do you have for a student who hasn’t taken any online classes?

The time commitment was nerve-racking at first.

However, this program is flexible and caters to your learning style. I found my own rhythm to accomplish my school tasks on my schedule. There are no surprises during courses; you know what to expect. This allows me to be proactive, and plan accordingly. Also, the instructors are there to help you.

“Time management, self-discipline, and dedication are the keys to success in this program.”

How do you hope your degree experience will further your professional career?

I know my experience can help elevate where I am in my current company. For example, I know how to more effectively communicate with my immediate team, which by extension, strengthens our overall deliverables and progress. I’m more confident to communicate ideas to others I haven’t worked with before.

Likewise, if I decide to go back into education, a lot of the curriculum I’ve been learning could be very helpful when working with students and administration.

How have you been able to use what you learned so far?

On a very basic level, I’ve already noticed the way I communicate with people is changing because of what I’m learning in class.

For example, we recently discussed the difference between a mentor and a friend. Learning the differences between the two is immediately applicable to me at work. I’m more aware of how to help those I mentor accomplish their tasks, but also reach their professional goals. I’ve learned how to maintain a professional, yet personal, relationship with colleagues.

Describe your relationships with other students.

The discussion boards are where we can interact with each other, it’s where we spend most of our time as students. Again, the reading assignments are very interesting, to me, and the discussion boards are where we share our thoughts and opinions about the topics.

We can comment on each other’s ideas, and raise questions for clarification.

“It’s a positive space, there is no negative bashing, and everyone is there to help each other grow.”

Describe the cohort experience.

Having the other students experiencing the cohort with me is encouraging. It makes me want to do better in my classes so I can continue the program with them. I’ve met people in the cohort personally, and I’ve worked closely with many on school projects.

What are your interests or hobbies?

I consider myself a very involved father. My daughter is my priority. I enjoy staying active by playing golf, and by working out. I like to cook for the family and hang out with my wife. In my free time, I practice my writing. I’m a writer at heart.

“To be honest, I’m just a regular, typical, run-of-the-mill guy who has my priorities in order.”

God and family are at the top of the list for me. School is my hobby. I enjoy the opportunity to better myself by learning all I can. I know I’m setting an example for my daughter, that with hard work, you can achieve anything. To be at my best means pursuing my doctorate degree.