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“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”: Q&A with Monique Woodley, EdD ’18

By Kara Wyman, MEd June 18, 2018

While pursuing her bachelor’s degree, Monique realized there weren’t many minority students on her undergrad campus. With a desire to help more members of her community pursue a college education, she decided then and there she would become a teacher. Having recently earned her EdD, she shares how far she’s come and what it means to continue giving back to her community.

What does earning this degree mean to you?

When I think about earning a doctorate, I think about my grandmothers who were born in Belize. One of my grandmothers never immigrated to America, so having a granddaughter that has a doctorate in education probably never crossed her mind. I’m pretty sure they just wanted me to be happy and healthy. But the fact that I’m pursuing higher education is key for myself, my family, members of my community in Los Angeles, and for African Americans.

Also, I’m a young African American female who looks young, too. So the fact that I have earned my EdD in Educational Administration helps me establish credibility when I introduce myself. If my experience and skills aren’t enough to establish my credibility, people will know I’ve worked extremely hard in a rigorous program to earn my doctorate.

What was your greatest takeaway from the program?

My greatest takeaway from earning a doctoral degree has definitely been that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. It’s been a rigorous process with constant revisions of my research, more analysis, synthesis, and consistent review – not only by me but by my dissertation chair and the university. It’s put my work and my writing under a microscope. The way I write at work as a high school principal is much different than academic writing. So it’s definitely made me step outside of my comfort zone.

What if anything did you appreciate about Concordia Portland’s faith-based values?

What I really enjoyed was Blackboard, the main infrastructure for interfacing with my coursework. There would be religious quotes posted every week and they served as a foundation for me. I would reflect on them and the ways they related to my life. Even now in my career and my personal life, I look for quotes to help guide me through my days.

What was your dissertation topic?

As a novice charter school principal, I studied 12 novice charter school principals in Los Angeles and the effectiveness of the support they receive from their supervisors, mentors, or consultants. Charter schools are a fairly new addition to the public school arena. The fact that charter school principals have the task of increasing student achievement – with sometimes less funding – can be a daunting task. As a result, novice charter school principals need support.

The findings of my study showed that these charter school principals found the support they received to be effective, and it was through their own advocacy for that support. From the trust that they built with their mentors and consultants, to regular meetings about how to improve the school, proved effective for them.

One thing I’ve found that needs to be improved and further studied is developing a collegiality among charter school principals. Yes, they received support from their mentors, supervisors, and paid consultants, but there is no collegiality and shared practices among principals.

What inspired you to work in education?

My largest inspiration for working in education has been my community. I currently live in south Los Angeles and have lived there all my life. When I attended my undergrad university, there weren’t many minority students on campus so my community was not reflected there. I wanted to see more minority students attend college, so I became a teacher to give back to the community. Now as a principal having earned my doctorate, I want to continue to influence my community as much as possible.

What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about teachers today?

One of the biggest misconceptions or expectations is that the teacher or the school can cure all of our community or societal problems. But we have to remember that in order to improve our communities and our society, all community organizations have to work together. So churches, police stations, hospitals, and our schools — that’s really how we can support all of our students and create societal growth.

What would you say to anyone on the fence about earning their EdD, especially online?

I would encourage prospective students to take the leap of faith — to step out of their comfort zone and become a Concordia Portland student. There’s a lot of support and you will grow as an educator or researcher in your field.

If you’re worried about earning your degree online, don’t worry. You will have support, flexible class schedules, and you’ll be able to reach out to your advisors, fellow classmates, and former cohort of professionals. The level of support exceeded my expectations. I could contact my dissertation chair and advisor through email, text messages, and voicemail. I formed relationships with classmates where we checked up on each other and it has just been great. I recommend it to everyone.

Kara Wyman earned a MEd and a BA from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She spent a decade working with adolescents as an English teacher, the founder and director of a drama program, a curriculum designer, and a project manager for a teen-centered nonprofit organization. She’s served as the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland and is now the managing editor of Concordia’s Room 241 blog.

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