New EdD in Organizational Change and Leadership kicks off with successful immersion weekend

By Stephanie Echeveste

Students preparing to tour the USC campus

Students preparing to tour the USC campus

This past weekend 58 leaders from around the world came to the USC campus to meet faculty and colleagues for the inaugural online Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership program. Dean Karen Symms Gallagher and Executive Vice Dean Melora Sundt as well as USC Rossier faculty and administrators welcomed the doctoral students over dinner on Thursday night, Jan. 15, noting their diversity and the uniqueness of this new program.

From aerospace to health care, K–12 education to legislation, military to marketing, the doctoral students come from truly diverse backgrounds with rich experiences to bring to the classroom. All are overachievers, with many holding more than one master’s degree and maintaining their full-time jobs (as director, manager, specialist, principal, pastor, lead administrator, teacher, writer, social worker, scientist, etc.) at various private, public and nonprofit organizations while earning their doctorate degree over the next three years.

“I approached the MAT program as a startup and I intend to approach the EdD program the same way,” said John Rajeski, a graduate of the online MAT program and now a student in the online EdD in Organizational Change and Leadership program. Rajeski, who flew in from South Korea, reconnected with fellow MAT graduate and current EdD student James Winter, who flew in from São Paulo.

The EdD Organizational Change and Leadership Immersion was a rigorous four days of coursework. Students had their sections of EDUC 619: Framing Education Leadership in a Global Context and EDUC 620: Creativity and Innovation with their professors in person at Waite Phillips Hall on campus. The classes are small online and off—averaging about 12 students—and are so intimate that when Professor Rob Filback quickly glanced around his first group on campus he instantly knew that someone was in the wrong class.

USC Faculty members Kim Ferrario, Jen Crawford, Monique Datta, Kimberly Hirabayashi, Patrick Crispen, Doug Lynch and Filback taught throughout the long weekend and met their students in person for the first time. Dr. Ferrario greeted the students in their first session by saying, “[You are] agents of change—you are going to make a difference in your communities.”

EdD students in class

EdD students in class

Students jumped right in from day one, having in-depth conversations with their professors and classmates. By Saturday evening everyone was a bit burnt out, having had to frame their problem statements earlier that day and read pages upon pages of academic journals to make sure their framing had a foundation. Yet, they enthusiastically regrouped for a USC campus tour and later for dinner at LA Live.

On Sunday the students had their last courses on campus and posed for a group photo to commemorate the beginning of their journey toward the EdD. They will be seeing each other online soon to continue their coursework.

For more photographs from the USC EdD Immersion, check out our live blog coverage of the EdD online or search the hashtag #USCEdDImmersion.


Stephanie Echeveste is the community manager for USC Rossier Online and editor of Inside Rossier Online Blog. You can find her on #edchat as @USCTeacher and follow her at @stephanieetxe and Google+ .