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EAMaginarium: The EAM Blog

  • 30 Mar 2024 2:30 PM | Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt (Administrator)

    March 2024

    By: Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt, Ed.D., MBA

    Keywords:  Mentoring, Retention, Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program, Ed.D.

    Embarking on the journey toward the completion of my Ed.D. in 2022 was a significant milestone, and defending my dissertation marked the culmination of three intense years filled with classes, research, papers, projects, and a 150-page dissertation. Soon after, I had the privilege of presenting my research findings at the 2023 EAM conference in Philadelphia, prompting me to deeply reflect upon my Ed.D. journey. As a full-time entrepreneur, mother of two, and adjunct faculty member, my Ed.D. journey was a wonderful three-year expedition full of reflection, high-level discussion, classes, research, papers, projects, and short on sleep.

    The Spark of Dissertation Inspiration

    The spark for my dissertation topic ignited during an entrepreneurial intensive class. While sharing my journey as an entrepreneur, a student's question triggered a revelation – the transformative potential of mentorship within an Ed.D. program. And just like that, my dissertation focus was born – exploring the impact of peer-to-peer mentoring programs on the Ed.D. doctoral experience. Embarking on a qualitative study, I delved into the tapestry of doctoral experiences, honing in on the influence of peer-to-peer mentoring. The startling attrition rates among Ed.D. students underscored the need for effective support systems, prompting me to share my reflections on the profound impact of peer-to-peer mentoring on student motivation, persistence, and overall success.

    Being labeled as nontraditional candidates, Ed.D. students like me face a unique set of challenges – juggling work, family, and academic responsibilities. The struggle for balance, coupled with financial burdens, contributes to a high dropout rate. In the realm of mentoring, peer-to-peer initiatives emerge as lifelines for doctoral candidates. Unlike traditional faculty-student mentoring, peer mentoring offers a more intimate and relatable connection. Alumni mentors, having walked the Ed.D. path, provide real-world guidance, networking opportunities, and insights into professional growth.

    Challenges Faced by Nontraditional Ed.D. Candidates

    Research indicates that mentorship is pivotal in doctoral student success. While traditional Ph.D. programs predominantly involve full-time study, Ed.D. students, often pursuing their degrees part-time, have unique learning requirements. Mentoring programs, especially peer-to-peer initiatives, have emerged as key support mechanisms for doctoral candidates. Unlike traditional faculty-student mentoring, peer mentoring fosters a more intimate and relatable connection. Alumni mentors, having successfully navigated the Ed.D. path, bring real-world guidance, networking opportunities, and insights into professional growth.

    The Pivotal Role of Mentorship in Doctoral Success

    Peer mentoring programs have proven effective in addressing the unique needs of Ed.D. students. Programs like Rutgers University's Access & Equity Mentoring, NYU's GSAS Peer Mentoring Program, and the University of Alabama's Tide Together Graduate Mentor Program showcase the positive impact of peer mentoring on Ed.D. student retention. In my dissertation, I presented the outcomes of my qualitative research and introduced a recommended model for a new Peer-to-Peer Ed.D. mentorship program.  This model is now being considered in the groundwork for a mentorship program at the University where I completed my degree.

    My research aimed to unravel the reasons behind student attrition, assess the potential of a peer-to-peer mentoring program, and outline successful mentoring program models. The economic and social impact of completing an Ed.D. is substantial, and the journey unfolds through distinct phases – from coursework to collaborative research projects and, ultimately, the independent scholarly work on the dissertation. Transitioning from coursework to research often leaves students facing barriers and self-doubt that demand a comprehensive approach to address attrition. Since the Ed.D. journey demands more than academic prowess; it requires a robust support system. Peer-to-peer mentoring programs emerge as a crucial component in addressing the challenges faced by Ed.D. students, enhancing retention rates, and ultimately contributing to the success of doctoral candidates.

    Continuing the Spirit of Mentorship

    Let's keep the spirit of mentorship alive and continue to shape effective programs that cater to the unique needs of this nontraditional doctoral demographic.

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