Saratoga Springs, Utah
Ed.D in Education Leadership
"I wanted access to a Tier 1 research institution with high quality professors who are published in the field. I wanted to have good ratios and relationships with my cohort and faculty members. In every metric, the University of Arkansas was by far the best program, like, it’s not even close. Their Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program is the cream of the crop, the very best program in the world."
To reach the peak of their profession is a common goal for many graduate students. That desire, coupled with a need to support the teaching profession and confront problems related to K-12 education, led John Emett to pursue a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership at the University of Arkansas.
“I'm in love with the profession of teaching and education,” Emett, 39, said. “A doctorate is, in some ways, the pinnacle of competence. It shows me how to evaluate knowledge, practice and research. It teaches me how to approach problems in a way that would be relevant to science. I knew I wanted to do a doctoral degree. I just needed to find out where. The University of Arkansas, I can't emphasize enough, is the best program I could find in the world. I can't imagine anywhere that has a more effective program that offers what I was looking for.”
Emett aims to graduate in December 2024 or May 2025. The exact time depends on when certain educational policies are implemented in his home state of Utah and when he will be able to conduct research interviews needed for his dissertation.
As for the future, Emett is content in his position as an elementary school principal in the Alpine School District, the largest in Utah. That may someday change, he said.
“I'd love to stay as a school principal, but I have large ambitions to affect policy and to help with system leadership in developing quality teachers,” he said. “I'm working with many partners on expanding teacher pipelines in my area, developing a systematic approach to support incoming teachers, connect them with more experienced teachers and mentor them along in the profession. Teachers who receive this type of support are more likely to stay in the field.”
Emett lives in Saratoga Springs with his wife and five children, ages 2 to 15. Having such a large family tosupport and a full-time job as an elementary school principal would make it difficult for Emett to commute to local universities. When deciding where to obtain his graduate degree, he weighed the time he would spend driving to and from an in-person class, as well as class time itself, time away from work and family. In addition, he did not want to settle for anything less than a top-tier research institution with a strong reputation. He wanted to do a doctoral degree but knew that he needed training on how to consume and perform research, he said.
With in-person options being less ideal, Emett searched for an online program that would provide a flexible schedule yet deliver high quality of instruction, mentoring, and affordability.
“I was looking for an online program, but I didn't want to sacrifice quality,” he said. “I looked for online programs that would have face-to-face components. I went from a wide variety of programs, over 100 programs, whittled it down, looking for factors that were cost-effective, time saving, and high quality. I didn’t want a program that would leave me with a large amount of debt, but I also did not want to sacrifice quality of research. I wanted access to a Tier 1 research institution with high quality professors who are published in the field. I wanted to have good ratios and relationships with my cohort and faculty members. In every metric, the University of Arkansas was by far the best program, like, it’s not even close. Their Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program is the cream of the crop, the very best program in the world.”
A licensed educator and K-12 administrator, Emett supervises teachers as an elementary school principal and helps build an effective collaborative culture with all staff.
“I started my career as a 6th grade teacher in elementary school, moved to two different schools, and then settled at this school,” he recalled. “I don't want to lose my touch with practice, and nowhere is better to get a sense for the problems of education and the problems of teaching than in a school.”
Emett describes the Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program at the University of Arkansas as tailored specifically toward learning from anywhere in the world.
“They created a program that has only the things that are essential,” he said. “It cuts out the fat and fluff. Everything that we do is all about developing our problem of practice, our research statements, our literature review, and our methodology, our competence. When it's time to come to class, wherever I'm at in the world, I open my computer and I'm there, ready to go. I take classes at home, at work, and even on my phone when I'm on vacation.”
Unending support from his family has been a tremendous help for Emett in his pursuit of graduate-level education, he said.
“My wife, who carries the burden of mothering five children, often reflects on how impressive this program has been,” he added. “I did a master’s degree and licensure to be a principal at a different university, which was a great program, but the amount of time I needed to commit outside of the home was vastly different than now. I was gone two nights a week. I would get home and the kids were in bed. In this program, I spend time with my kids, eat dinner with them. I get to be with my wife.”
In addition to work and family, a third powerful influence in Emett’s life is service to his church. Online learning allows him to devote more time to his faith.
“I was recently called a bishop in my church,” he said. “It was another reason to be grateful that I'm at the University of Arkansas, where in little moments of the day, little bits of time when I can work, I take those moments, a half-hour at a time, to engage with my writing, to engage with my reading and access the online libraries. I get so much reading and research and writing done in little moments of the day, little pockets of time that build up. It lets me do the work but leaves time for other, even more important tasks in my life.”
Emett obtains additional support and guidance from his fellow students, as well as the university’s faculty and staff. This diverse and rich resource gives him fresh insights into old problems and opens up entirely new avenues of study.
“I have a cohort that is nationwide,” he said. “I get perspectives on things that help me to be creative in my field. I talk with my professors, get support from them. I talk to my cohort members and advisers, to the Graduate School, to other professors who are not in my program. So many are willing to support me in finding ways to contribute my perspective into the literature and the science of our field.”
Emett has also found help in many of the support services offered to students at the University of Arkansas. These services include not only the university libraries, but also the Writing Studio and free software programs that come with paid student fees.
“It is most impressive to access online research journals through our online library,” he said. “Pretty much anything I need, I get. We use Zoom, Blackboard and Voice Threads. I use Endnote which is provided with our fees. I use the Writing Studio to help polish my papers. I've participated in the 3MT (3-Minute Thesis Competition), where I was able to gain some recognition. All along the way, I am supported by my research chair, John Pijanowski, and my dissertation committee members. We also have a doctoral seminar twice a year that we go to on campus.”
Emett was one of 29 online students to receive the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for online U of A students for the 2022-2023 academic year. The scholarship came as a great help to the hard-working father of five.
“It's a great honor to be recognized in my field,” he said. “At every moment in this process with the University of Arkansas, I have been supported by things like the W.E. Manning Scholarship. It is a great honor, but what was already a very cost-effective program has become even more cost effective for me. I have a lot of mouths to feed, especially with inflation these days, so having that extra cash has been huge for me and my family.”
Emett advises any student who may be interested in studying online to work hard, do their homework, and do their research before deciding on either a degree program or an institution. His advice is to evaluate the cost, perceive the trade-offs and value, and make an informed decision.
“Along the way, develop yourself and be grateful that you're advancing yourself through graduate work,” he said. “It's a great way to really develop your voice and advance in your field.”
Emett has only praise for the University of Arkansas and its distance learning degree programs, saying, “Thank you, University of Arkansas online program. You are changing the world. You're giving access to knowledge to people in places like Utah, and it is an incredible service. I can't tell you how grateful I am to be part of the Arkansas family.”