Doctors in the House

Innovative doctoral programs prepare students for professional success

Photo: Mike Peters

In 1998, Montclair State University became the first of New Jersey’s public institutions of higher education to join Rutgers University in offering a doctoral degree. Today, more than 270 students at Montclair State are enrolled in doctoral programs in Audiology; Communication Sciences and Disorders; Counselor Education; Environmental Management; Family Studies; Mathematics Education; and Teacher Education and Teacher Development.

“Doctoral study reflects our most cherished academic practices in research, information generation and leadership in the disciplines,” says Joan Ficke, dean of The Graduate School. “Our programs have been selected to meet University-wide expectations and values. They are targeted to specific disciplinary needs that also reflect our institutional strengths and history.”

They also complement the University’s terminal MBA, MFA and MPH, master’s degree programs.

It’s Easy Being Green
Since 2009, the University’s PhD degree program in Environmental Management has prepared environmental scholars, scientists and research professionals for leadership positions in a flourishing field.

“Our alumni are prepared to enter fields associated with our changing environment, ranging from academia and government to industry and consultancy positions,” says College of Science and Mathematics dean Robert Prezant. To date, according to program director Dibyendu “Dibs” Sarkar, all program graduates are gainfully employed.

“Our program is unique,” says Sarkar. “It’s the University’s first real interdisciplinary PhD program, the tri-state area’s first and only PhD program in Environmental Management and one of a very few such programs in the country.”

The program’s 42 students work with individual faculty mentors on research projects that address real-world issues. Pawlish focused his dissertation on designing a decision support system for increasing the energy efficiency and diminishing the carbon footprint of data centers. PhD candidate Padmini Das says, “My research was aimed at developing a sustainable remediation technique for contaminated military sites.”

It All Adds Up
Having started out as one of the University’s first doctoral programs, the EdD program in Mathematics Education prepares students to be change-makers in an important field. Thirty students are currently enrolled in the program according to Amy Aiello, executive director for The Graduate School.

“It stands out as a doctoral program, that is an EdD, that is actually housed in a College of Science and Mathematics,” says Prezant. “Our students, in addition to the outstanding program in mathematics education proper, receive deeper support in the disciplinary end of mathematics.”

Mika Munakata, director of the Mathematics Education doctoral program, notes that all students share a deep interest in understanding mathematics education research and impacting change in K-12 and undergraduate mathematics education. “Our students, who come to the program with varied backgrounds in teaching mathematics, have opportunities to work with faculty on various programs, including professional development, research and outreach projects,” she explains.

Best of all, the program prepares its graduates for success in roles such as mathematics educators at four-year universities and two-year colleges, research-based practitioners and school district mathematics supervisors.

All for the Family
The PhD program in Family Studies, the newest of the University’s doctoral programs, welcomed its first cohort of nine students in fall 2013. “This is the only family studies program within a 300-mile radius of Montclair, New Jersey,” says program director Jonathan Caspi. “Our program is unique for our emphasis on social justice, diversity and focus on the social mechanisms that shape individual, family and group power as well as for our emphasis on creating positive social change through research, program development and evaluation.”

An interdisciplinary program, Family Studies draws on social science disciplines that include sociology, social work, education, gerontology and developmental psychology. “Our faculty and students come from a wide range of backgrounds and offer a variety of unique perspectives for considering the lives of families and individuals,” notes Caspi. “Even though we are only in our first year, our students are already actively involved in research, have presented at conferences, submitted articles for publication in academic journals and have consulted to area agencies.”

Goldfarb Scholarship recipient David Lardier is focusing his research on adolescent substance abuse, particularly in suburban communities. “What sets this program apart from others is the ability to work with the faculty on research projects and the open door policies of all the professors,” he says. “Overall, there is a lot of support in this program and many wonderful opportunities.”

Because Family Studies is a growing field, Caspi anticipates that employment prospects in higher education, government, nonprofit and private sectors will be quite good for program graduates.

Good Counsel
The PhD program in Counselor Education, the first PhD program at Montclair State, prepares culturally responsive social justice advocates to teach and supervise future generations of counselors, provides post-academic supervision to practicing counselors and conducts rigorous research and program evaluations. Since 2009, students seeking PhDs in Counselor Education have been prepared for careers as faculty members in counseling programs, directors in human services settings and advanced clinical supervisors.

“Our alumni have obtained prestigious positions in academia and as directors and supervisors of counseling services in education, human service organizations and private practice settings,” says College of Education and Human Services dean Francine Peterman. “They have benefited from extraordinary mentoring from faculty members that prepares them to succeed as scholars, educators and practitioners.”

Jill Schwarz is one of the program’s first graduates. “I felt well prepared as I entered academia as a full-time professor,” she says. “The program’s experiential curriculum gave me the opportunity to strengthen my skills as a counselor, teacher, supervisor and scholar. I truly appreciated the faculty’s intentional integration of all these aspects, which were essential to my development as a counselor educator.”

The program’s student-focused faculty members are distinguished scholars and leaders in national, regional and state counseling associations. “They encourage students to collaborate with them on their research projects, scholarly presentations and professional service activities, while mentoring them in developing their own areas of interest,” says program director Harriet Glosoff. “The program provides an exciting and life-changing experience for individuals desiring to make significant contributions to the counseling profession and the mental health and well-being of individuals, families and communities.”

Teaching Our Teachers
The first EdD in Teacher Education and Teacher Development (TETD) students began their studies in fall 2010. Today, more than 60 students are enrolled in the popular program, which is built around a curriculum of seminars, core courses and electives that deepens their understanding of specific areas of teacher education and teacher development. “The majority of the students are professionals in schools,” notes TETD program director Ana Maria Villegas.

“Our program prepares graduates to assume a leadership role in the preparation and development of teachers,” says Villegas. “Distinguished from other doctoral programs in the region, it builds on the most current research in teacher learning and development, giving special attention to the preparation of teachers for student diversity in the context of persistent social and educational inequalities.”

Katie Strom, who is the program’s first graduate, is currently working with the Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL) Initiative at WestEd, a prestigious San Francisco research and development organization.

She was attracted to Montclair State’s emphasis on preparing teachers for urban settings and diverse populations. “The program has a focus on teacher learning and development, which is very unique,” she explains. “It contains a very strong mentorship component, with a faculty committed to researching and writing with their doctoral students. I had multiple opportunities to publish as a doctoral student. In today’s ultra-competitive academic market, graduating with publications provides an enormous edge in the job search.”

Now Hear This
The 70 students currently enrolled in the University’s AuD in Audiology program are well prepared for post-graduate careers as clinicians, educators and administrators.

“There’s a tremendous shortage of scientists in our field,” notes graduate advisor Ilse Wambacq.

“The clinical doctorate in Audiology (AuD), which was established in 2005, is the only such program in the state,” says Wambacq. “This is a growing profession, as the population ages and hearing loss becomes more and more prevalent.” To date, all students who have wished to work after graduation have found jobs as audiologists.

The newly established PhD program in Communication Sciences and Disorders provides the opportunity for advanced study with a research focus in the areas of audiology, speech-language pathology, and speech, language and hearing science. “It’s a unique program in New Jersey and we have already received many inquiries about it,” notes Wambacq. “Due to the serious national shortage of academics and researchers in Communication Sciences and Disorders, we expect to attract many excellent students.

Succeeding by Degrees
Aiello notes that each of the University’s doctoral programs prepares students to succeed as scholars or professionals in their respective fields, supported by the full array of University resources. “We have wonderful students who are so engaged with their programs,” she says. “Armed with their doctorates, our graduates are going out and getting great jobs. They face a bright future of professional and personal success and achievement.”