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TLU’s Inaugural Ed.D. On-site Residency a Success

Fifteen doctoral students gathered early this summer for Texas Lutheran University’s inaugural Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) On-site Residency.

The Ed.D. program, which takes three years to complete and is taught entirely online, offers the on-campus residency as a way for students to come together in person for a collective experience—and it’s one of the things that sets TLU’s program apart from others. Dr. Luigi Peñaranda, Ed.D. program director, says this year’s event was a success, bringing two cohorts of students to campus for four days. “The residency strengthened their relationships with each other, the faculty, and the Ed.D. Program in Interdisciplinary Leadership,” he says. “It was an opportunity to foster a sense of unity and community while cultivating academic rigor and collegiality.”

Peñaranda says that although the two cohorts are at different stages in the program, the residency offered a chance for them to share experiences, learn from one another, and expand their relational and academic network.

“Most of our Ed.D. program is intentionally online because we want doctoral students who are committed to leadership development in their local communities and educational settings,” he explains. “However, we offer a yearly on-site residency as a space where students can retreat from their routine, focus on their doctoral studies while practicing self-care, and get re-energized to continue their journey.”

Kyle Wych, who is seeking his Ed.D., says the weekend proved valuable for a several reasons. “The first is, we got to see our cohort, many of whom we have not seen in person since our orientation into the program, as well as meet the second cohort. The second reason was the opportunity to have live discussion in person where we could see the non-verbal expressions of our classmates that you just don’t get in a Zoom call. Third was the time given to bond with each other to make us all remember that we do really need to lean on each other and support each other through the three-year process.”

Wych, who is Dean of Students at the university, says TLU’s doctoral program is unique in that the required dissertation is incorporated into the classes. “We are writing our dissertation during the process—not after all the classwork has been completed.”

Another participant, Rose Ávila, now a year into the program, found the residency to be a valuable experience as well. “It’s been tremendous,” she says. “I am a lifelong learner. Spending time with the professors, spending time with the cohort—it’s given me more belief in myself.”

“Starting a dissertation is a huge thing,” she adds. “I didn’t even know that I could do it. But here I am a year later, and I’m confident that I can.” She says that spending time together with her professors and fellow students, “has given me a belief in myself that I didn’t know I had. That’s what I came here for.”

Once the weekend wrapped up, the students went their separate ways—knowing one another better and feeling prepared to face the challenges that lay ahead. Peñaranda was pleased with the outcome. “We want doctoral students to participate in on-site residencies during their first and second years of the program, with the hope that their next visit to campus, in the third year, will be to participate in their commencement ceremony.”