by Julie Lineback

In new higher education rankings released, the University of West Georgia is listed alongside research powerhouses including Johns Hopkins University, Texas A&M University and University of Florida.

Online student with a laptopOnline-PhD-Degrees.com named UWG’s College of Education as offering two of the nation’s best online doctoral degrees in education. This virtual repository of doctoral programs bases its findings on data and information procured from the National Center for Education Statistics, official college and university websites, and other college ranking sites like U.S. News & World Report.

The placement also considers factors such as accreditation, admissions selectivity, and academic and career support services offered to students.

“It is an honor to be among all these distinguished universities and is a tribute to the quality and relevancy of our programs,” said Dr. Dianne Hoff, dean of COE.

The Ed.D. in Professional Counseling and Supervision program and the Ed.D. in School Improvement program are led by husband and wife, Drs. Matt and Mary Alice Varga, respectively.

The doctoral degree in professional counseling and supervision teaches students theories that support advanced practices in counseling, supervision, program evaluation, and advocacy. It is available to a broad range of counseling professionals and is offered solely online.

The option for students to choose among two different tracks helps the program stand out amongst others, explained program director Dr. Matt Varga.

“The ability to be flexible with students is one thing that’s unique,” he said. “Students who earn an Ed.S. in counseling can essentially do an expedited Ed.D. with 39 credit hours as opposed to the full 60 required without an Ed.S.

“The other piece is that we are training professionals who want to be supervisors or managers of counselors,” he continued. “There’s only one other program in the nation like ours, and ours is more cost-effective.”

With a summer 2018 cohort of 16 students, Matt noted the program’s enrollment has increased from a cohort of five two years ago. He foresees the trajectory continuing in the future.

“We want the program to continue to be as inclusive as possible to those who want to advance their counseling careers, whether it’s in the schools, private practice or managing others,” Matt said.

The doctoral degree in school improvement focuses on administration, instructional design and a student-designated area of concentration, allowing them to focus on individual goals they would like to achieve through the program. It is the only one of its kind in the nation that is exclusively online and offers a customized area of concentration.

“Our program offers a unique opportunity for educators looking for an interdisciplinary, inquiry-based doctoral program that prepares them to become change agents in the schools they serve,” explained program director Dr. Mary Alice Varga.

Program administrators work closely with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to ensure resident students who hold initial certifications in their field are eligible for certificate upgrades through the program. This partnership helps elevate them to positions where they can become catalysts in their academic communities.

Since the program is offered exclusively online, the national and international student roster allows various perspectives and experiences of education in other systems.

Founded in 2000, the Ed.D. in school improvement was the first doctoral program offered at UWG. With the admissions process becoming more competitive, the most recent cohort – welcomed in summer 2018 – saw 12 students accepted after nearly 100 applications.

As the world of education grows and evolves, so does the program.

“Our recent induction into the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate consortium has assisted us with crucial program and curricular revisions to ensure our courses are relevant for our student educators and updated to meet professional standards,” Mary Alice concluded. “We are lucky to continue working with amazing educational leaders as they work diligently to address the multitude of issues they face in their educational landscape.”

Posted on Jan. 18, 2019