BU News

Brandman University’s Ed.D. program paves a path for women leaders

April 19, 2018

Like a thread woven through a tapestry, Brandman University’s Ed.D. program connects women helping them build leadership skills and a network of support throughout the regions of the Association of California School Administrators.

Graduates of the program shared how Brandman’s Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership guided them toward being transformational leaders. Melanie Dopson (Ed.D., 2016) is the director of secondary education for the Elk Grove Unified School District. Candice Flint (Ed.D., 2017) is the principal at Mariposa Elementary School in Mariposa and Jennifer Ramos (Ed.D., 2016) is a history teacher in the Elk Grove Unified School District and also teaches at the college level as an adjunct. 

Transformation in action

Jennifer RamosJenn Ramos (right): As a high school teacher, I have taken the lead on implementing our school’s Get Focused, Stay Focused program. The Get Focused, Stay Focused curriculum helps develop an online career and education plan that can be used for advisory and academic coaching purposes and can be updated as students grow, change or face transitions. The personalized 10-year program provides the focus and intrinsic motivation to succeed in college, at work and in life. In our first full year of implementation, our school was awarded a Gold Ribbon from the State of California.

Candice FlintCandice Flint (left): In general, it made me more strategic in how I make decisions. We did some work in one (Ed.D.) class about the multigenerational workforce. It was totally relevant to my site because we have millennials, Gen X and still quite a few baby boomers. I did some extra research and brought it back to my staff. It was really eye-opening. There were some great activities that we did in the program to get you out of your seat. I was glad they (Mariposa Elementary School staff) found it as fascinating and helpful as I did.

Melanie DopsonMelanie Dopson (right): I received my doctorate in February (2016) and I was already applying for a promotion (from principal of Katherine L. Albiani Middle School to a districtwide directorship), which I did get. I think the leadership skills acquired during the program really helped me in the interview process. Skills I learned come into play every day: being able to relate to people, being able to negotiate, being able to work with people from all walks of life. It really helps you go from one level to the next.

On learning to lead

Flint: “I think one of the biggest things was the program helped me be more reflective. It also helped me understand how to move an organization, whether during times of change or a recession.

Dopson: The program gives you a level of confidence that you just don’t have before you start. Each step you take, each challenge you conquer, gives you more and more confidence.

Advice for other women

Cindy PetersonCindy Petersen, Ed.D., is the superintendent/CEO of Gateway Community Charters and the founder of the Women’s Leadership Network ACSA Region 2, 3 and 4 event being held April 23. She’s also an adjunct professor at Brandman and, as such, helped launch the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program. Here are a few of her thoughts on women and leadership.

 “I have a personal mission to grow women leaders. I truly believe that when you have been given opportunities, you have a responsibility to help others.

“Women grow in leadership in community. It’s important that we create opportunities for that.

“I am inspired every day by women. I’m inspired by women principals in my organization. I’m inspired by women who are leading from where they are. There’s a lot of women’s leadership without a big ego banner flying over it. Women everywhere are getting up in the morning and taking care of their kids and then taking care of business and doing amazing things for kids.

“One of my longtime heroes has been Vicki Barber (retired El Dorado County superintendent of schools). She always inspires, she’s competent, bright caring. You always feel valued in her presence and because of that she has a huge influence.”

Flint: I tell women to go for it. I believe women’s voices and perspectives need to be heard. We need to be where things are happening rather than have

things happen to us. Even if you look at education, there are lots of principals and even directorships but a very small percentage of superintendents who are women. Even though we make up the majority of mid-management, we still are barely above the glass ceiling. 

Dopson: I would say be confident in yourself. You’re the one person holding you back. It’s amazing to me how many men will just jump in. Women tend to be more conservative, to feel they have to have all their ducks in a row before applying (for a position). We have to not be afraid. We need people who are humble and gracious and willing to learn. A lot of the women whom I see have those skills but lack confidence in themselves. If you can, find a woman mentor. That’s an invaluable asset.

Ramos: Find women leaders who you respect and take the time to build meaningful relationships with them. Learn from their experiences and the wealth of knowledge.

Who inspired you?

Ramos: Dr. Marilou Ryder, my dissertation chair. (Ryder is an associate professor at Brandman.) I was so intimidated by her at first but once I took the time to get to know her, I was so in awe of her. I can honestly say that my dissertation experience would not have been same without her as my chair. She pushed me to be the best researcher and writer I could be and, at the same time, encouraged and supported me through the dissertation process. As a teacher, I do the same with my students.

Flint: Dr. Cindy Petersen. (See box). I knew her through ACSA before I started at Brandman. I’m in awe of what she’s been able to do. She brings so much heart to everything she does. She’s incredibly supportive.


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