INSTITUTE, W.Va. — West Virginia State University is launching its very first fully online, two-year doctorate degree program.

The new Doctorate of Education in Leadership Studies program will officially launch this May and is designed to allow organizational leaders to continue to grow their professional careers in a variety of fields.

WVSU President Ericke Cage said the implementation of the first doctorate degree program at the institution is a historic milestone in its 133-year history.

Ericke Cage

“Today, we can proudly say that we are now a doctoral degree granting, land-grant university,” said Cage said. “This Doctorate of Education in Leadership Studies program will serve a vital need for the work force in West Virginia by providing executive level education that will allow organizational leaders to continue to grow in their professional careers.”

WVSU Professor of Leadership Studies Dr. Emily Waugh spearheaded the implementation of the doctorate program, and she said she did it with the help of her collogue, Professor of Education at WVSU Dr. Mickey Blackwell. She said they have been working to bring the program to the university for a couple of years now.

After putting together the program’s proposal and garnering the support from several entities, including WVSU’s Board of Governors, the state Department of Education, and the Higher Learning Commission, Waugh said it all came to fruition when they were given the greenlight from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission last year to start the program.

“It’s so exciting to be a part of this, it’s historic, in the history of the institution this is the first,” Waugh told MetroNews. “So, I don’t know that it has even sunk in yet what a part of the history of this institution that we’ve been a part of.”

Emily Waugh

Waugh said the Department of Leadership Studies at the university already has a Master’s of Education and Instructional Leadership program, and she said they anticipate many of the applicants of the new doctorate program will be students already in the master’s program and those in education.

For example, she said someone in education who may be in a position as a school superintendent and is interested in obtaining a doctorate to advance their educational leadership skills may be attracted to the program.

However, Waugh said the doctorate program is designed to go beyond just educational leadership and is more inclusive to appeal to any kind of organizational leadership role such as library directors, leaders of nonprofits, among others.

“We feel like it will also be relevant for those in state government and even in private businesses, anybody who is interested in how organizations work the way they work and improving organizations I think might be interested in our program,” she said.

The program will utilize a cohort model where a group of students move through the program together, taking all classes in a sequence as a group.

Waugh said they have already received much positive response from students and potential applicants of the doctorate program, and she said she believes that’s due to the success of WVSU itself.

“They are graduates or know graduates of here, they like what we do, they know how we’re student supportive in the leadership department, and they say,” you know, I’ve been looking at doctorate programs, but I want to do it here,” Waugh said.

She said they have received an outpouring of interest within the past few days since the program was officially announced.

The application deadline for the Doctorate of Education in Leadership Studies is Thurs., March 7. You can visit the program’s website to learn more.