News + Events

FHU to Award First Doctoral Degrees Dec. 11 at Commencement

Henderson, Tenn. - Dec 08, 2015

Freed-Hardeman University’s fall commencement ceremony will be held in Loyd Auditorium, Friday, Dec. 11 at 6:00pm. More than 100 students are expected to receive diplomas, including the university’s first doctoral degrees.

The ceremony will honor 66 bachelor’s degree candidates, 37 master’s degree candidates, five specialist’s candidates and four doctoral candidates.

The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences will present the first doctoral degrees in university history. The four receiving Doctor of Education degrees include the following: Stephanie Coffman, a principal in Henderson County; Judy Hoover, director of instruction in Crockett County; Jeremy Qualls, employed in the Board Office of Williamson County Schools; and Antonio Burt, Cordova, employed by The New Teacher Project, a non-profit organization, where he coaches turnaround principals across the nation. 

The Doctorate of Education in Instructional Leadership program was initiated in 2014. Directed by Dr. Aarek Farmer, assistant professor of education, the program offers concentrations in administration and supervision and teacher leadership.

“The program's goal,” Farmer said, “is to create life-long learners who are capable of effecting profound change that produces improved student achievement in a supportive environment. Completers of this program as well as current doctoral students are already making a positive impact in surrounding Tennessee school districts in Middle and West Tennessee.” 

Research coming out of this program, thus far, has revolved around the leadership competencies needed in low performing schools, the components of successful reading programs, the factors affecting high school dropout rates, and the effects of Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) programs.

Dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences Dr. Sharen Cypress said, “It is indeed an honor and pleasure to see a shared vision come to fruition—the graduating class of the first doctoral degree ever offered for the university—the Doctorate of Education. Through the Ed.D. program, our graduates contribute to and benefit from the University's growing excellence in research, teaching and service. I congratulate the graduating members of our first Ed.D. cohort. We are excited about the contributions they are already making with their research beyond their schools and school districts, and we look forward to more to come from our future cohorts.”

“My educational experience at Freed-Hardeman University has been rewarding, insightful, challenging and motivational,” Burt said. “ Throughout this journey, I received individualized support from accomplished faculty members who focused on my needs as a student, person and a working professional. This support was provided in multiple ways that made my journey manageable and adaptable. My instructors delivered the content in a meaningful manner and structured the delivery of the content at a pace where everyone was able to learn and reflect. With class sizes under 15, we were able to build trust, share vulnerabilities and develop a life-long bond with each other.”

Hoover, also a doctoral candidate, said, “My work schedule can be very demanding at times, so being accepted into the program at FHU was crucial to my success.  This program offered a hybrid approach for my degree attainment.  This approach offered opportunities for classes to meet at both the Henderson campus and the Memphis campus.” In addition, she said, professors offered face-to-face meetings outside the regularly scheduled class time. “The schedule was very flexible and extremely accommodating to educators,” she said.

Following the ceremony, a reception to honor all graduates will be held in the auxiliary gym of Brewer Sports Center. The reception is free to all graduates and visitors attending the commencement exercises.

For more information about the commencement exercises or the Doctorate of Education program, visit