Program prepares graduates to deal with increasingly complex higher ed world

November 20, 2014


Lisle, Illinois ~A college president. A nationally-recognized community college innovator. An award-winning researcher.

The students and graduates of the Doctor of Education in Higher Education and Organizational Change (Ed.D.) program at Benedictine University are leaving their mark in higher education.

There is no position more prestigious or coveted in the realm of higher education than that of a university president. One must possess a record of excellence in teaching, research, service and leadership to achieve that status. However, Fontbonne University in Clayton, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, also wanted a person who was entrepreneurial, forward-thinking and innovative.

Michael Pressimone, a graduate of Benedictine's Ed.D. program, embodied these qualities.

"If you want to lead an institution of higher education, you need to have the highest credential in order to be taken seriously," said Pressimone, who was named Fontbonne's 14th president on July 1. "There are certainly some college and university presidents that don't, but they have other skills that they bring to the table, perhaps from the corporate world or the legal world.

"But my career has always been in higher education, so in order to be taken serious for candidacy for presidency, I needed to have the highest degree possible."

Pressimone was seeking a program that would allow him to balance his obligations as vice president of another institution with his responsibilities as a father of 12. He was also looking for a program that was imbued with his personal values. He found that fit at Benedictine.

"I've spent my career in Catholic higher education, so the Catholic and Benedictine identity of the University was something that was important and attractive to me," he said. "The mission fit and my ability to actually accomplish the program within the specific amount of time I gave myself while balancing the rest of my work and family life was really important to me."

Although Pressimone's experience, record of excellence, leadership qualities and thirst for innovation were critical to his selection as president, he also believes that his doctoral degree from Benedictineplayed a pivotal role.

"It wasn't just that I was reading The Chronicle of Higher Education every day and saying, 'Oh, there's a problem, there's a problem,'" he said. "We studied topics like regulatory environment, we studied the challenges. Having engaged in topics that were emerging and challenging to higher education gave me a leg up."

He also said that Benedictine's Ed.D. curriculum helped him gain a broader appreciation of higher education beyond the area of advancement where he had previously been focused.

"Looking at the increased presence of federal and state government in higher education, particularly in private higher education, and doing a great deal of reading about that helped me to be more conversant and a contributor to institutional conversations about how we all face encroachment through government oversight," Pressmone said.

Helping students read and comprehend college-level material is the goal of the developmental reading department at Stark State College in North Canton, Ohio. Therese Revlock, an Ed.D. candidate, coordinates the department's reading program which was recently awarded the 2014 Outstanding Program Award from the Ohio Association of Developmental Education (OADE).

The reading program
consists of two courses –"Technical Comprehension" and "Critical Analysis."Technical Comprehension addresses different fields of study in each chapter. Critical Analysis utilizes course-specific material. Health majors, for example, would be taught the topic of prefixes and suffixes using medical terminology.

The knowledge she gained through the Benedictine Ed.D. program has already contributed to the success of the reading program, Revlock said.

After completing my coursework in Benedictine's Ed.D. program about initiatives for shortening the pathway to success, I was able to contribute knowledge about how to proceed in contextualizing our Critical Analysis course," she said. "We studied many different models from both private and government sources and we researched models that were successful at other community colleges."

Coursework in quantitative research helped Revlock make her data more reliable so that it could be used to track success and determine content.

"I learned how to establish the predictive value of data and was able to pass that information on to our department and other administrators," she said. "It was the tracking of student-driven data from a nationally normed assessment to design our course content that lead to our award from OADE."

Aaron D. Clevenger, Ed.D., exemplifies some of the groundbreaking research being performed by Benedictine students. An Orlando, Fla. resident and 2014 graduate of the program, he was recently presented the Outstanding Experiential Education Research/Dissertation Award by the National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE).

Clevenger, the executive director of Experiential Learning and Undergraduate Research at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., was nominated for his dissertation, "A Phenomenological Study: Motivation as Experienced by Engineering Design Competitors at a Selective Engineering University," and his commitment to experiential learning on the Embry-Riddle campus.

The Outstanding Experiential Education Research/Dissertation Award recognizes an NSEE member who has published research or completed a doctoral dissertation within the past two years which makes important contributions to an area of experiential education that is valuable to NSEE members.

"It is an amazing honor," Clevenger said. "It could not have happened without the guidance and tireless work of Nancy Bentley (Benedictine adjunct faculty and dissertation advisor). I could have not asked for a better advisor and mentor."

Benedictine's Ed.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change program is intended for practicing professionals who wish to accelerate their career paths in the administrative side of higher education. Studies emphasize leadership for educational and organizational improvement.

This doctoral program readies students for the rigors and challenges of developing and implementing strategic plans, improving learning, managing resources, leading personnel, implementing policy and orchestrating change within a higher education organization. A dissertation is required for graduation.

The Ed.
D. program at Benedictine is under the direction of Sunil Chand, Ph.D. (pictured, top left), who served as president of College of DuPage from July 2003 through May 2008, and Eileen Kolich, Ph.D., professor of Education and Ed.D. research director. To learn more about the Ed.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change at Benedictine University, call (630) 829-6394 or go to


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has a branch campus in Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls more than 5,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the eighth consecutive year in 2018. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, or visit

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