While living just north of Detroit, Janelle Bross decided to earn her doctorate without ever leaving her living room. She enrolled in the Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction online program at the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) and is on track to finish in December 2021.
Enrolling in an online doctoral program allowed the born-and-raised Michigander to stay in the Great Lake State, keep her full-time principalship at the local high school and aim to graduate in less than three years.
She completed her previous degrees, a bachelor’s in social science and a master’s in K-12 administration, at Michigan State University. To open future career opportunities, Bross decided to return to school after having her second child. As a mom with toddlers, she knew time would be in short supply. Her superintendent suggested she pursue a doctorate online.
“I love being a student and learning new things. I’ve committed my life to being in education,” she said. “Completing a doctorate seemed like the next logical step for me.”
Choosing the Right School
ULM’s flexible start dates helped Bross decide on a school. The online structure was important, too, so she could build her own schedule.
“I wanted the ability to start right away. With ULM’s terms being eight weeks long, I didn’t have to wait until the next semester to get started, so I could jump right in,” she said. “Once I had done my homework, it was an easy choice to pick ULM.
“Online learning has allowed me to customize my workload. I could take a weekend and put a few hours in, or I could carve away 20 minutes here or there. I just appreciate that I was able to make it my own.”
Bross has loved all her courses, but her favorite to date has been Professional Development with Dr. Ava Pugh, as the course covers topics of relevance to her role as a principal.
“It’s hard to pick just one, because so many of these courses have made me realize, ‘Oh, I can use that tomorrow,’ or ‘That strategy I could try at my next staff meeting,'” she said.
An underlying theme throughout her coursework was learning how to build a positive environment within the school, and Dr. Myra Lovett‘s Communication & Collaboration in Problem Solving course was the icing on that cake.
“Learning how to be an effective communicator is just so important in education,” she said. “I mean, people are your everyday business; they’re your clients. They’re the reason that you’re there.”
Making Time for Family
Going back to school has been a great way to practice time management for Bross who said it makes her feel better to stay busy and productive.
“My mom thinks that I’m too busy, but I do well when I’m busy. I like having a lot of things to do in my life,” she said.
Bross was determined to finish her college education while her children were young, so she would have more time for sports and other activities as they got older.
“I wanted to find a program that was a good, solid foundational program, that had a great reputation, and that I could finish in my own time at my own pace,” she said. “I needed to know that by the time I was done, I would still have time available for my family. I wasn’t going to miss anything with my kids.”
She does most of her homework and studying in the evenings after her children are in bed. Her husband has been very supportive and knows how important education is to her, both personally and professionally.
Not So Virtual
At the completion of her program, Bross plans to fly to Louisiana with her husband to attend graduation. She has seen many of her instructors on Zoom and would like to meet them face to face.
“This has been such a great experience. I didn’t expect to make friends and connections the way that I have in an online program, but I did,” she said. “I have met peers I text with on a regular basis who are also on track to graduate in December, so I’m really hoping to meet them as well.”
When Bross and her husband return, they’ll start planning more adventures with their kids, ages 3 and 5.
“Anytime we can get outside and explore the beautiful nature here in Michigan, we love to do that,” she said. “Little weekend getaways to go see state and national parks, playing sports, and just walking the dog is a lot of fun for us. My main hobby is my family.”
Faith in Her Future
For now, Bross is focused on completing a dissertation that evaluates the effectiveness of a mentoring program for at-risk students in her school.
“The students are matched up with an upperclassman who helps them learn how school works, how to organize themselves, how to advocate for themselves and how to connect with resources within the building,” she explained.
“I’m going to be looking at several dependent variables to see if enrollment in the mentoring program has a statistically significant impact on the social and academic outcomes of at-risk students.”
Bross is not sure where the road ahead will take her, but she is remaining open to any possibility.
“I’m a woman of faith, and so I believe that God will move me where he wants me to be,” she said. “And if something opens up that feels like a good fit, I am always willing and open to explore opportunities.
“Having that doctorate will absolutely make me more marketable in any sort of education field or organization, even if it’s outside of public education. But, I’m really happy where I am, and this program has taught me so much that I can take back with me on a daily basis and apply to my students and my staff.”
Learn more about ULM’s online Doctor of Education, Curriculum & Instruction program.