Marissa J. White’s dissertation, “I am Not Alone: Supporting Teachers of Color Through Affinity Groups,” was presented and approved on Feb. 10. White was announced as the first-ever recipient of a doctoral degree in educational leadership (Ed.D.) at Sacred Heart University.
“This is a groundbreaking doctorate across the country because I think we are one of the first – if not the first that focuses on this subject as a doctoral program,” said Professor Thomas Lee Morgan, who was White’s chair throughout the process of writing her dissertation.
On Feb. 11, Provost Robin Cautin sent an email to the student body of the university announcing the name change of the Isabelle Farrington College of Education (FCE) to the Isabelle Farrington College of Education and Human Development (FCEHD).
Cautin’s email reads, “The name change reflects the expansion of the College’s programmatic offerings, as well as the increased research and grant productivity of its faculty.”
According to a press release from the university, “Trained with a holistic approach, students in the Ed.D. in educational leadership program develop social, emotional and academic leadership skills to lead organizations from a whole-child perspective, as well as effectively and ethically lead faculty and staff.”
The Educational Leadership program is currently the only doctorate program within the FCEHD. White was the initial of the founding group of graduates to have her dissertation approved and will be honored at the commencement ceremony in May among her colleagues.
“Various factors drive my passion for the retention of teachers of color,” White said. “First, I am an African American woman educated in the inner-city, and I am also an African American educator in the inner-city.”
White spent the three years of her doctoral studies researching and composing her dissertation. She proved that educators of color are struggling within their profession and a safe space needs to be provided for them.
“I am honored and humbled. Earning a doctorate was not a part of my plan, but this program fit who I am so well,” said White. “I was able to take my experiences as an educator of color and conduct research that can help other educators of color in the field, ultimately creating an environment that values diversity and promotes equity for students and teachers.”
Attaining this degree is not the end of White’s endeavors. Though she is currently an assistant principal for a Pre-K and elementary school, she does plan to use her degree for the benefit of many others in the future.
“I will be using this degree to educate and create an environment where social-emotional learning is at the forefront of teaching and learning, promoting self-care to teachers and students and using improvement science to create improved systems that lend to equity-centered and trauma-informed education,” said White.
Students and faculty alike are impressed with White’s accomplishment.
“I think our first student earning their doctorate is really inspiring to hear. Being the first of its kind for anything sounds impressive and incredible,” said sophomore MaryAnn Droesch, a member of the Five-Year Education program.
“I think for myself and for the rest of the faculty, we are amazed at what our students do on a daily basis and we stand extremely proud of every single one of them,” said Morgan.