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Judson U. announces first doctoral program

Gillian Stewart-Wells Steven Layne co-directors Judson
University’s Doctorate EducatiLiteracy program announce the
school’s first-ever doctorate program Monday morning its Literacy
Moticonference. | Emily

Gillian Stewart-Wells and Steven Layne, co-directors of Judson University’s Doctorate of Education in Literacy program, announce the school’s first-ever doctorate program Monday morning at its Literacy in Motion conference. | Emily McFarlan Miller for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 19, 2013 6:15AM

ELGIN — Judson University announced its first-ever doctoral program, a doctor of education in literacy, at Monday’s kickoff to the school’s four-day Literacy in Motion conference.

That program also will be the first doctor of education in literacy program in the area, according to its co-director, Gillian Stewart-Wells. When she and co-director Steven Layne began researching a program four years ago, there were only two in the state of Illinois, Stewart-Wells said.

And it “couldn’t have come at a more blessed time for our 50th Golden Centennial Anniversary,” with Adoniram Judson’s strong ties to literacy, said Judson University President Gene Crume. Judson, the school’s namesake and first American missionary overseas, had written the first Burmese-English dictionary and translated the Bible into Burmese “so people could understand it,” Crume noted.

“There’s just this deep resonance that feels so purposeful that our first doctoral program is in this area, and that’s certainly a blessing,” he said.

The doctor of education in literacy program was approved May 31 by the North Central Accrediting Association Higher Learning Commission, Stewart-Wells said.

The seven to nine applicants accepted into the first cohort of the program will begin class one night a week and one Saturday a month in January 2014, she said. They then will graduate together in spring 2017.

It will include support for the dissertation process throughout those three years, she said. It also will include trips to the International Reading Association and Literacy Research Association’s national conferences, a nearly weeklong writer’s retreat with published authors, and Skype sessions with authors and other literacy experts.

Top education

The doctoral program fits into the vision for education that Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain shared with Crume, several Judson faculty and staff members and representatives of area school districts in the president’s office before the public announcement.

“If you move here with your 3-year-old or 4-year-old child, that child should be able to get as fine an education as you can get in the United States all the way through college, and we’re going to do that,” Kaptain said.

“This is the cherry at the end of the day for us.”

It had grown out of the success of Judson’s master of education in literacy program, launched in 2008, and a survey of interest in a doctoral program, according to Stewart-Wells. That, and how well she and Layne worked together writing courses for the university’s School of Education. The two co-directors dramatized how that conversation played out before announcing the new doctoral program to cheers and applause from the 235 teachers from around the world at the fifth Literacy in Motion conference.

“Doctorates don’t come out of nowhere — or anywhere,” said Will Friesen, Judson University provost and vice president for academic affairs. “They come because there’s excellence somewhere, and there’s certainly academic excellence at Judson University. In particular, there has been excellence now for a number of years in the master of education in literacy program.”

Seven teachers in Burlington Central School District 301 came out of that master’s program, according to District 301 Assistant Superintendent Esther Martin. They’re “our top of the top,” Martin said — speaking across the nation and leading professional development for other teachers in the Burlington district.

“I can’t imagine what we’ll gain from the doctorate program coming out of Judson University,” she said.

Lindsay Allen came out of Judson’s master of education in literacy program. Allen now is principal of Southbury Elementary School in Oswego — and she plans to apply for the first cohort of its doctor of education in literacy program, she said.

She was looking for a program “where I was going to learn and grow as an educator,” not just earn a master’s degree, and Judson delivered, she said. She liked the familial feel of the cohorts at the private Christian university, and feels like that will be important in a doctoral program, she said.

“Just the knowledge I have gained and the impact I have been able to have on my staff and my students and my community — I look forward to that and to continue to grow and strengthen,” Allen said.

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