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New Doctoral Education Program Focuses on Social, Emotional, Academic Leadership

Degree program prepares K-12 school leaders for traumatic situations

Sacred Heart University’s Isabelle Farrington College of Education is establishing a Doctor of Education degree in educational leadership, dedicated to preparing school leaders’ expertise in social, emotional and academic leadership (SEAL).

This is the first doctoral program the Farrington College of Education offers, and it’s the first of its kind in the state. The degree is targeted to working and licensed educational leaders such as principals, superintendents, curriculum leaders and special education directors and is also seeking candidates who have informal leadership roles such as department chairs and instructional coaches. The program will prepare doctoral candidates to lead school communities from a whole-child perspective. It will be will be directed by David G. Title, clinical assistant professor, former superintendent of schools of the Bloomfield and Fairfield school systems and the 2010 Superintendent of the Year in Connecticut. The program will include classes, doctoral seminars and a capstone dissertation, to be completed in three years.

Michael P. Alfano, dean of the Farrington College of Education, said academic leaders often do not get much SEAL training while preparing to lead schools and school communities. As a result, they often are forced to learn on the job. “We’re going to teach these leaders to manage and lead in a social and emotional space,” Alfano said. “Not only will the administrators learn how to effectively manage curriculum, budgets and personnel, but they will learn how to handle trauma from a child’s perspective and how to work with the classroom educator who is teaching that child.”

Currently, educational leaders experience limited formal training concerning complex issues associated with leading and managing the social and emotional well-being of the students, faculty, families and communities in their charge, Alfano explained. The doctoral program aims to change that. 

The desire to establish the doctoral program came from Alfano’s experience with the Sandy Hook tragedy. Throughout his career, Alfano was affected by it–a teacher who was murdered in the shooting was a graduate student in the department he chaired at Southern Connecticut State University, and while he was dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Central Connecticut State University, he learned that an adjunct professor lost a child that day.

When Alfano became dean at the Farrington College of Education a year ago, his desire to start a program to equip leaders with the tools to handle and prevent traumatic situations was stronger than ever. “We want to really impact change,” Alfano said. “This is very important.”

The response from faculty and colleagues around the state has been positive. “The interest in this program is there,” Alfano said. The program itself couldn’t be more aligned with SHU’s mission, he added, which states: “Sacred Heart University embraces a vision for social justice and educates students in mind, body and spirit to prepare them personally and professionally to make a difference in the global community.”

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