It’s been a decade since students in Baker University School of Education’s cohort 4 began their Ed.D. program. This group of excellent educators, who began their Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership degrees in 2008, reunited Wednesday, Jan. 10, to mark the event. Deborah Schluben, an instructional coach in the Shawnee Mission School District and a member of cohort 4, helped organize the event. She treasures the experience of learning both with and from her classmates and wanted to celebrate their achievements. Schluben is in her 20th year with the Shawnee Mission School District and believes that her Baker experience gave her the knowledge she needed to succeed in her district.

“I chose to go back to school because I wanted to stay current with where education was heading and gain a broader perspective on the workings of a school district,” Schulben said. “I felt that what I learned at Baker was practical and would help me (right away) as much as it would help me in the future.”

Before earning her Ed.D., Schluben graduated in 2001 from Baker with a Master of Arts in Education degree. She also earned her building-level licensure in 2003 and continues to stay connected with Baker by serving as an adjunct instructor of continuing education courses.
Reuniting her cohort was another way for her to bring her Baker experience full circle.

“I learned a lot from the instructors and the formal learning experiences they brought to us, but I also learned so much about how other districts operated from my classmates,” Schulben said.

Erin Smith, coordinator of curriculum and instruction in the Shawnee Mission School District, agreed. For her, the ability to learn alongside other professionals helped shape her experience. She was also impressed by Baker’s reputation for quality instructors and excellence in academics.

“I had great relationships with professors and colleagues in my cohort,” Smith said. “There were numerous opportunities to engage in relevant experiences that would prepare me for future endeavors in my field.”

Jill Owens, A+ Program Coordinator and Park Hill National Education Association president, considered cohort 4 a sort of family during her educational journey. Before choosing Baker’s doctoral program, she attended an orientation at another university but “it just didn’t feel right.” Baker, on the other hand, felt like home.

Owens earned her Master of Arts in School Leadership from Baker in 2003. Her prior experience with Baker and encouragement from her mother convinced her to pursue a doctorate. Owens believes that her classmates were instrumental in shaping her into the educator and person she is today.

“My cohort mates are truly special people that I grew to appreciate and respect,” Owens said. “The relationships made the Baker experience for me.”

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