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In the short time since earning his EdD in 2017, Brett Bruner has won a dissertation award, had his first scholarly journal article accepted for publication, and continued to assume roles with more responsibility in the field of higher education.

“I have always known that I aspire to serve as a senior student affairs officer and ultimately a college or university president one day,” Bruner said. “I knew that pursuit of a terminal degree would be vital for my success and career journey in higher education. Thus, pursuing a doctoral degree was the right choice for me when I think long term of my career aspirations.”

Choosing Baker’s Doctor of Education in Leadership in Higher Education program was an easy decision. Bruner was already familiar with Baker after serving the Office of Student Affairs on the Baldwin City campus from 2008 to 2012, and ultimately as the director of student life. He knew he would find a supportive community in his EdD program.

“I wouldn’t trade my experience in the program for anything,” he said. “I loved the cohort feeling—connecting with colleagues during course work both at my own site but also other sites. The course work allowed me to grow personally and professionally, as well as begin to solidify my research agenda as a scholar-practitioner now having completed my terminal degree.”

Completing a doctoral program while working full time was demanding, but Bruner’s advisor Dr. Tes Mehring says Bruner always held himself to the highest academic standard.

“[Bruner] was an exemplary doctoral student whose work always represented the highest level of critical thinking and application to higher education settings,” she said.

Bruner credits his Baker education for preparing him for the next phase of his profession.

“Baker University gave me the skills, confidence, and experiences to be ready to succeed in whatever direction my higher education career path may lead me,” Bruner said.

That career path has taken off. In 2017, his dissertation, “Impact of a First-Year Living–Learning Community on First-Generation College Student Academic Success and Persistence,” was named the Dr. Bill Neuenswander Outstanding Dissertation.

And he recently learned that his first scholarly journal article was accepted for publication. “Connecting Familismo and Higher Education: Influence of Spanish Language Parent and Family Member Orientation Programs on Latinx Family Involvement and Sense of Belonging” will be published in the Journal of Hispanic Higher Education.

“I am so excited about my first scholarly publication,” Bruner said. “I was very fortunate to be a part of this research with Dr. Patty Witkowsky, a faculty member at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and a colleague of mine.”

Bruner said he was excited to work with Dr. Witkowsky and contribute to the body of knowledge on an important subject that needs attention. He also found the process of conducting the study and revising the drafts to be a great learning experience.

“It has now given me more confidence and reaffirmed my commitment to continue research and scholarly writing as a scholar-practitioner within higher education and student affairs,” he said.

Bruner will have a great opportunity to put his new skills to use. He was named the new dean of student engagement for the Division of Student Affairs at Arkansas Tech University last month.

“I am loving my experience so far at ATU,” he said. “I wholeheartedly believe in the mission of ATU by committing to student success, access, and excellence. I am excited to live this mission in my daily work.”

He believes becoming Baker built will enhance his career.

“The EdD program prepared me to continue to give back to the field of higher education administration as a scholar-practitioner,” Bruner said. “The program prepared me to think in different ways to lead my students, staff, and programs on a daily basis in my job.”

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