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Watson College News

Student and Alumni News: WCE’s Ed.D. in Higher Ed

Thursday, November 08, 2018

The Watson College introduced a doctoral program in Educational Leadership and Administration in 2007, and now offers concentrations in Educational Administration, Curriculum and Instruction, and Higher Education.

Kevin McClure, coordinator of the higher education program, has shared news and updates from Ed.D. students and alumni in university faculty and upper-level leadership positions. Please join us in congratulating them on their new roles!


Jake Eubank ’17 Ed.D. – Assistant Professor, Lehman College

Jake Eubank joined the faculty in the Department of Health Sciences at Lehman College as an assistant professor of Recreational Education and Therapy in Fall 2018. Lehman, located in Bronx, New York, is a senior college of The City University of New York and home to more than 14,000 students.

Eubank holds a bachelor’s degree in integrated social studies education and a master’s in leisure and tourism studies from Bowling Green State University, where he was also the graduate assistant for aquatics in the Department of Recreational Sports. He then worked for three years as the assistant director of aquatics, risk management and safety at Indiana State University after earning his master’s degree. In 2011, he joined the staff in UNCW’s Department of Campus Recreation as assistant director of aquatics.

“When I read that UNCW was introducing the higher education administration concentration to the doctoral program, I took that as a sign that it was time for me to go back to school,” he said. He enrolled in the program in 2013.

“I had a great deal of practical knowledge and experience in the field of higher education campus recreation, but I was missing the coursework that taught me to look at a problem through various lenses,” he said. “The Ed.D. program introduced a new way of thinking and opened doors to a future career teaching at the college level. I can attribute my new position to all of the experiences, development and opportunities that UNCW presented me with, including completing the doctoral program.”

Leah Frierson – Assistant Dean of Academic Advising, UNC-Chapel Hill

As assistant dean of Academic Advising, Leah Frierson helps manage advising efforts for UNC-Chapel Hill’s STEM Division, as well as the university’s partnership with academics in athletics.

Frierson is from Belleville, Illinois. She holds an associate’s degree from Southwestern Illinois Community College, a bachelor’s degree in communications from Austin Peay State University and a master’s in physical education: sport administration from UNC at Pembroke. She began her career as assistant women’s basketball coach and recruiting coordinator at North Carolina Central University and was a student success advisor in UNCW’s College of Health and Human Services at the time she enrolled in WCE’s Ed.D. program in 2014. She also served as assistant director of the McNair Scholars Program at UNC-Chapel Hill before assuming her current position.

Strong faculty and a flexible program format were the two main reasons Frierson chose UNCW’s doctoral program.

“From my interview and beyond, I have always felt like the faculty in the program have been extremely challenging, yet supportive, available and motivating,” she said. “The program allowed me to work full time and still complete my degree in a reasonable amount of time. The program seemed to really be built with the working higher education practitioner in mind.”

Frierson said the program has given her a greater sense of her voice in higher education.

“I have become a much stronger critical thinker, which has helped me become a better problem solver and improved the work I do around student support and success,” she said. “Through conversations with my faculty and peers, I have developed a skill that will be invaluable to my success and service to the field of higher ed.”

Kara Ostlund – Assistant Dean of Students, University of Wisconsin La Crosse

Kara Ostlund was appointed assistant dean of students at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse in July. In this role, she is responsible for implementing and administering the UW System Code of Conduct for all reports of academic and non-academic misconduct. She also provides oversight and implementation of Student Life Office compliance needs.

Ostlund earned two degrees from Appalachian State University: a bachelor’s in family and consumer sciences, secondary education and a master’s in college student development with a focus in student affairs. She began her career as an area coordinator for Middle Tennessee State University, and was associate dean of students and director of conduct, housing and residential life at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina at the time she enrolled in WCE’s doctoral program.

The program’s hybrid classroom model was a significant draw, Ostlund said. “I had concerns regarding completing a doctorate completely online. UNCW’s program allowed me to WebEx into the classroom and develop relationships with cohort members from afar.”

As a doctoral student, Ostlund was a named co-author with McClure on two publications: Philanthropic giving to higher education institutions: A state-level social network analysis, published by Philanthropy & Education in 2017 and a review of the book Selling hope and college: Merit, markets, and recruitment in an unranked school published in Teachers College Record in 2017.

“I firmly believe that part of the reason I was hired at UWL was because of my educational experiences,” Ostlund said. “During my interviews, I recalled content from various courses which added credibility to my work as a professional and educator. Some faculty members asked about publication articles I had co-written; an experience I know I would not have explored without faculty within UNCW’s Ed.D. program.”

Sara Thorndike – Vice Chancellor, ECU

Sara Thorndike became vice chancellor for administration and finance at East Carolina University in March 2018. She oversees a division of more than 1,100 staff members and provides leadership, oversight and stewardship for all aspects of the university’s financial resources, which include total revenues of more than $900 million.

Thorndike holds a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Franklin University and a master’s in business administration from The Ohio State University. She began her career in finance at Express, then part of The Limited Corporation, and served as controller and accounting director at Principia Corporation, a nonprofit college in Elsah, Illinois for nine years before becoming UNCW’s controller and assistant vice chancellor for finance in 2014. She was promoted to associate vice chancellor in 2015 and senior associate vice chancellor earlier this year.

At the time she enrolled in the Ed.D. program, Thorndike’s professional goal was to become a chief financial officer at a higher educational institution.

“To be an effective and well-rounded CFO, I felt it was very important to understand more about higher education and to gain a better appreciation for the perspectives of my colleagues outside finance,” she said. “I use the knowledge I have gained on enrollment management, diversity, the history of higher education, communication, law, campus operations, facilities and finances every day to provide our students with an excellent education at  the most affordable price possible.”

About UNCW’s Doctorate in Education – Concentration in Higher Education

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program in Educational Leadership with a concentration in higher education prepares scholar-practitioners for leadership roles in the field of higher education and student affairs administration. 

For more information visit the program website.