New EMU Ph.D. helps educators understand impact of environment on learning

by Ward Mullens, Published March 10, 2009

YPSILANTI — According to a 2004 study, Michigan ranks 26th among all states in the nation on indicators of child well being and high-infant mortality rate rates, high frequency of low-birth weight babies, and high adolescent drop-out/push-out rates (Kids Count, 2004).

Detroit, one of the nation’s largest cities, has one of the highest child poverty rates (46.6 percent) and an infant mortality rate more than twice the national average.

A new doctoral program at Eastern Michigan University hopes to change that by
helping educators understand how human differences and environmental factors impact the teaching/learning relationship.

 “The doctoral degree in educational studies has a unique focus on the teaching and learning relationship and the integration of scholarship and practice,” said Donald Loppnow, provost and executive vice president of EMU. “The concentrations in nursing education and urban education will meet the regional and national demand for research and teaching expertise in these areas of societal need.”

“There are only a handful of this type of program in the country,” said Pamela Smith, professor of teacher education at EMU. “This is really cutting edge because it focuses on the critical issues facing our children in schools. Very few programs, nationally, examine poverty and education in urban, suburban and rural communities.”

“The School of Nursing is delighted to have formed a partnership with the EMU Department of Teacher Education. For decades, this has been one of the most exceptional programs in the nation in terms of producing outstanding teachers,” said Betty Beard, head of nursing at EMU.  “Together, faculty and doctoral students, in both education and nursing will work together to understand how environmental factors impact students.”

The Ph.D. in educational studies, EMU’s fourth doctoral degree, is a collaboration  between the department of teacher education and the school of nursing at EMU.

“The key to the program is its unique in the country, bringing together education and health care professionals in a collaborative, interdisciplinary program focused on working with imporverished communities to solve every day problems. Our goal is a program that provides research-based actions rooted in local community needs,” said Robert Carpenter, doctoral coordinator and associate professor of teacher education.

The degree has two concentrations: a Ph.D. in educational studies with a concentration in nursing education or a Ph.D. in educational studies with a concentration in urban education.

Each concentration is made up of 24-credit hours, with at least 12 hours of required doctoral level courses and up to 12 hours of restricted electives.

Smith said that the first cohort will be comprised of 15 students in each concentration.

The program will begin this summer, Smith said.

The application process runs through March 30. For more information, go to

Ward Mullens

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