Doctoral student at EMU's College of Education sets goal of encouraging authentic leadership

By Linda Haas | Published May 29, 2015

Cheyenne Luzynski has a track record of building leaders. She’s coached basketball, volleyball, and track and field teams; and she’s served as an assistant athletic director. But when the 32-year-old wanted to take her abilities to the next level, she enrolled in Eastern Michigan University's educational leadership doctoral program.

"After researching which schools had reputations for excellence, strong female leaders and diverse student populations, Eastern’s program stood out as one of the best in the state. I’ve gained so much already," says Luzynski, who is on track to receive her doctorate from the College of Education in 2016. Her dissertation will likely revolve around women in athletic leadership, she adds.

Rising star

The Potterville native first developed her leadership skills in high school, where she shone as a volleyball star, capturing the 1999 Female High School Heisman Award for the State of Michigan. Those skills were put to the test in 2005, when she worked as a head coach for a men’s junior varsity basketball team and as an assistant athletic director at another college.

"It wasn’t easy being a young female administrator in a department where nearly every coach was male. There were times I had to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions, but I’d like to think that the presence of a female coaching a high profile men’s sport provided hope for others and challenged constructs necessary for positive change," Luzynski adds.

Positive change

Eastern's program is indeed designed to help graduates bring about positive change in a culturally diverse society, as well as initiate improvement within educational organizations, say administrators.

"Our students and our program have a long history of service in the state, in the nation and internationally," says Department of Leadership and Counseling Head Jacylnn Tracy. The department is renowned for preparing students for leadership roles in K-12 schools and for institutions of higher learning, Tracy adds.

Currently, the program has about 150 doctoral students at varying stages of progress; some pursuing coursework, others conducting research and still others writing dissertations. Last year, Eastern accepted an all-time high number of students in the program, Tracy says, adding the program offers a doctoral program in the Ypsilanti/Livonia/Southeastern region; in Grand Rapids, through a cooperative agreement with Grand Valley State University; and it accepted a doctoral cohort at the University Center in Gaylord.

Hands-on experience

Because the program emphasizes applied research, students can work directly with student affairs professionals on campus and with faculty who are engaged in teaching, research and service. Luzynski says she’s already benefitted from practical, hands-on experiences by teaching undergraduate classes for the LEADership minor, an interdisciplinary minor that debuted in Fall 2014; by teaching the Introduction to student affairs master’s class for a year; and by serving on the Student Success Assessment Council for four years.

Faculty have benefitted from Luzynski's presence, as well. "I first came to know Cheyenne on the architect team for the LEADership minor," says Rebecca Sipe, director of the Honors College and a professor of English education. "From the moment I met Cheyenne, I was impressed with her passion, intellect and drive."

Promising future

Doctoral graduates have a promising future, based on projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment for post-secondary education administrators with a Ph.D. is expected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. The Bureau also reports that the median annual wage for graduates, who often find jobs as principals, superintendents, curriculum directors and university faculty and administrators, was $86,490 in May 2012. [1]

Luzynski's post-graduation goals include seeking positions as a faculty member in higher education administration, student affairs, leadership or in sport administration, among options. "My ultimate goal is to encourage authentic leadership, which involves ethics, compassion, relationship building, courage, integrity, and being honest with others about who you are," she says. "Eastern's College of Education is empowering me to do that."

Learn more or donate

For more information, visit the K-12 Administration Program's webpage.

To make a difference in the lives of future educational leadership doctoral students, donate to the Educational Leadership Doctoral Scholarship Fund, or contact Christa Reid, COE Director of Development at [email protected].

  1. Visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics site.