Student Spotlight: Grace Jones Finding the right professional path sometimes means trying new fields and...READ MORE
A self-motivated teacher and leader pursues a doctorate
Some people know early on that they want to earn a doctoral degree. Whether it’s the thirst for additional education, a desire to pursue a chosen career, or an aspiration to earn the “doctor” title, the decision to earn a doctorate is typically a very deliberate choice. Yet, for Sophia Haynes it was not.
“Having a doctoral degree was never a goal I had for myself,” Sophia said. “Today is the first day I am starting the dissertation. It’s never been something I aspired toward, but there is this thing in me that I always need to be striving and working hard. That was my attraction to starting the program. It’s been a little at a time. I thought I’d try one class, and then the next one, and so it went, and now here I am.”
That inner drive for growth and self-development led her to CityU’s Doctor of Education in Leadership. As a middle school social sciences teacher, she encourages her students to share that same motivation for personal improvement.
“I tell my students to maximize their potential, and that drive came back to me,” Sophia said.
Leading a classroom and colleagues
Just as she hadn’t always planned to earn her doctorate, Sophia wasn’t always drawn to working in education.
“In my family most people are in education, and that made me shy away from it,” Sophia said.
After moving to the United States from Jamaica by herself after she finished high school, Sophia worked her way through Springfield Technical Community College in Massachusetts to earn her associate degree, and then transferred to the University of Miami where she continued working on and off campus while pursuing her bachelor’s in communications and creative writing.
After she graduated from college, she began working in retail management and then got married and started a family.
“While I was working, that nudge kept saying, ‘you’re not doing what you want to do,’” Sophia said. “After having my son, while still working part time, I got a graduate assistantship and earned a master’s in public administration from Florida Atlantic University because I wanted to do something people-oriented. I continued working at the university, and transitioned to the field of education [through an alternative teacher certification program].”
Helping her students as well as her colleagues as a teacher-leader, Sophia is finally able to satisfy her desire to do people-focused work.
“Even though I’m in the classroom, I’ve had experience in leadership at the school level,” Sophia said. “That’s where the interest sparked, because I’m able to impact other people and help them to do their best.”
Balancing work, family and doctoral studies
Balancing a family, a full-time job and doctoral studies is no easy feat, but Sophia has been able to make it work.
“You’ve got good moments and not-so-good moments,” Sophia said. “I have to make sure I don’t shortchange my students, and am pursuing things that help them learn. And sometimes the unexpected occurs with family life. It’s been a challenge at times, but the platform being online has made it work.”
She credits the online format for a large part of her success in the program.
“The online format has worked out for me as someone who has other priorities and can’t make it to a set location each day,” Sophia said. “But I can find time to sit down and look at [the coursework] and still be connected. If it wasn’t online, it wouldn’t have worked out for me.”
Her experience juggling responsibilities is not necessarily unique, she says many of her fellow students are balancing jobs as well.
“All the cohorts I’ve encountered were working professionals with other responsibilities,” Sophia said. “There’s always been an order in how we’re progressing… The key is perseverance, not giving up, and fighting through some of the tougher moments.”
Sophia is beginning her dissertation process now and is considering doing her applied research on teacher retention. As this phase commonly takes one to two years, she hopes to be graduating in 2019.
With her commitment to keep growing and advancing, we’re confident she’ll succeed.