Faculty Interview: Michael Poe, Northwest Nazarene University

Mike Poe earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Northwest Nazarene University (then College), Nampa, Idaho; Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from The College of Idaho, Caldwell, Idaho; and his Education Specialist and Doctor of Education degrees from the University of Idaho in Educational Leadership. He have state certifications for Building Administrator and Superintendent.He served in public education for 18 years as a teacher and administrator at the junior high, middle school and high school levels in two different districts, 15 of those years as either an Assistant Principal or Principal. For the past 21 years he has worked at Northwest Nazarene University in both undergraduate and graduate positions. He has served as Chair of both the Department of Education and Graduate Education Departments and served for 7 years in faculty leadership positions as Faculty Vice-chair and College of Adult and Graduate Studies Vice-chair. He has taught in the Educational Leadership Program at NNU for the past 25 years and has been the Program Director for Educational Leadership for the past 15. During that time he led the development of our Education Specialist programs and the initial approval process for our doctoral program. During Mike’s time in public education, I was very active in both the Idaho Education Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators. In 1993 he was named the Assistant Principal of the Year for the IASA. He continues his service to Pre-K-12 schools by serving on state and international school accreditation teams, and consulting locally and internationally.

You are currently Program Director at Northwest Nazarene University, specializing in Educational Leadership. What are the most prominent issues in Educational Leadership today and how should the candidates of education masters and doctorate programs prepare to successfully address them?

For educational leaders some of the most pressing issues are providing positive leadership in a time of increasingly negative national discourse about public education, and how do they attract and retain quality teachers. Providing positive leadership is more than just putting on a happy face for everyone. Learning how to accurately assess data and moving forward in the directions the data leads allows educators to see purpose in what they are doing and direction in how to achieve that purpose. This not only creates a more positive atmosphere in the building, but also the information needed to provide constituents with positive information about their school. Having that type of reputation also helps in the recruitment and retention of staff. Our candidates gain this experience through coursework, a year-long internship and required projects throughout the program.

As Program Director, you focus on Northwest Nazarene University’s MEd and EdS programs. These two programs obviously differ in degree type, but how do they differ in substance?

The MED program in Building Administration has seen a decline in numbers for several years as educators realize focusing their master’s degree work on curriculum and instruction not only makes them better teachers in the short run, but also helps them to become better educational leaders down the road. The EdS program in Building Administration then allows the candidates to use their background to enhance the leadership skills they learn in the Building Administration program. The program is enhanced through our extensive use of current practitioners and experts to teach in the program. The EdS Superintendent and Director of Special Education programs provide candidates the opportunity to specialize in district level leadership roles under tutelage of experts in those fields. Again, practical application of the knowledge learned during coursework is a hallmark of these programs.

Both the EdD and the EdS offered by Northwest Nazarene University specialize in Educational Leadership. How can prospective students determine which one is right for them?

Most doctoral programs are sixty-plus semester credits past the master’s degree. The EdS is essentially the content area of the doctoral program and provides the first thirty semester credits of the sixty-plus required for the doctoral degree. The content areas we offer in the EdS program include Building Administrator (Principal), Superintendent, Director of Special Education, and Leadership and Organizational Development. The EdS (or its equivalent) is required prior to admission to the doctoral program. Many school districts consider the EdS as a terminal degree. By offering the EdS, students can then decide to stay with the EdS or move on to the EdD program. This provides a great deal of flexibility for the students which is not offered in many other institutions. The EdD then allows the student to focus on their educational leadership interest area through their research and dissertation.

Northwest Nazarene University is a Christian university. How does this influence its academics, specifically the education programs?

As Christian university, we focus heavily on the Servant Leadership process as modeled by Jesus Christ. We help prospective administrators come to realize success is not measured by your position, but how you use that position to help others be successful in their roles. Long gone are the days when being a successful principal (at the high school level) meant your building was clean, the football team was winning and there were few complaints to the superintendent. Now the success of administrators is measured in student testing scores, the resources provided to the teachers and the quality of the teachers in the building. Perform poorly in any of these areas and your position as a principal/administrator is in jeopardy. The success of our graduates in moving into various administrative positions in their respective areas is proof of the quality of our programs. Our course work is strong academically and in providing practical knowledge and experiences which help our students be very successful administrators. Our students include those from many different faiths/beliefs as well as those who have no faith commitment. All are treated equally as our goal is to provide the best educators possible to meet the needs of the most important people in our program – the students sitting in the desks in those school buildings.

We’re hoping to use these interviews to give a sense of individuality and character to the online EdD programs featured on Teach.com. What’s something unique about Northwest Nazarene University’s education programs that you can share with us?

One of the key differences we hear from our students sounds a little cheesy on the surface – customer service. We are very intentional about our customer service – from answering phone calls/emails, to developing possible schedules for students even before they are enrolled, to doing everything we can to ensure our students complete their programs. A good example of this is our doctoral program. One of the primary reasons many doctoral students end up being All But Dissertation (ABD) is the lack of support during the dissertation process. We have built the dissertation process into the course work. When one of our doctoral students finishes their course work, they should be done with their dissertation. We currently have 3-4 ABDs, total, and we anticipate those being done by December 2018 – then zero ABDs. We have been able to accomplish this remarkable feat, not by being easy, but by being supportive of our students – customer service. We have had numerous ABD students from other programs who came to us and had to do all of their course work over – the difference was our support and they actually completed their degree.