Student Spotlight: Stephanie N. Brown, Ed.D. Program

Can you tell me a little bit about your background?

Stephanie N. Brown. UNE Online Ed.D. candidateMy name is Stephanie Brown and I am an adjunct English as a Second Language (ESL) professor. I honestly love what I do. There is nothing like teaching, especially teaching English learners. I learn so much from my students, probably more than they learn from me. Every day my students open my eyes to the world – not just in terms of content, but with their lived experiences. I am honored to know, work, and support these amazing people. They work so hard and give so much. Their passion and dedication are what keeps me alive: as a human and as a teacher.

Outside of teaching, I have also taken on different leadership roles within the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). I am the President-Elect of NNETESOL and the Reviews Editor for MATSOL. I am also an active member of my three unions (NEA, MTA, and MCCC). These experiences mixed with my passion to support students keeps me constantly pushing to learn more. The field of TESOL is about presenting a safe space for people to access a language that provides them with the power to reach their dreams. This extends outside of the classroom, as organizations help teachers have a voice to better provide a space for students to do the same.

Outside of TESOL and ESL, I am also a Fulbright Advisor at UMass Amherst. Over this past summer, I have helped support many applicants as they apply to travel the world as a Fulbright Scholar. In many ways, this is tied to TESOL and ESL. The better prepared the Fulbright applicants are, the better they will be able to engage with the world outside of US borders. This mirrors my work as a TESOL Teacher-Trainer. In reality, I will never be able to work with every ESL student. So to support students, I work to help train other ESL professionals to be the best teachers possible!

I always say, “teaching may not fill my wallet, but it fills my heart.” At the beginning of every semester, I am giddy to meet my students and by the end, I am full of tears. I am an emotional and passionate ESL professional that wholeheartedly believes in her students. My students are the ones that are going to change the world, so I need to do everything I can to support them.

How did you discover UNE Online?

Nowadays everything starts with a Google-search. I can’t say that I am any different. However, picking a school is often like buying any other product. Therefore, I read reviews, compared costs, and compared programs. My type ‘A’ self may have made a spreadsheet to help me organize this information (slight sarcasm). Once I compared the data, UNE was the pick – hands down. This program offered everything that I wanted and was comparable to, if not better than, the other programs.

I told myself that I either wanted 100% online or 100% in-person. Many of the ‘online’ programs still required people to attend physical classes over the summer. This just didn’t work for me. Summer is when teaching opportunities increase and I can’t turn that down. However, I also wanted a school that was drivable, in case I wanted to physically visit it. UNE was my top pick across the board!

What made you decide to go for your Ed.D?

The field of English a Second Language (ESL) is a field that is under attack, especially in light of the current political climate. We serve refugees, migrant workers, immigrants, first generation college students, and international students. We are blessed to work with people of all religions, identities, nationalities, languages and life experiences. However, the Travel Ban and cuts to education have put ESL on the back burner. Programs across the country are under attack, reduced in size and staff, or cut altogether. This leaves a large vulnerable population of people hoping to access English to achieve their academic, career, and personal goals.

A wise man, Paulo Feire, once stated, “Education is freedom.” And, I believe that language is the catalyst for both education and one’s access to power. Due to the current state of ESL, I know that I need to do more and learn more in order to help create change. My students have been through countless hardships, many of which I couldn’t even fathom. They deserve more. My desire to be a good educator, leader, and advocate drove me to pursue a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership.

Can you tell me a little more about your dissertation topic, and how do you apply it to your current job?

As you can tell, I have ESL on the brain. Sometimes ESL is treated like an outsider (an ugly duckling). It is not quite a language, but it isn’t quite traditional English either. Therefore, we bounce back and forth. This is echoed in college perspectives, leadership, and politics. We need more pro-ESL tenure professors, staff members, vice-presidents, deans, and so forth. We need to unite to best support our current students, but also provide a community that opens its arms to the many more students that desire ESL support.

Therefore, my dissertation will focus on leadership within the field of ESL. What are we doing now? What have we done? What can we do better in the future? What are our actual needs? How can we combat racist and anti-immigrant sentiment? This is essentially a current state of affairs and a leadership map for the future. I am new to the Ed.D. program and I look forward to seeing how these questions are shaped over the next few years. I just finished a qualitative methods course, and I am already starting to see my focus more clearly.

In terms of my current job, I use what I am learning every day. This was my goal and this is my reality. It is funny how things work sometimes! My assignments in class have been drawing from my experiences as a teacher and as a leader. Then my leadership coursework helps me to be a better teacher and leader. This is a fabulous cycle that seems to be mutually beneficial.

Did you find that the online format worked for you?

I am a busy lady, and my family often refers to me as an overachiever. I have to admit that this is true. When I do something I dive in 100%, but if I love something I am somehow able to give more. I am passionate about supporting my students and ESL students across the country. This drive keeps me motivated to do more, see more, and learn more. I chose to participate in an online doctoral program because I want more.

I want to learn AND apply my learning to my teaching contexts. I don’t want to choose between an additional degree or continuing my professional work. I might be a millennial, but I do believe that we shouldn’t have to choose. My students will not wait for me. My degree will not wait for me. So, therefore, I must do both at the same time.

What did you like the most about studying at UNE Online?

Anyone who is an adjunct professor knows: schedules are never fixed until two weeks into the semester. This means that sometimes adjuncts will be offered a class and then later have it taken away and given to a full-time faculty member. This is just the way of life for adjuncts. If you are friends with any adjuncts, I am sure you notice a shift in mood every time enrollment numbers come around.

As an adjunct, I never truly know what classes I will teach until they have started. Therefore, I need a program that is flexible. I can’t sign up for physical classes only to have my own classes changed later. This puts adjuncts in the predicament of having to choose: education or career, when in reality, these two areas are ever-connected and not mutually exclusive.

The flexibility has been key. I can do readings in between grading student homework. I can submit responses or assignments after taking a spinning class. I have the rigor of a physical classroom, but with the flexibility that I need to be successful in today’s culture.

If there’s one thing you would want a potential student to know before starting in this program, what would it be?

There is still this weird misconception that an online program is less difficult than a program in a physical classroom. This could not be more wrong. Taking a class online is just as rigorous as one in a physical classroom. Often, I find it to be just as challenging – if not more. My one piece of advice is: don’t listen to the misconceptions! It is possible to get an Ed.D. online and work at the same time. You do not have to choose. Don’t listen to those dated ideas about online classes or programs. In a dynamic and changing world, online classes and programs are the ticket to succeeding in all aspects of life.

 


If you are interested in the Ed.D. program at UNE Online, or if you would like more information, please reach out to an Enrollment Counselor at (800) 994-2804 or via email at education@une.edu or fill out an online application now at go.une.edu/apply.

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