Program designed to boost Dominican Republic's education system

Contact: Margaret von Steinen
Photo of a map of the Dominican Republic.

The first cohort will begin in fall 2014.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University will launch the first doctoral program to be offered in the Dominican Republic in spring 2015 through a unique collaboration between the University and the D.R.'s Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education and the Universidad Iberoamericana in Santo Domingo—UNIBE.

About the program

For the first time, faculty, administrators and professional staff of the D.R.'s colleges and universities and its K-12 system will have the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. at home—in educational leadership. The four-year program will prepare individuals to hold leadership and management roles in K-12 or higher education via a hybrid learning format and with teaching support from WMU faculty.

Two times during the fall and spring semesters, faculty from the Department of Educational Leadership, Research, and Technology in WMU's College of Education and Human Development will travel to the D.R. for one week to teach and provide advising to the program's students at the host university, UNIBE. It also includes a study abroad component, in which students enrolled in the program will travel to WMU in July each year for three weeks of intensive study and exploration of U.S. educational systems.

The program's development was coordinated by Juan Tavares, director of international admissions and services in WMU's Haenicke Institute for Global Education, and Dr. Donna Talbot, chair and professor of the Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology.

The first cohort of students will begin studies in January 2015. It will include about 23 students focused on higher education leadership and on K-12 leadership. 

Global engagement

WMU President John M. Dunn has traveled to the D.R. more than a dozen times in recent years and is integrally involved with several initiatives underway there, including the Ph.D. program. In early 2013, Dunn received an invitation from the D.R.'s Minister of Higher Education, Ligia A. Melo, to give a presentation about the United States' educational system at a D.R. conference for college and university presidents.

"I talked about some of the things we were doing at WMU and in the United States and that greatly accelerated interest in how WMU could help advance the country’s educational system," Dunn says. "UNIBE asked if we could provide a doctoral program in higher education leadership. They said their faculty were 'starving' for opportunities to earn a doctorate. Thanks to Dean Ming Li and our education leadership faculty in the College of Education and Human Development, we were able to put together a proposal in summer 2013 to provide a good quality program. They accepted our proposal and planning got underway immediately. We believe we can do it there, and we will do it well."

Talbot says the program will allow students to focus on possible dissertation topics during the first year through an initial doctoral studies seminar. Continued development of the topic is facilitated through a second intensive seminar, a research sequence and a professional field experience, while students work with several WMU faculty.

"I really like the idea that we are helping a country develop an education system stronger than what exists and that we are helping the D.R. increase the ability to eventually offer its own doctoral programs," Talbot says. "Once the students have completed their coursework and pass their comprehensive exams, they will be well equipped for the dissertation seminar and to prepare their dissertation proposals."

Dr. Ming Li , who began his tenure as dean of WMU's education college in fall 2013, said he hopes this program will serve as a pilot for future, similar programs outside of the U.S.

"We are using our expertise to help build the academic capacity of another country,” Li says. "We are taking advantage of online technology to offer an academic program through a hybrid model. This is a significant move in fulfilling our vision of being a globally engaged institution."

Since 2008, WMU has had a close relationship with the Dominican Republic. Some 400 students from the D.R. have studied at WMU over the past six years, fulfilling the D.R.'s national commitment to higher education through the Dominican Scholars Program.

For more information about the new initiative, contact Dr. Donna Talbot in the Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology at (269) 387-3896 or