Southern Arkansas University is now approved to offer the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Rural and Diverse Educational Leadership according to a recent decision by its regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission.

SAU’s first cohort of doctoral students will be admitted for Fall 2021. The program will be offered fully online, and requirements can be completed in as little as three and a half years.

Establishing SAU’s first doctoral program was a key vision set forth during Dr. Trey Berry’s first year as SAU president. Reacting to final approval of the degree program, Dr. Berry remarked:

“This news marks such an important point in SAU history! To be the first university south of Little Rock to offer a doctorate through a College of Education is a responsibility we take very seriously.

“Over the past few years, our students have benefited from the university establishing academic programs that are unique to south Arkansas,” said Dr. Berry. “The creation of the yet another example and a natural progression of the expanding academic mission at SAU.

“We are excited to be providing the opportunity for an advanced, terminal degree to equip our educational and community leaders for the future,” Dr. Berry concluded.
To explore achieving this goal, a 2017 feasibility study was conducted by SAU, and a survey was administered by the-then Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE). The survey affirmed high, regional demand for the potential opportunity.

Stakeholders consisting of building and district-level K-12 administrators, college and university faculty and staff, and non-profit and public agency personnel took the survey and indicated a strong (96.5%) preference to hire applicants holding the doctoral degree. More than half of the open positions within their district, school, or agency required applicants to have doctoral training, and an overwhelming number of survey participants (94.6%) wanted the program to be offered entirely online.

These results gave SAU a sense of urgency to formally develop the Ed.D. program and to deliver it entirely online.

After receiving approval from the Arkansas Division (then-Department) of Higher Education, SAU applied for regional approval of the change in the University’s role and scope to the Higher Learning Commission, the Chicago-based agency that accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in a number of states, including Arkansas.

The process, which began in Fall 2016, concluded with the May 8, 2020, affirmative decision by the Commission.

The program’s launch comes at a critical time for Arkansas and rural America. Educators and community leaders who serve rural and diverse communities face sharply changing demographics, reduced populations, and economic upheaval as industries relocate and rural manufacturing declines.

These challenges affect schools and students at every educational level, as well as the organizations serving them. The newly-approved SAU Ed.D. program provides advanced training in research and practice for professionals holding or seeking leadership positions.

Dr. David Lanoue, SAU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the University “is eager to begin the process of developing the next generation of educational leaders in south Arkansas.

“Under the leadership of Dean Kim Bloss of the College of Education and her outstanding faculty and staff colleagues, this program will have a transformative effect on our students, our region, and rural educators across the nation,” said Dr. Lanoue.
Complete program details will be available September 1, 2020. For the latest information, and to join the SAU Ed.D. contact list, please visit


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