Summer McMurry runs a full-time business she started in Asheville, in addition to being a wife and mother of three children. Pursuing her doctorate, without a nearby program, wasn’t an option for her – until now.

McMurry is one of three doctoral students comprising the first class in a joint doctoral program in speech communication and disorders between UNCG and Western Carolina University. The program is called the Inter-institutional Distance Education Agreement for Learning and Leadership in Communication Sciences and Disorders, or IDEALL CSD, and is unique in that students take classes from faculty at both campuses, mainly online.

“Getting my PhD was something I always wanted to do once I was established and settled,” said McMurry, who established Carolina Pediatric Therapy 15 years ago and now employs about 100 people who serve 18 counties. “There wasn’t a program that I could connect to. But when I found out about IDEALL, it was a good fit for me. Most of what we do in the program is distance learning, so I’m not traveling to either of the campuses very often.”

Both universities benefit from the partnership. For UNCG, having access to Western Carolina faculty essentially doubles the size of the department without increases to its budget. Students who graduate from IDEALL will receive their degrees from UNCG.

“Western has outstanding faculty, but they didn’t have a doctoral program and didn’t want to lose these star faculty members because of that,” said Dr. Celia Hooper, dean of UNCG’s School of Health and Human Sciences. “To establish a program like this, it takes a lot of cooperation between faculties and registrars and administration. We had a lot of enthusiastic people who didn’t give up.”

The partnership touches on two important aspects of the Board of Governors’ strategic plan – access and efficiency. Students like McMurry now have access to a doctoral program through two UNC system campuses and online learning and thus have the option to continue their education. Meanwhile, the universities are able to increase their offerings without any budgetary increases.

“The beauty of the program is that it allows for both campuses’ strengths in terms of offering programs and faculty, and offers us the opportunity to work collaboratively,” said Dr. Bill Ogletree, head of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Western Carolina. “There’s no reason why you can’t do something differently.”

To learn more, visit csd.wp.uncg.edu/students/phd/.

 

This post was adapted from a UNC system web story written by Phillip Ramati. To read the full story, click here.

Photography provided by Summer McMurry