EdD student gives love, hope, and leadership to today’s school children

Brian Dinkins

Had teachers, coaches, and mentors not rallied around him, Brian Dinkins might not have graduated from high school on time to play out a football scholarship to Purdue University, where he played four winning seasons, including a trip to the Rose Bowl, with a teammate named Drew Brees.

Despite the bachelor’s degree on his résumé, Brian returned home to where his mother raised him, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods and impoverished school systems in Indianapolis. Lack of a job soon meant lack of a home. That’s when a stint at substitute teaching changed his life forever.

His Opportunity to Make an Impact

“I saw an opportunity to have an impact so I invested in education so I could teach,” says Brian, who also became interested in leadership and pursued a master’s in educational administration.

Over the next several years, he taught special education and filled multiple positions as principal, athletic director, and dean of students.

In 2010, Brian became principal at Imagine Life Sciences East charter school in his old neighborhood.

“I had gone to school with the parents of a lot of the kids in my school,” says Brian. “It was an epiphany for me to realize the families were still in the neighborhood. Somewhere along the path they hadn’t connected to something that would change their experiences—or their children’s experiences.”

Children Can Become Casualties of Society

Brian is adamant about children “acquiring skills to move outside of their circumstances.”

“Otherwise they inherit broken lives as innocent casualties of society,” he says.

“I believe achieving the highest level of education is a testament that we can achieve anything we put our minds and hearts to,” he says. “This is especially important for children raised in poverty like myself to see that you can achieve every goal you set for yourself.”

Completing a doctorate in educational leadership has been Brian’s primary goal. After finishing Ball State’s specialist in education in school superintendency in 2015, he undertook the EdD in educational administration and supervision.

“TC Celebrates Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity”

Dinkins (far right) and Brees (to his right) and Boilermakers surround the 2001 Big Ten trophy.

“The EdD program has enhanced my capacity to lead with an inclusive mindset,” he says. “The Teachers College does a great job of exposing its students to best practices that encourage and celebrate diversity, inclusion, and equity.”

Brian says Ball State faculty and staff have become part of his family. He admits that he decided to quit the EdD more than once, “only to have faculty come and get me.” With his dissertation research underway, he plans to graduate in 2020.

In 2015, Brian, in his own words, “took a leap of faith” and launched an organization he calls National Institute for Child Empowerment (NICE). Through NICE, he pursues his passion for helping parents and students of disenfranchised communities with training, mentoring, and advocacy to increase their access to college, careers, and character development.

NICE Works for Students, Parents, and Teachers

“Education has empowered me to serve some of the most challenging schools in the inner city of Indianapolis and provide love, hope, and quality education to those most in need,” says Brian, whose organization provides leadership coaching, workshops for parenting, and professional development for teachers.

“It takes the commitment and excellence of every teacher, counselor, parent, and administrator to ensure that all students succeed. Education is truly the doorway to providing all students personal and professional empowerment.”

Brian says he lives by the words of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who wrote, “It is easier to build strong children, than it is to repair broken men.”

Purdue defensive end Dinkins rushes Ohio State quarterback.

Harris Says Doctorate Prepped Him to be VP of World-Class High School

Jonathan Harris is vice president for academics at Herron High School, a tuition-free, public high school in downtown Indianapolis that provides a classical, liberal arts curriculum. Herron is one of two schools that make up an academic community known as Indianapolis Classical Schools.

Ranked among the top 1 percent of high schools nationwide by Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and TheWashington Post, Herron received an “A” on the Indiana Department of Education accountability report card for 2012-2018, the only Indianapolis high school to earn the designation.

Harris says ‘Classical Schools Are Blueprint’

“Indianapolis Classical Schools is the blueprint for inclusive, quality, high performing, public schooling in the city,” says Harris. In recent years, 100 percent of graduates have been admitted to a four-year college or the military.

Harris recently completed Ball State’s doctor of education (EdD) in educational administration and supervision. “The work that I did on my EdD fully prepared me for this job,” says Harris, whose responsibilities span curriculum and evaluation for both of the Indianapolis Classical Schools. He also manages the heads of each school, six department chairs, head of special education, head of counseling, registrar, and director of student accountability.

EdD Blends Online, Face to Face

The doctoral program is a blended format of mostly online classes except for monthly face-to-face classes that meet Thursday afternoons in Fishers, just north of Indianapolis. Harris gives both online and on site classes an “A” grade.

“The online system was easy to manage and filled with valuable resources,” says Harris. “Class sessions were facilitated by experts. I am persuaded that they are truly the best in the business.”

Program Helped Him Mentor Colleagues

Ball State Online students frequently say they are able to apply course principles in the classroom the next day. Harris says this preparation made him an unofficial adviser to colleagues who were enrolled in other graduate schools.

“There were others who were going through similar leadership programs at the same time that I was,” says Harris. “I literally ended up teaching and mentoring them.”

While doctoral dissertations are pursued independently in most programs, EdD students work one on one with their committee chair and take 10 credits of course work dedicated to the dissertation.

Classes Provided Dissertation Support

“The two that were most beneficial for me was a class in qualitative research design and a class that was solely dedicated to preparing the dissertation proposal,” he says. “The insight and care that was provided by my dissertation chair and committee was second to none.”

Like many EdD grads, Harris also earned his master’s in educational administration and supervision through Ball State Online.

Since arriving at Herron more than a decade ago, Harris has also served as choral music instructor, graduation coach, advanced placement coordinator, assistant head of school, and dean of students.

Online program did not compromise her school day

During her years as an educator, Kelly Andrews has earned four graduate degrees from Ball State. The doctor of education in educational administration and supervision degree, which she pursued online between 2014 and 2015, set her up for a position with one of the top high schools in the country.

Today, she is executive director of Doctors Charter School (DCS), a public school in Miami-Dade County, Florida, providing students with a private school experience. Both Newsweek and US News & World Report have named DCS “one of America’s best high schools.”

“The doctoral process itself is an exercise in perseverance, research, and real world educational opportunity.”

Q: What is your role in your first year as executive director, and what role do you think Ball State played in helping you land this position?

The school’s vision and mission is to develop a college preparatory school as a public choice for parents in Miami Shores. My role this year includes observing all teachers in order to coordinate the evaluation system for all employees, conducting the school-wide accreditation process, and initiating a strategic planning process.

My degrees from Ball State allow for me to serve the school in a central office capacity in areas such as human resources, operations, finance, and public relations. There were almost 80 applicants during the search process and as an out-of-state candidate, these were areas that allowed my background to be considered.

Q. In what specific ways did the online doctorate give you a boost?

The power of the online program is that it met my needs without compromising my school day time with students and teachers. This path also allowed me to grow as a digital leader in the 21st century, something I need to model to students and teachers.

The doctoral process itself is an exercise in perseverance, research, and real world educational opportunity. The faculty and staff at Ball State have been the encouragers and supporters providing students the expectations of rigor and relevance to those who seek this higher level of education.

Q: What problem solving techniques did you gain from the program?

Case studies and the presentation of different scenarios gave me and my classmates insights into situations that we might encounter as superintendents. Working through the decision-making methods and theories allowed us to practice examining a situation from many different perspectives that we might need to understand our constituencies. Since I was working full time while pursuing this degree, I was able to put them into practice right away. It certainly had an avid effect on my position as a principal, which I held during the program.

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