Education alumni are paying it forward with a new endowed scholarship

July 12, 2018

The first cohort of Ed.D. students are helping others follow in their footsteps

Christopher Tremblay
Christopher Tremblay
Christopher Tremblay (’14 Ed.D.) led the effort to create the Ed.D. Alumni Scholarship Fund, which should be ready to offer its first award in 2023.

Christopher Tremblay ('14 Ed.D.) talks about his classmates in the 2009 inaugural cohort of UM-Dearborn Ed.D. students almost like they’re family.

“There’s really nothing that can prepare you for getting your doctorate,” Tremblay said. “The intensity, the stress—there were a couple times during the program I almost quit. You really become each other’s support system. It’s a big part of what got us all through.”

Not surprisingly, Tremblay and many of his classmates have stayed in touch over the years. And recently, when they and other graduates of the program got together for a reunion, they started dreaming up ways they might help those following in their footsteps. One idea that emerged from those conversations: Launching the program’s first ever endowed scholarship.

“Six of us alumni got together for a meeting, and the coolest thing happened,” Tremblay said. “We went around the table, seeing if anyone wanted to pledge. And everybody was, like, ‘I’m in.’ I mean, no hesitation. It was pretty incredible. When we left that day, we were already more than halfway to our initial goal.”

That was back in October. As of early June, Tremblay said pledges from a few other alumni have taken them to that first milestone. That means the new “Ed.D. Alumni Scholarship Fund” should be ready to offer its first award in 2023.

The first scholarships will be modest, but it’s still a big deal, according to College of Education, Health, and Human Services Interim Dean Ann Lampkin-Williams. For starters, the education doctorate program is just nine years old, and to already have an endowed scholarship shows the kind of momentum that’s building inside the program. Plus, Lampkin-Williams said the new fund, which will provide financial assistance during that particularly hectic dissertation period, is particularly vital for their students.

“Most of our doctoral candidates are working educators, so they’re going through the program while holding down a full-time job and balancing all of life’s obligations,” she said. “But I think that’s one of the things that makes them special. They bring real knowledge of what it’s like to work and serve in some of the region’s most challenged districts. And after they earn their doctorates, they’re going on to be principals, administrators and superintendents who can lead those schools.”

For Associate Professor Chris Burke, director of the doctoral program, the ability to tap into those real-life experiences is one of the things that sets UM-Dearborn’s program apart. “It’s really something the students brought to us,” Burke said. “They bring a wealth of professional knowledge and insight into their field and are able to look at the issue of education in unique ways because of their experience. So we’ve really tried to develop that and use it as a strength.”

To continue to support that work, Tremblay and his fellow alumni are now setting their sights on one of their next big endowment benchmarks: getting everyone in their program’s family of alumni to make a gift. “I would love to have 100 percent participation,” Tremblay said. “Even if it’s a small pledge, it all matters. Ours was the first and largest cohort of students to go through the program. But now, nine years in, our ranks our growing. And I think we have a responsibility to do what we can to make sure it has a bright future.”

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