Ph.D. Program, 2009 Alumna
Flexibility was key for Heather Paessler-Chesterton when she began thinking about going back to school for her Ph.D. Having already invested the time to earn her master's degree, she was eager to establish professional roots and allow her career to gain momentum but was very interested in pursuing her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision (CES). Knowing the pursuit of a doctorate was a monumental undertaking; Heather wanted to be confident in her ability to finish the degree no matter where her career and family might move her to next. When she heard about the online Doctoral Program in Counselor Education and Supervision (DPCES) at Regent, she knew this was the solution; a doctoral program that could travel with her wherever she was in the country. This turned out to be a necessary feature when she and her husband relocated from the west coast to Chicago and later to Wisconsin for his work. Her master's degree allowed her to work with school districts in alternative educational settings, serving at-risk youth while continuing with her doctoral studies. Because her classmates were also located in various corners of the country, she didn't miss a beat in her course work and cohort interactions. The online classes allowed for collaboration and mentorship across state lines and time zones.
Heather knew that online learning would be flexible but not easy. "As an online student, you have the privilege of really taking responsibility for your own learning in an authentic way. Students are held to a unique sense of accountability, which helps to minimize complacency, even anonymity. Rather, you are propelled into the dynamics of learning, which only enriches both your learning, as well as your relationships with others involved. It keeps you ‘honest,’ so to speak." The faculty of the DPCES agree, "We have to be deliberate about creating opportunities, in an online format, that are robust and interactive between and among the students and faculty."
The relationships that are established in the cohort extend long past group projects and assignments for classes. Heather is currently collaborating on a publication with a former classmate and Dr. Jim Sells, program director for the DPCES. This network of professional connections is rich and diverse and spans the globe. "I now have a strong and knowledgeable pool of dedicated individuals whom I not only call colleagues, but many of them I call dear and lifelong friends. They are among the first I reach out to for professional guidance, consultation and support, and they are even on my Christmas card and birth announcement mailing list!"
Earning her Ph.D. in CES has allowed Heather to transition from full-time counselor to professor, supervisor, consultant and mother. "I look forward to continuing my aspirations of teaching in higher education, while returning to supervisory and consultative work, in addition to “giving back” to the field by being a producer and presenter of research."