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Anderson University Celebrates First EdD Graduates

Doctor of Education graduates
The Anderson University College of Education is celebrating its inaugural Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) graduating class during the 2024 May commencement.

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The inaugural Doctor of Education class, clockwise from left: Shannon Goodacre, Marylee Kneisley, Meaghan Gregory-McAfee, Melissa Miller, Rosalyn Pitts, Jody Webb, and Alli Redman. 


The Anderson University College of Education is celebrating its inaugural Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) graduating class during the 2024 May commencement.  

The spring doctoral graduates are Shannon Goodacre, Marylee Kneisley, Meaghan Gregory McAfee, Melissa Miller, Rosalyn Pitts, Alexis Redman and Jody Webb. 

Anderson University’s director of the Doctor of Education program director Dr. Julie Smart said, “We are so excited to celebrate this inaugural class of Ed.D. graduates. Three years ago, we began this doctoral journey in the College of Education and have had the privilege to walk side-by-side with these graduates through all the ‘firsts’ of this program. We are so proud of their commitment to quality and rigor in educational research and their dedication to leadership in the field of education.” 

“It is incredibly gratifying to arrive at this point where we are graduating this first group of scholars from our Ed.D. program,” said Anderson University College of Education Dean Dr. Mark Butler. “We are grateful to these students for placing their trust in Anderson University to lead them through this process. Personally, I am grateful to Dr. Smart for her leadership of this program, to Dr. Watts for his role as the Associate Dean overseeing this program, and to all the dissertation chairs, faculty, and committee members who have invested their time and talents into our doctoral students.” 


Dr. Shannon Goodacre
Dissertation Title: Twenty-First Century Principal Leadership
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jeremy Watts 

Dr. Shannon Goodacre’s study explored how high school principals practice leadership to promote a positive learning environment. She found that high school principals who prioritize open and transparent communication, active listening and strategic planning are successful in creating a positive learning environment where inclusive and collaborative practices thrive. 

Goodacre said of her Ed.D. experience at Anderson, “First of all, the process itself was very gratifying. I recognized during the process that I was moving into a different kind of academic sphere myself. The end results, I felt, enabled me to really have a better understanding of the complexities of being a school leader and what that entails. Being a teacher, it was interesting to see that perspective and really understand the experience of those who practice leadership on a daily basis.” 

Goodacre added of the program, “Anderson organized the program in a way that was supportive and conducive to working while also being a student. They set up an amazing support system with colleagues where we were able to communicate with one another. That made a really big difference.” 

Goodacre, who teaches Advanced Placement U.S. History and is the student council advisor at Easley High School in Easley, South Carolina, feels that going through her doctoral program was beneficial to her personal and professional growth. 

Goodacre said, “When I look back on the writing that I conducted in my first few courses over time, and then I look at the final product, I can really see where I have grown in terms of how and what I write. I am definitely writing and thinking on a more scholarly level as compared to previously.”  

Goodacre says that her study has sparked an interest in researching district-level leadership and potentially teaching at the collegiate level. 


Dr. Marylee Kneisley
Dissertation Title: Teacher Perceptions of Principal Leadership and the Effect on Teacher Retention
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Julie Smart 

Dr. Marylee Kneisley, who has been teaching mathematics at Dorman High School in Spartanburg District 6, plans to start the next academic year as a mathematics instructional coach.  

The aim of Kneisley’s study is “to explore how teachers perceive their school leaders and the extent to which these leaders effectively implement leadership styles and strategies that foster a positive work environment to support and retain teaching staff.” 

Kneisley gathered both quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of participants, who were K-12 teachers in a large Upstate South Carolina school district. She found a statistically significant difference in the perception of leadership from younger teachers and older teachers. The level of satisfaction with leadership was tied to whether teachers would stay at or leave a particular school.  

Kneisley is impressed with how Anderson’s Ed.D. program is organized. 

“All of the professors were extremely helpful and encouraging but also pushed us towards excellence,” Kneisley said. “They know what it takes to be doctoral students because they have all been in our shoes at one point… they were able to stretch us, grow us and challenge us. The hyflex method, which provides in-person class attendance options as well as online zoom participation… was the best way that the university could have structured the program. This allowed people who are not in our state to be a part of the program. To be able to hear from people in different parts of our country share their experiences in their school and their experiences with education was enlightening and it brought such richness to our program.” 

Kneisley is grateful to her committee of program direction, Dr. Julie Smart, College of Education Dean Dr. Mark Butler and Timothy Nelson from Spartanburg District 6 for their valuable assistance. 


Dr. Meaghan Gregory-McAfee
Dissertation Title: Middle School and High School Teachers’ Attitudes and Beliefs about Instructional Technology in the Classroom
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Julie Smart 

Dr. Meaghan Gregory-McAfee teaches eight-grade English at Boiling Springs High School in Spartanburg District 2.  

McAfee did her master’s research on technology use and how it affected students and teachers in the classroom, which she said “blossomed” into her doctoral research topic. 

Her research explores attitudes toward technology used in the classroom, which has taken on a more significant role since the COVID pandemic. She feels that her research opens the conversation for educators and administrators about what they can do to address various technology barriers facing teachers at all grade levels.  

McAfee said, “I think that it is beneficial for teachers, not only just in middle and high school, but throughout K-12 in general, to see different attitudes and beliefs of teachers about technology since that’s so prevalent in our world today. I really think this would be beneficial to teachers to read… It shows, from this research, here’s what we could do as educators or here is what district officials could do as well… Seeing what some of the barriers that teachers face throughout the district that this is taking place in, teachers can see that maybe they’re not alone, that other teachers are facing different technology barriers as well and district office officials can see different barriers so that they can hopefully put into place some solutions to those barriers.” 

She enjoys teaching for now and is considering the possibility of either a technology-related job at the school district level or becoming an education professor someday. 

McAfee is grateful to her dissertation chair, Dr. Julie Smart, saying “She’s helped me so much through this process. She’s always been available for questions, and if she doesn’t know the answer, she’s going to figure out how to help me find the answer,” McAfee said. 


Dr. Melissa Miller
Dissertation Title: The Relationship Between Secondary ELA (English Language Arts) Teacher Pedagogical Practices, Student Self-Regulated Learning and Digital Self-Efficacy in a Blended Learning Environment
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Julie Smart 

Dr. Melissa “Kat” Miller has taught in the Carolinas and Florida and is currently at Westside High School in Anderson. She is also a National Board-certified teacher. Miller feels that God has begun using her doctoral work to find a niche where she can best be used to make a positive impact on students. 

Miller’s research dealt with how students adapted to technology in a post-pandemic society where classroom instruction went digital and remote. She studied student perceptions about how they felt things were going post-pandemic.  

“I wanted to study self-regulated learning and I wanted to help students create a self-efficacy in digital classrooms within the blended learning environment,” Miller said. “I was looking specifically at an Ed.D. program that wanted me not to be necessarily licensed to be a principal, but more of a specialist in my career and more of a specialized situation in my experience, which was English high school education.”  

Miller is grateful to her dissertation chair Dr. Julie Smart, as well as committee members Dr. Jeremy Watts and Dr. Susan Stevens for guiding her through the process of becoming a doctoral candidate. 

“What I thought was a strength of the program was when I learned through the process because I was able to feel like an expert while developing the skill set to become an expert,” Miller said. “Foundational research throughout the coursework really did build my understanding on what I wanted to discover.”  

While Miller is considering her future steps professionally, she confidently places faith in Christ and His plans for her life. 


Dr. Rosalyn Pitts
Dissertation Title: College Readiness Skills for Students with Learning Disabilities
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Joanna Stegall 

Dr. Rosalyn “Roz” Pitts spent several years teaching in the public schools, then joined the staff of Clemson University and is currently a professor of education at Southern Wesleyan University.  

Pitts’ research explored how high school students are being prepared for college. She found that some essential areas were lacking in the process, such as time management, goal setting and self-advocacy, which are skills that benefit students not only in college years but as they enter various types of careers. 

“In secondary education, there’s so much pressure on being college-ready academically that I think a lot of teachers feel pressured to pace their instruction—finish this math, English, science—but meanwhile they’re not always given the right tools to teach these other skills, so I’m hoping that we will see some shift in needing to focus on teaching these other skills,” said Pitts. “The research kind of indicates when they lack these particular skills, it makes being successful in college that much harder.” 

Major factors for Pitts’ choosing Anderson University as the place to pursue her Ed.D. included the Christian framework of the program; she also has fond memories of hearing her father talk about his years as an Anderson student. She feels her program has been phenomenal in many ways. 

I think Anderson has figured out a way to offer the best of both worlds in the sense of I really feel like strong academic rigor,” Pitts said. “Anderson has embodied this cohort model—being in class every week and building those professional relationships and getting excellent instruction from professors, but also Anderson offers a practical way to do it as a working adult.” 


Dr. Alexis Redman
Dissertation Title: Perception of the Elementary Education Profession and Levels of Job Satisfaction: Is There a Correlation?
Dissertation Chair: Dr. DeeDee Washington 

Dr. Alexis “Alli” Redman teaches at Cedar Grove Elementary School in Williamston. When Redman chose to advance professionally, she returned to Anderson University, where she had earlier earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the College of Education.  

For Redman’s Ed.D. in School and Community Leadership, she explored disparities in how society views teachers as compared to other professions. She hopes that her doctoral research raises awareness that a disconnect can exist in some areas between educators and the public and helps others gain a greater appreciation for those who have chosen education careers.  

As a teacher, Redman has a passion for instilling in her students a love for learning.  

“As a teacher, we are constantly encouraging our students to always be a lifelong learner; I think we should encourage adults to do that as well, no matter what field they’re in. It’s very powerful to have as much education as you possibly can in whatever field interests you,” Redman said, adding that she appreciates how Anderson University supported her professional development as she pursued her doctorate. She appreciates the new challenges she faced while going through her Ed.D. program and the support she received every step of the way. 

“The way that they work with you, you are a person and not a number; That shines through in this program. Dr. Smart and Dr. Watts and everybody who played a part in starting this program—from the beginning—they set it up for working adults, they work with you with the embedded dissertation… They were with you every step of the way. If you needed assistance, the communication was great. They really care about you and want you to succeed.” 


Dr. Jody Webb
Dissertation Title: Connectedness to Others Through Virtual Social Music Improvisation
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Tanya Cordoba 

Dr. Jody Webb, who teaches middle school chorus and music virtually, is receiving her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction.  

“I didn’t even think I was going to be a teacher in college. But it all came together,” Webb said. “I love teaching middle school. I feel like I have a good rapport with that age group. I like seeing them grow musically and getting to find a part of themselves that they didn’t know they had.” 

Webb researched her students to examine their connectedness to each other while performing various musical activities.  

“I think that all teachers could present these activities to students to create stronger connections to each other, to the teacher, to the school,” Webb said. “It’s obvious that kids without stronger connections to school, peers and teachers suffer emotionally, their rates of depression and suicide are higher. I think that this approach or addition to a classroom—and it doesn’t have to be a music classroom—it could be a short 10-minute improv activity, maybe at the beginning of the year for a science class, and just helps create community and bridges those gaps with kids who need that.” 

Webb was attracted to the flexibility and quality of Anderson University’s Ed.D. program 

“I have three kids, and I was able to juggle that more easily… It was also attractive how the dissertation portions were embedded into the curriculum,” Webb said. “It was a fast program but it was complete. Each class focused on something that would help build a part of one of your chapters or just a skill you might need.” 

Webb presented her dissertation April 12 at the Annual South Carolina Research Symposium and was recognized with the Best Student Oral Presentation award. 


The Anderson University College of Education 

The Anderson University College of Education focuses on the intellectual development of the student while being attentive to the ideals of character, servant leadership and cultural engagement. Programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels, onsite or online. Details can be found here. 



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