Harrison Middleton Doctor of Arts

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Phillip M. Perry, Nov 25, 2009.

  1. A fellow board subscriber has asked about my experiences at Harrison Middleton University’s distance education Doctor of Arts program. With his permission I am posting some expanded insights that may be useful to other prospective students:

    One of the best things about the HMU DA program is its concentration on the Great Books of the Western World (GB). Indeed, all of the work in the program involves readings from that set; student papers may not include citations from other books. Most of the writings in the GB are strong brew so the mental work is challenging.

    There is an exception to this exclusivity in the initial course referred to as “The Cornerstone ,” upon which the edifice of the remainder of the work is built. For this course you read “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler and “The Great Conversation” (which is a GB companion volume), and the material in a three-ring binder provided by HMU.

    When the Cornerstone course is completed you design a plan of study for your entire program. The GB includes an impressive two-volume topical index titled “The Syntopicon” which traces the development of over 100 great ideas (such as “Democracy” and “Religion”) in the works of dozens of authors from Homer and Plato to the 20th century. Citations in the Syntopicon lead you directly to the relevant passages in the set. The Syntopicon is a priceless resource for designing a study program, whether for HMU or anywhere else.

    You will need the latest GB edition (Second Edition, 1990), which spans 60 volumes, plus the companion volume "The Great Conversation." I purchased my copy from the Strand Bookstore here in New York about 10 years ago for $500.00 I haven't searched around recently but you can probably get a good deal somewhere.

    Your program of study includes an outline of your selected GB readings along with an essay describing what you hope to accomplish. Each of your 12 self-designed courses involves four selections of readings, each followed by a telephone discussion with a mentor. Following the fourth reading you write a paper of about nine pages and submit for approval. Once you obtain approval you move to the next course.

    The final project is referred to as a “Capstone Course” and may be a traditional dissertation, a creative project, or pedagogical training. Because I had already written an extensive thesis for my previously earned MA from California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) I have decided on something different this time around: I will be writing a novel that explores many of the themes I am studying in the areas of art and language.

    The program is demanding in terms of reading what can be difficult works. I spend perhaps 20 hours a week on my own program, which I am taking primarily for self-improvement. The readings are helping me to further develop my understanding of the creative process, a theme which I developed in my masters thesis and converted into a book titled The Aesthetikon (www.adiatha.com).

    One final tip: If you have some time available prior to beginning your course it would be wise to get a grounding in Plato and Aristotle by reading GB volumes 6,7 and 8. Later writers often either reference those thinkers directly or deal with some of the same issues. Getting this suggested head start will be of major assistance because Plato and Aristotle are difficult to understand without spending some time with them.

    HMU is “nationally accredited” by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). It is not Regionally Accredited, which is the “gold standard” in education. You need to be sure that national accreditation meets your future needs in terms of employment.
  2. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    Thanks for posting this, HMU is the one doctorate program that I have considered, though it's not likely I will get a doctorate, if I ever do it will likely be from there.
  3. sentinel

    sentinel New Member

    Agreed. I have been interested in pursuing a masters or doctorate with Harrison Middleton University for strictly personal knowledge and enrichment. Plus, it would certainly keep my mind active as middle age sets in. :eek:
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 25, 2009
  4. PaulC

    PaulC Member

    Wow! I really like this concept. This would also be great fun and significant enrichment to be on the faculty/mentor side of this type of curriculum.
  5. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    One thing that is important to recognize when one is considering a DETC accredited program: DETC is a national accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) for degrees up through the masters and first professional degrees, not doctoral degrees like the D.A. and Ed.D.

    Harrison Middleton carries this incorrect (and some would say deceptive) verbiage on its Ed.D. page (http://www.chumsci.edu/pages/degree/doctoreducation.asp)

    "Harrison Middleton University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). In April, 2007, the Secretary of Education approved the Department of Educations recommendation and has granted an expansion of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) scope to include the accreditation of institutions offering the professional doctoral degree"

    Wrong. In 2007, DETC's expansion was for the first professional degree--not professional doctoral degrees. The DETC makes this clear on its own website http://www.detc.org/quickfacts.html:

    Present Scope of Recognition:
    The accreditation of higher learning institutions that offer programs of study that are delivered primarily by distance (51 percent or more) and award credentials through the master’s and first professional degrees. The Distance Education and Training Council Accrediting Commission will not accept applications from institutions that award a degree beyond the master’s level, e.g., a doctor’s degree, including academic doctorates (e.g., Ph.D) or doctorates in professional fields (e.g., Ed.D). (emphasis mine).

    The D.A. and Ed.D. are not first professional degrees (they are classified by the U.S. Dept. of Ed. as equivalent to the Ph.D.), so for Harrison Middleton to state that these degrees fall under its DETC accreditation is not honest.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 25, 2009
  6. emmzee

    emmzee New Member

    So is HM's DArts degree accredited, or not? From the above, it sounds like it's not?
  7. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    I always believed the PhD (an academic research degree) to be a doctoral degree clearly distinct from the various other doctorates, JD, MD, DA, DBA, EdD, etc.

    I don't think that HMU is being deceptive. In fact on DETC's own database they are accredited to offer DAs and EdDs http://www.detc.org/school_details.php?id=185
  8. Tylin

    Tylin New Member

    I've pretty much ruled out pursuit of a traditional doctorate in my future due to costs versus lack of career need or utility. However, this program really captures my interest. I would love to delve into the Great Books one day, and the creative project capstone is very appealing to me.

    What are the telephone discussions like? Do you know in advance what your mentor will be asking?
  9. blackcoffee

    blackcoffee New Member

    The same page Mr. Pina cites also states that DETC will accredit professional doctoral degrees, of which includes a Doctor of Arts (D.A.) offered by HMU, which is accredited by DETC.

    "Council for Higher Education Accreditation:

    First Recognized: 1959 Last Reviewed: 2006 Next Review: 2011

    Present Scope of Recognition:
    “The accreditation of postsecondary institutions in the United States that offer degree programs primarily by the distance education method Up to and including the professional doctoral degree, and are specifically certified by the agency as accredited for Title IV purposes; and the accreditation of postsecondary institutions in the United States not participating in Title IV that offer programs primarily by the distance education method up through the professional doctoral degrees."

    A call to the DETC will clear up this confusion. I'll let you know the results after the holiday.
  10. AAD

    AAD New Member

    1st professional degrees

    I worked for some years as a Assoc Registrar at Johns Hopkins University and was responisible for data managment inlcuding classification of degrees and coordinating such things with the MHEC (Maryland Higer Education Commission). In those classifications the degrees of MD, EDD, JD (though JHU didn't have one), and I think DM (doctor of music: Peabogy Conservatory is part of JHU) were reported as 1st professional degrees. Having said that, classifications do change so I will be interested to see what further investigations bring.

    Only the PhD is a true terminal/research degree: the othere nominally depending on fileds of study. The difference is between disciplines versus fields practice, i.e. math versus medicine. This is vastly simplified but, as I understand it, that's what the difference is.
  11. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    The Ph.D. is distinct from the first professional degree, which includes the J.D. and M.D. These are degrees that are designed to be entered into right after the bachelors degree. They are designed to be the entry-level degrees for a profession (in this case law or medicine). They are not research-based degrees that require a dissertation. I will post a list of first profesisonal degrees in a subsequent post.

    The Ed.D. and D.B.A. are research degrees that almost always require a dissertation, just like the Ph.D. Every study that has been done (including my own) comparing these degrees has been unable to find significant differences between them and the Ph.D. in their areas.

    You are correct. I will address this issue below.
  12. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    This issue here is that the DETC say explicitly:

    "The DETC Accrediting Commission’s scope is the accreditation of institutions offering programs primarily by the distance education method up through the first professional degree level." http://www.detc.org/frequentlyQust.html

    The U.S. Department of Education distinguishes between the first professional degree and the research doctorate. Below is the definition of the first professional degree and a list of those degrees. You can find this document at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ous/international/usnei/us/edlite-structure-us.html:

    These degrees are normally entered into after the bachelors. One would seek a masters AFTER completing a first professional degree.

    Notice that the D.A., D.B.A. and Ph.D. are not listed among these degrees (please see the next post)
  13. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Also from the U.S. Department of Education (same URL as the First Professional Degree document quoted above):

    Most students will complete a bachelors and masters degree before completing one of the degrees above. These typically require an original research or performance project (most often a dissertation) not required by a first professional degree.

    So, it looks as though it may be the DETC, rather than Hamilton Middleton that may be playing fast and loose with definitions here.
  14. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    Here are allowable doctorates per DETC policy C-9 http://www.detc.org/acredditHandbk.html

    The Accrediting Commission will accept applications for only the following professional doctoral degrees for DETC accreditation:

    1. Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
    2. Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
    3. Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
    4. Doctor of Occupational Therapy (DOT)
    5. Doctor of Arts (specified fields) (DA)
    6. Doctor of Science (specified fields) (DSc)
    7. Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.)
    8. Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)

    An institution may petition the Accrediting Commission to request special waivers for consideration of any other professional doctoral degrees not listed above. [added June 2008]

    I would like to see a good DETC school offer a D.Tech. or D.Prof. as a professional degree.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2009
  15. PaulC

    PaulC Member

    I believe this is true. You cannot have an existing doctoral program and have your application for DETC accreditation accepted.
  16. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    I think that the DETC 'Quickfacts' page that Tony is quoting might need updating. The US Dept. of Education has this to say about DETC -


    My understanding of the timeline is that DETC was recognized by the Dept. of Education as a "first-professional" accreditor in 2004 or 2005, and that scope was expanded to include "professional doctorates" in 2007. There was quite a bit of discussion of that here on Degreeinfo, as I recall. So I believe that the information on the Harrison Middleton website is essentially correct and isn't misleading.

    DETC's 'Accreditation Handbook' has some interesting stuff --


  17. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Hi Phillip, thanks for your update. Harrison Middleton's DA interests me and I have to say that I've been tempted to enroll. I'm another Hux graduate, my studies are for personal interest and my interests run to the history if ideas. So Harrison Middleton looks like a great fit for me. I don't care a whole lot about the DETC vs. RA thing either, since I probably wouldn't be using the degree for vocational purposes. (Even state-approved programs are ok for my purposes, if I like the program.) I think that the DETC scope thing is a tempest-in-a-teapot. The biggest thing that's been keeping me from enrolling in HMU is probably money. It's hard to justify the expense when I don't really need to have the degree and when I can already study on my own for free.

    You did write something about the Harrison Middleton program that concerned me a little (my highlighting) --

    That sounds awfully restrictive to me. I think that I would almost certainly need to consult the periodical literature and books not included in the GB collection.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2009
  18. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I feel most DETC-accredited schools offering doctorates are hum-drum. They offer DBA's and other such degrees, but lack the institutional research base that RA schools offer. It seems so "transactional" to me. But this degree is different.

    I hope they go for RA.
  19. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    I agree Rich, HMU has a completely unique doctorate offering online and they are one of the few Great Books method schools still out there.
  20. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Well, I think that it may be necessary for me to retract what I said about Harrison Middleton's website. It appears that it is the DETC's website that really needs an overhaul. Depending on where you go on the site, you will get different information about which degrees they authorize.

    Much of the problem lies with the fact that the DETC lists contains a confusing mixture of first professional (DPT, DOT), six year or "intermediate" (DMin) and research degrees (DBA, EdD, DPA, DSc) in its list of "professional doctorates". The fact is that the designation "professional doctorate" has no consistent meaning and is really an obsolete term, since the original intent of having a degree that is unique from the PhD did not occur (at least not in the case of the DBA, PhD and DPA).

    If you take most EdD programs and compare them with PhDs in the same discipline at another school , you will not find differences between the two. The same is true for the DBA. AACSB does not distinguish the DBA from the PhD in business administration at all. In looking at the available studies since the 80s comparing these "professional doctorates" to the PhD in the same disciplines, no researcher have been able to find significant differences.

    It appears that the purpose for the "professional doctorate" designation is:

    1) To allow universities (and accrediting agencies) to "break into the doctoral business" in a more acceptable way by appearing not to compete with PhD programs (evan though that is precisely what they do). This is why the University of California system fought (successfully) for many years to block the ability of the California State University system to offer its own standalone doctoral programs, until the CSU was able to lobby the legislature into passing a bill in 2005. Notwithsanding its claims about requiring an "applied" dissertation, the new CSU EdD is just another PhD with a different name.

    2) To allow the doctoral program to be administered by the academic department (e.g. school of business or school of education), rather than by the university's graduate school.

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