How does the Union PhD doctoral program work?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by marcuscarey, May 26, 2005.

  1. marcuscarey

    marcuscarey New Member

    What does this mean in a nutshell? For instance, I'm in the IT field working as a network engineer. How could I incorporate my career with their program? I'd like to get a PhD in my career field.
  2. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Most likely, you would name a chap named Fres G. Kohun (whose accomplishments I describe here
    to your committee.

    You will demonstrate:

    1. New Learning (Establishment of Competencies)
    2. Internship (Often a Community College Professorship, but Need not Necessarily Be)
    3. Project Demonstrating Excellence (Dissertation, Applied Project)

    Before the recent changes, you used to name two core faculty, two adjunct faculty, and two peers to your committee, which, by the way, you chaired. Hopefully, Rich Douglas and/or Steve Levicoff will chime in.
  3. marcuscarey

    marcuscarey New Member

    This is an example of my problem. On a banner I see a guy who received his PhD in 2001 in Telecommunications Management. I can't find that degree listed on the site. Can I just create my own PhD in Network Security? How does this institution work?
  4. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member


    The doctoral degree that allows you to design your own program is actually a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a concentration in (insert your two fields of study here).
  5. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member


    Marcus Carey,

    According to what I was told at a Union Institute ( meeting at some hotel in Seattle in 1999 or 2000 (I never enrolled because I never finished the MA that I was enrolled in at the time), one could look at what work is required for other PhD programs in your field, even to the extent of taking reading lists from courses in other programs.
  6. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    In a historical sense, what has already been posted is quite accurate. One decides what to concentrate one's studies in, forms a committee (core faculty from Union and adjunct experts from one's field of study, plus Union peers), and in concert with the committee:

    1. Identifies the major competencies in one's field of study.
    2. Identifies one's interdisciplinary approach.
    3. Develops a learning agreement that includes:
    a. the competency areas (including research methodology)
    b. how one is going to achieve those competencies
    c. how one is going to demonstrate those achievements (measurements)
    d. an internship related to one's field, but not "business as usual"
    e. a personal growth project
    f. preliminary proposal for the PDE, which is usually a dissertation

    Then one begins carrying out one's learning agreement, making specific progress during each term of enrollment. One also attends a minimum of 35 days of residency:

    1. 10-day Entry Colloquium
    2. 3 5-day Union-sponsored seminars
    3. 10 1-day Peer Days (developed and conducted by Union learners)

    There are a couple mandatory meetings of the entire committee, plus whatever you negotiate with them. (That will likely grow to three mandatory meetings.)

    You can build upon prior learning, but you cannot get credit for it; each doctoral degree program must be a complete one on its own, regardless of prior learning.

    You now have to spend a minimum of 3 years in the program. Typical is 3-5 years. Levicoff did it in 2. My total time in the program was about 6 years after you take away the times I spent on interim status.

    You create three documents in order to graduate:

    1. First, you complete a Project Demonstrating Excellence. The vast majority of Union learners do traditional doctoral dissertations, but Union allows you to get creative here. But even then, the learner must demonstrate and document the level of research commensurate with the award of the Ph.D. Doing an alternative to the dissertation is much harder.

    2. All Union learners complete a Program Summary, which is a record of, and a personal reflection on, one's degree program. No mean feat--many Program Summaries are longer than dissertations. But except for the reflection piece, most of it is capturing what has already been done. Documented here are the competencies, how you mastered them, and how you demonstrated competency. You also have your residencies (after each one you have to write up what you learned and demonstrated that learning), your internship report, your personal growth piece, etc.

    3. Transcript. All Union learners draft their transcripts. Because Union doesn't issue grades, and because each learner's program is unique, a transcript has to be prepared. This used to be optional, but now it's mandatory. If a learner wants credits, the committee has guidelines to follow for recommending credits. (The administration has the final say. I didn't bother with credits.) The transcript must match the Program Summary precisely, an exacting task.

    After all three documents have been prepared and approved by the learner's core faculty, the committee meets to determine whether or not to recommend the learner for graduation. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. If no, the learner continues working to fix what was wrong/missing/insufficient. Then the committee meets again (usually by phone). Once the committee is satisfied, the learner's materials are sent to the Dean's office for review. Once the Dean accepts them, he/she recommends the learner for graduation. The learner graduates at the end of the month of the Dean's recommendation, but not earlier than 3 years of total enrollment. (If the learner has a break in enrollment, like me, he/she must be enrolled for a minimum of two terms--8 months--before graduating. I was enrolled for 13 months after returning.)

    One earns a Ph.D. in one's concentration area, and can also have a specialization. My concentration was in Higher Education, with a specialization in Nontraditional Higher Education. As I've posted many times, it is likely that Union will begin restricting concentrations to 5 or 6 areas, with specializations within those. So I don't know if you would be able to build the degree you desire; ask Union. While Steve and I have not been recommending Union to people while the school sorts out its difficulties, the recent news from the OBR looks very promising. I'd wait until the NCA takes them off notice, however.

    That's about it. There are a lot of details and nuances I've omitted. Hope this helps.
  7. marcuscarey

    marcuscarey New Member


    I've read what you have said and let me get this right. I can attain a PhD in Information Security through Union by making it my concentration area. Please tell me it's so.
  8. marcuscarey

    marcuscarey New Member


    Just called Union. They can't support technology or science degrees at this time. They do not have the staff. That sucks. Now focusing on Nova or waiting for Capitol College to offer PhD in Network Security.
  9. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Re: Bummer

    It isn't a temporary thing. Please look at my post again. In times past, it was the adjuncts who provided subject matter expertise to a learner's committee. That permitted learners to specialize in just about any area a doctoral degree would be appropriate. But now the OBR is requiring that Union have the subject matter expertise on their faculty, not just adjuncts, so they've decided to limit the concentrations (and, thus, the specializations) available.
  10. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Re: Bummer

    Don't wait. Negotiate. Just because a school doesn't offer a particular specialty doesn't mean they won't negotiate with you to create one, or at least to allow you to do one. The better relationship you have with the school, the more likely this will happen. If you're a stranger to these schools, then it would be unlikely. But you should still ask.
  11. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Re: Re: Bummer

    It certainly never hurts to get a champion to help you bash your way into grad school!!!!!

    Fred G. Kohun holds an MS in Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh (1986) and a PhD in Applied History with a concentration in the History of Technology from Carnegie-Mellon University (1990). He has been Adjunct Faculty in Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh (1981-1986), Professor (including stints as Department Head, Director of the Institute of Information Management, and Associate Dean) of Computer & Information Systems at Robert Morris University (1981-present), and Visiting Professor at Bay Path College (2001-present), as well as Core Faculty at the Union Institute & University (2000-present). Email him at [email protected]

    Chris Hables Gray holds his PhD in the History of Consciousness from the University of California at Santa Cruz (1991), where his dissertation was entitled "Computers as Weapons and Metaphors: The U. S. Military, 1940-1990, and Postmodern War." He has been Associate Professor of Computer Science and Cultural Studies of Science and Technology at the University of Great Falls (1996-present) and Core Faculty at the Union Institute & University (2000-present). Email him at [email protected]

    Not sure why they can't take new Info Tech doctoral learners now. According to results from a very elongated surf of Union's PDEs (Projects Demonatrating Excellence) page, from 1978 to 2004, they graduated 29 PhDs in Computer Science, Computer & Information Sciences and Information Science & Systems.

    Well, last night, while surfing through yahoo! groups, I came across a group called Unionchanges. Unfortunately, since one must be learner, alumnus/a, staff, faculty, or administrator in order to join, I am not qualified to join, though certainly anyone who does fit one of the above-mentioned categories may join by emailing [email protected] and then pass on the info to us mere mortals.

    At any rate, I just got off the phone with Joan Ifland, list-owner of Unionchanges and she apprises me of the fact that the Ohio Board of Regents has just given Union Institute a three-year conditional re-authorization.
  12. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Bummer

    Gosh, and when I reported on this board days ago you weren't apprised? ;)

    I'm not sure "conditional" is the right term. I think it is "provisional," based on the fact that Union must continue making changes to the Ph.D. program. But I guess it all means the same thing.
  13. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    I'm not sure I'd wait, if your program presently exists (or can be negotiated into existence). Amy B. Miller, Doctoral Admissions Counselor, Union Institute & University, emails me: "We will be limiting the fields that we can accomodate to provide programs that are thoroughly supported and defined. ... At this time, the final determination of what programs we can and cannot accomodate has not been established and communicated from our academic body. ... In the meantime, we are allowing individuals to apply to the program as it stands today until July 6, 2005."

    Regarding the recent three-year provisional re-authorization by OBR, Joan Ifland, current Union doctoral learner and listowner of Unionchanges at yahoo! groups, emails me: "I am more enthusiastic about the program today than at any other time."
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 2, 2005
  14. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    They have to be. What choice do they have? I'm excited, too, but guarded.
  15. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Oh! The line in Amy Miller's email that got my attention was: "After the July deadline for materials and September entry date, we cannot guarantee that a program you are interested in pursuing will be able to be accomodated at UI&U."

    In other words, as far as the short list for my PhD in History, it is not entirely certain whether the one (UIU) will continue to exist or whether the other (AMU) will ever get around to opening up. As far as the risk of added requirements once in the program, for my own purposes, when I was told at their Open House in Seattle back in 1999 or 2000 that the time in program requirements allowed, at that time, a minimum of two years (now changed to three) and a maximum of eleven years, I was hoping for the eleven-year academic smorgasboard approach.
  16. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    First, I concur with everything that Rich has said in terms of his evaluation of the Union program - past, present, and future.

    Two thoughts occur to me regarding this particular thread:

    First, it might be a little too esoteric to do a Ph.D. in Network Security - one should make the doctorate as personally marketable as possible, especially in terms of thinking about future opportunities (whether in the corporate sector or higher education). I would lean toward a more generic title, such as Ph.D. in Information Technology with a concentration in network security, etc.

    Second, regarding the suggestion of including specific individuals on your committee (such as Fred G. Kohun, cited above), one should consider the professional background of potential adjuncts. This is my own take, but I've found that persons who have served as full-time professors in traditional programs often (though not always) tend to be locked into the traditional model of education. Moreover, the more well known a person is, there is a possibility that he or she will impose their own preferences upon your program. In other words, Union has always been a learned-centered program, not one in which the learner has to kiss the ass of any particular committee member. The selection of who will be on your doctoral committee is the single most important decision you will make, so consider the ramifications of each member's background. You want committee member that are comfortable with you being the focus of your own program (although, naturally, you owe them a commitment to do a quality program).

    As Rich noted, I am still not recommending Union (at least over any other program) while they are still in a "state of flux." The next several months will indicate the degree to which they remain faithful to their original mission, as well as the degree to which they compromise their historic uniqueness to comport with Ohio OBR and US-DoEd.
  17. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Man, how much money do you have? Union charges by the semester, 3 per year. Your plan would cost more than $165k, plus expenses! Hint: buy your own school and invest the rest!:D

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