ncu-winter-2017-profile-ncu-graduates-pursue-paths-to-engage-students

NCU Graduates Pursue
Paths to Engage Students

Written by Judy Tierney

When it comes to earning an online degree, no one understands the importance of student engagement better than someone who has actually completed a program for themselves. NCU graduates from all over the world are tapping into their own experiences to help today’s students succeed. We talked to two NCU graduates who are dedicated to engaging students and making a difference.

Dr. Catherine “Doc Croc” Crocker & Dr. Funmilayo Bolonduro Left: Dr. Catherine “Doc Croc” Crocker
Right: Dr. Funmilayo Bolonduro

Catherine Crocker graduated from NCU with a PhD in Education specializing in curriculum and instruction leadership in 2011. Since then, she has been working with doctoral candidates as an unofficial dissertation coach, providing editing support, template alignment, and assistance with voice and style.

“I offer help with research, as well as serve as a virtual shoulder to cry on, sounding board, encourager, task master, mentor, advisor, advocate, colleague and friend,” said Crocker, who has supported 157 students to date. “I try very hard to remain attentive to their needs and flex accordingly.”

“Doc Croc,” as she is known to her clients, says her secret to keeping students engaged is being honest, while simultaneously assisting them in achieving their dream of earning their doctorate degree. Encouragement, praise and letting them know they are not alone or the only person who is struggling, are key. She seeks ways of explaining things that will allow the proverbial lightbulb to come on and shine all the more brightly.

Crocker believes that all academic engagement begins with the desire or attitude to learn, and the tenacity and determination to achieve your goal. She uses the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” to explain her philosophy. “The learner can be shown the direction and provided with the materials, but without engagement - actually becoming immersed within the process and being determined to complete the task - the learning will likely not happen,” she said. “Therein lies the importance of engagement: helping the learning to occur.”

“I mentally do a happy dance whenever a client shares positive news, and I use it as an excuse for a mini celebration by popping a piece of chocolate and enjoying it in their honor.”

Dr. Catherine “Doc Croc” Crocker

Crocker views her role as being the person to walk alongside the student to help guide them on how to remain engaged. “I feel honored to be included in what I view as a personal academic journey,” she said. “I mentally do a happy dance whenever a client shares positive news, and I use it as an excuse for a mini celebration by popping a piece of chocolate and enjoying it in their honor.”

She also loves writing “Doctor” across the top of a client’s page before placing it into her doctor binder. Crocker said, “I keep it as a reminder that I have made a difference and as a motivation to continue.”

While Doc Croc is busy helping current students complete their doctoral programs, Funmilayo Bolonduro, 2016 PhD in Business Administration with a specialization in management information systems, is hard at work creating online opportunities for future students in remote areas of the world to earn an education.

A native of Nigeria who now lives in the U.S., Bolonduro recognizes the privileges she has enjoyed and her easy access to educational opportunities. “I was able to complete my NCU program remotely, while working and having fun with my family,” she said. “The next chapter in my life is to get internet access to remote places in Africa, where I know some people who would like to get their degree, but the opportunity is not there for them.”

“My hope is to provide an avenue for the rural communities to participate in online training and benefit from other resources available via the internet.”

Dr. Funmilayo Bolonduro

Bolonduro’s plan is to utilize TV White Space (TVWS) - the unlicensed frequency that can be used to distribute internet access from a point of presence to residential and business locations - to provide affordable access to rural areas. Bolonduro is currently working to secure a provider for the project, which is still in its infancy.

To Bolonduro, engagement is about giving back to her community and helping them connect with people in other parts of the world. “My hope is to provide an avenue for the rural communities to participate in online training and benefit from other resources available via the internet,” said Bolonduro. “Based on how similar projects help farmers and herders gain direct access to market their goods, parents who cannot send their children to brick-and-mortar schools could still have them educated via online training.”

Ensuring that youth have access to education is personally important to Bolonduro. “If online schools were available when my dad was growing up, he would have registered for online classes to fulfill his desire to go to school,” she explained.

“The opportunity to provide a positive impact on another person’s life is what keeps me motivated,” said Bolonduro. “If each immigrant would engage with their community of origin, things would be much better for everybody.”