5 reasons why students thrive in Rider’s doctoral program in educational leadership



Kari McGann and Amy Stella ’00 are doctoral candidates in Rider’s educational doctorate program. Stella is the director of curriculum, instruction and professional development in the Northern Burlington County Regional School District in New Jersey. McGann has been working in education for more than 25 years. In 2018, she was named the superintendent of schools for the Flemington-Raritan School District in New Jersey.

While both are already highly accomplished in their field, they saw Rider’s program as an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and be better prepared to meet the challenges that education administrators face. In reflecting on their experiences in the program, McGann and Stella pointed to five reasons why they believe it is successful in preparing students to thrive.

1) The program’s hybrid structure is convenient and flexible

“Rider’s hybrid model, which combines online courses with Saturday classes on campus, really fit what I was looking for. Some other programs I was considering require you to live on campus for six weeks, and that just wasn’t feasible for me as a working mother. I also loved the fact that the Rider program enables you to earn your degree in 36 months, with two years of course work and then a year of dissertation.”

-Kari McGann

“Two aspects of Rider’s program that appeal to me are the length (three years) and format (hybrid, cohort model). While other programs are similar in structure and length, the Dissertation of Practice, where dissertations are based around identifying and then solving a problem of practice that’s relevant to one’s work environment, is unique in this region.”

-Amy Stella

2) The curriculum is workplace relevant

“We had a great course about how to incorporate creativity and innovation into the mission of the school district. It led me to think about how I can build opportunities for my teachers to do this in their classrooms. Something I’m pretty proud of is that we just created a new program in our earliest-learner classrooms, where our pre-school students are using Legos to build early coding skills. And that links back to the coursework about ‘how do you have creativity in everyday life?’”

-Kari McGann

3) Students benefit from Rider’s outstanding reputation for preparing educational leaders

“I chose Rider because I was familiar with the university, particularly the Department of Graduate Education. I completed my teacher preparation program, master’s degree and principal certification coursework here. Rider has an excellent reputation in preparing educational leaders. I made a promise to myself many years ago that if Rider ever started an Ed.D. program, I’d be the first to enroll, and that’s exactly what I did!”

-Amy Stella

4) Student diversity

“What makes Rider unique is the diversity in the backgrounds of the students in my cohort, which includes principals, school psychologists and people who work at Educational Testing Service, just to name a few. With the wide range of experiences, I learn from others and they learn from me, and it has really benefitted all of us. I knew going in that the program was designed to accept applicants from a number of different areas, and that was another reason why I chose Rider.”

-Kari McGann

“My experience in the program has been extremely positive. My cohort members work in a variety of settings, which enables rich dialogue and multiple perspectives. We have developed supportive personal and collegial relationships.”

-Amy Stella

5) Classmates and professors become a community

“I recommend Rider’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program to others looking to pursue this degree because the cohort model provides a close-knit community of support during an intense three years. In addition, the professors represent a healthy balance of practitioners in school districts as well as full-time Rider faculty members/researchers.”

-Amy Stella


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