Finally over: educator defends her dissertation, receives Ed. D.


Parker Sutherland

Dr. Jennifer Mast sits working at her desk, reviewing and replying to emails. Photo by Parker Sutherland
Last week assistant principal, and newly titled Dr. Jennifer Mast successfully defended her dissertation to her committee at the University of Missouri – Columbia to receive her fourth degree from the university, thereby gaining a Doctor of Educational Leadership.
“I’m more excited to be done with the pursuit than I am about the reception of [the Ed. D.],” Mast said. “It’s nice to have it, and I’m glad I achieved that, but it’s been a lot of stress over the last few years.”
Students have to pass a comprehensive test before they can start work on their dissertation, which takes two years of study to prepare for, and Mast as athletic director had to work through juggling both tasks, but she said it was much easier without a family, only having to worry about herself.
“It was a real challenge [managing school athletics and working on the Ed. D.]. I kind of only answer to myself when I am out of [RBHS],” Mast said. “I [would] get up really early in the morning. I did a lot of work before school. Also oftentimes when I was on the road, sometimes even home, I would leave an hour early or get home an hour later than I would have. … I would set a reading goal of what I had to do that day before I came home. I’d leave early and stop at a McDonald’s or a Panera and sit and read until it was time to go to the game and then go to the game, and then stop at a McDonald’s on the way home and read until I got to my reading goals because I knew that once I got home, once I got into my house and my bed was close and I was tired and it had been a really long day I probably wouldn’t read. I had all kinds of weird time management things going on.”
After defending her proposal in October, Mast was able to begin research on her qualitative study on a school district’s decision making process on where to site a new school. She first had to apply to the Institutional Review Board for interviewing human subjects and upon approval started true human data collection on Dec. 3, 2011.
After presenting a draft of the first three chapters of a dissertation to propose her research topic to a committee in October, Mast made their suggested changes to her writing and the procedure she would embark on. Then when the work was complete and the dissertation was ready, Mast presented it again to the same committee. The committee members read it in advance so when she returned, they could provide plenty of notes and suggestions and even ask informed questions.
“They determine as a committee whether you pass or not,” Mast said, “and then they tell you, and they call you doctor before you leave the room.”
Dr. Tim Wright underwent the same process, receiving his Ed.D. from MU in 2004. He said he was proud of Mast for getting her Ed.D. because he remembered the arduous process of acquiring the degree.
“I know when I successfully defended my dissertation I was like, ‘I don’t want to think about taking another class ever,'” Wright said. “I remember oh so well that process that I went through, and it brings a cold sweat, and I’m like ‘I remember that. I’m done.’ It’s not like I’m done learning as an educator, but it’s the high pressure of working on a dissertation and getting it published.”
Mast still has work to do before she fully completes her degree at MU. After the committee critiques a dissertation, the student begins working on correcting and revising everything the committee said to do, and then he or she turns it into the university for publishing.
“I still have revisions to do because I have to turn it in to the university,” Mast said. “So I have to take their notes and go back and do some revisions, which I will do in the next week, and then you turn it in to the university, and then you’re official, and then I will walk across the stage on May 12, and get my fourth degree from MU.”
By Parker Sutherland