Leading Change in Seattle

Faculty in Northeastern Seattle’s Doctor of Education program help students tackle regional education issues through key partnerships, collaborations

For the first wave of students who recently began their studies in the Doctor of Education (EdD) program in Seattle, WA, the quality and rigor of the Northeastern’s EdD program will remain the same, but students in Seattle will effect change in a geographically focused way through a unique cohort model addressing regional and local needs.

The EdD cohort in Seattle will complete the program’s first four foundation classes, which will take approximately six months, together. These 30 students from around the Seattle region (and some beyond) have backgrounds in K-12 and higher education, engineering, business entrepreneurship, counseling, and nursing, among others.  

Dr. Angela Walmsley, associate dean at the Seattle graduate campus, speaking to the first Doctor of Education cohort.


“Through this cohort model, our students will get to know one another very well, working and collaborating together on problems and issues with the intent to be change agents,” said Dr. Chris Unger, who teaches one of the foundation courses, Transforming Human Systems, which focuses on investigating issues in the work setting with a researcher’s mindset. Along with a faculty appointment, Unger is the regional mentor for the Seattle EdD program.

As regional mentor, Unger helps address Seattle’s education issues through the program’s cohort by: supporting students’ progress and journey through the program; making sure they stay connected so that they can learn from one another; and accessing and making connections with other individuals and organizations in the region who are trying make an impact in education.

Having worked with Seattle public schools for three years on high school improvement and redesign efforts, Unger has been able to build and maintain connections while understanding the education issues of that particular region.  

To build and recruit the first cohort, Unger, along with other EdD faculty members and senior program staff at the College, made several visits to Seattle to meet with leadership members at community colleges, administration officials at other colleges and universities, as well as with prospective students participating in the Seattle campus’ roundtable information sessions.

The contacts that Unger built over the years while working in Seattle came in handy when launching the first cohort; during one visit, Unger and Dr. Mya Mangawang, senior assistant dean of Academic and Faculty Affairs and director of the Graduate School of Education at the College, met with leaders in Washington’s State Department of Education, various school districts, schools, and other organizations and groups who are stakeholders in the state’s education decisions to inform them of the College’s intent to contribute to effective change in the region. Mangawang is and continues to be an instrumental leader in the direction and vision of the EdD program. Additionally, Dr. Joseph McNabb traveled out to Seattle to teach the first set of classes for the cohort, specifically the foundation course Introduction to Doctoral Studies, which lays the groundwork for developing students’ understanding of the complex relationship that exists between research and innovation in the practice setting.

“The point was to let them know that we’ve started a new doctoral program in education in Seattle and that we are looking to develop partnerships and collaborations with them,” explained Unger. “Additionally, we wanted them to know that we were recruiting for our program that we knew was either of interest to them or to their colleagues.” 

Students from the first Doctor of Education cohort in Seattle.


After the doctoral students finish their four foundation courses together they will go on to pursue their concentration classes where they interact with and learn from students all over the world.“The more partnerships and collaborations that result between our students and other people and organizations who have a vested interest in education, the more likely it will be that our students will have an impact, with the shared intent of having an overall impact on the region’s education systems,” Unger continued. “Our program connects locally to other initiatives, organizations, and movements so that our students can be part of that activity.”

“When students are learning in these intensive courses in a hybrid fashion, they are making connections with people from various field such as K-12, higher education, and human resource management,” said Unger.

As students progress through the program, Unger, as regional mentor, will create ways to stay in touch with them and vice versa. For example, in the future, all students in the Seattle EdD program will convene either virtually or face-to-face to touch base and reconnect. In the meantime, the program’s faculty and staff are working on developing many ways for the students to stay in touch and expand their learning with all of the other doctoral students nationally and internationally.

“The excitement and enthusiasm of these students and of the administration at the Seattle campus is absolutely infectious,” said McNabb. “We all have benefited from a new, developing sense of collegiality with this group of committed and engaged educators.” 

Soon, a similar framework for the newly established EdD program at Northeastern’s Charlotte, NC, campus will come into effect, where Dr. Karen Reiss Medwed will act as the regional mentor. The program, whose first cohort will begin this winter, will also take on regional issues, such as rural education, which Unger notes is a challenging issue in that region.

“The point of the EdD program is to develop our students into scholar-practitioners who can use their knowledge and skills to better support and engender change in their organizations for the better,” said Unger.

Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) is committed to providing career-focused educational programs that are designed to accommodate the complex lives of motivated learners. Offered in a variety of innovative formats, CPS courses are taught by accomplished scholars and practitioners who have real-world experience. The result is an educational experience founded on proven scholarship, strengthened with practical application, and sustained by academic excellence.

Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a comprehensive, global research university. The university offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and more than 165 graduate programs, ranging from professional master’s degrees to interdisciplinary PhD programs. Northeastern’s research enterprise is aligned with three national imperatives: health, security and sustainability. Northeastern students participate in co-op and other forms of experiential learning in 90 countries on all seven continents.