There are so many different career options to explore when you enter the hallowed halls of a university, but there was really only one option that stood out to Joe Hogan.
"Ever since I can remember, I always wanted to be a teacher, and that drive never left," he said. "When I got to college, I was debating on teaching or going to law school, but it was my desire to teach, to work with kids to help them, and to prepare them that drove me."
Hogan prioritized his education and his pursuit of becoming an educator, earning a bachelor's degree in humanities with a focus in Religious Studies and philosophy from Holy Family University, a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction from Drexel University, a Master of Education in School Leadership from Wilmington University and a post-master's certificate in learning disabilities from Rowan University.
"I saw what education was doing in my life and how important it was," he said. "I grew up in the inner city in South Philadelphia, and watching my dad work hard as a contractor and seeing some of the struggles that he went through showed me how many doors were opened to you with an education."
Hogan enrolled in St. Thomas University's Doctor of Education in Leadership and Innovation online program to instill the same value of education in his students that he learned from his father.
"I began pursuing my doctorate with the hope of eventually getting into higher education as a professor of special education," he said. "To be able to be that figure students need and to teach them and to be there as a mentor and a person who can guide them was really one of the big pushes for me."
Coming Full Circle
Hogan did his research before choosing St. Thomas University, and his decision came down to matters of practicality, educational history and pride.
"First of all, their program offered the kind of flexibility in the coursework that allows me to really focus on my goals," he said. "Also, having a great faculty and reputation with some pretty notable alumni were the big factors that made me choose St. Thomas."
Having spent the majority of his life in Catholic schools, Hogan was happy to make a return to a university founded in the Catholic faith.
"When I was in grade school, I was actually in a parish that was run by the Augustinians and I had gone through K-12 in Catholic education," he said. "The fact that St. Thomas was originally an Augustinian university, named after St. Thomas of Villanova, is kind of a continuation of that tradition."
It's more than just the value of the university for Hogan. It's also how the university values all students, no matter their background.
"As an LGBT man, openly gay and married, the fact that they are not discriminatory for sexual orientation is something that I definitely appreciated," he said.
Leadership in Practice
What's evident is that the Doctor of Education coursework is relevant for people from a wide array of specialties, including those like Hogan who work in schools.
"Ethics & Governance [ELI 807] was really one of the best courses because it opened the door to a lot of scenarios for leaders — regardless of whether you're in education, healthcare or management," he said. "It really prepares you to think through an ethical lens and to consider all aspects of decisions that might come down to you as a leader."
Hogan has been able to apply many aspects of his education to his job as a learning consultant for the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District in Woodstown, New Jersey.
"Consulting Practices [ELI 816] showed me the practical side of being a consultant, and I was able to implement some things pretty quickly into my own practice," he said. "I do feel that the way we analyze things makes us better critical thinkers, and I think all of the courses prepare us as we prepare to go out into the world as doctors and leaders in our various fields."
Pursuing a doctorate takes dedication and determination. The digital learning environment is more accommodating to his schedule, but Hogan has found that it demands the same amount of commitment as its traditional counterpart.
"It's definitely challenging coursework with the rigor of the content, but it's manageable and flexible in the online environment," he said. "Having some time management skills is essential to make sure you're on top of your readings, your discussions, assignments, and just being open to constructive criticism that's going to help you improve yourself."
Family and Future
Hogan's motivation to push forward in his education comes from his career passions, his excitement for what the future holds and his partner's support.
"My husband, Scott, has his doctorate, which was another motivating factor for me," he said. "Seeing the challenges that he went through helped me realize that if you're committed, it's doable."
What's more, Hogan is seeing his education make an impact in the lives of the people he works with every day.
"I've been blessed to have the experience of working with elementary students and high school students as a case manager, and to help them and their families get the support they need," he said. "I have also been able to give teachers the strategies, training, and professional learning experiences they need, so they can grow as professionals."
The first in his family to go to college, Hogan looks forward to the day he can take a greater role in inspiring a new generation of teachers to build up the generation after them.
"It all goes back to that passion I have for teaching," he said. "I want to help prepare future educators to get out there and do the best they can for our kids."Learn more about the St. Thomas University online Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation program.
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