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Phoenix Forward magazine

How the University’s doctoral residency works


Whereas University of Phoenix® online doctoral programs allow you to pursue advanced studies from home while fulfilling your personal and professional obligations, they also include a face-to-face component: doctoral residency.

This short-term requirement — residencies occur each year for four years — gives students the opportunity to experience the intensity of uninterrupted academic study in person with their peers and faculty members. The final session can be waived for students who complete their coursework and dissertations more quickly.

“Residency really introduces you to the process and journey you’ll have to take and the key milestones,” says Joslyn Sato, who is working toward her Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership degree.

Here’s what doctoral residency offers:

1

Total concentration on your studies

“The general purpose of residency is to help students immerse themselves in doctoral-level thinking and research,” explains Debbie Ritter-Williams, PhD, an associate faculty member in the University’s doctoral programs. “You aren’t working your regular job, and you aren’t managing your family obligations, so there are no distractions.”

The relationships students develop in person with peers and faculty members also enhance the online learning experience when the students return home, according to Sato.

“I loved establishing relationships that carried on during the virtual courses,” she notes. “This … made online learning much more comfortable.”


A diverse student body

Ritter-Williams points out that students aren’t limited to working only with others in their same doctoral program. “All the various degree programs — Doctor of Health Administration, Doctor of Business Administration, Doctor of Education — are [there] together,” she explains.

This type of student experience mirrors the 21st century’s global work culture, Ritter-William adds.

“To be able to meet different people around the world with differences but commonality in achieving a doctoral degree is amazing,” Sato agrees. “Going out to dinner with them, taking a tourist trip of the area or just hanging out at the hotel is an even greater experience because those relationships last beyond the residency.”


An advanced research environment

“In the first few classes … [students learn] how to critically assess scholarly articles, how to write a scholarly article [and] how to collect and analyze data,” Ritter-Williams says, noting that students then apply these skills in subsequent years when completing their dissertations.

“Not only that, you and your peers will work to understand how you view the world around you and discover more about who you are as an individual, so you can determine how you want to function as a scholar and leader in your field — solving problems in your community and improving society as a whole.”

Amanda Stevens, who’s also working on her doctorate in organizational leadership, says she especially enjoys this aspect of residency. “In practical terms, residency is … where you apply the [research] concepts you have learned and push your understanding of [them] to new levels,” she explains.

And unlike traditional academia, Ritter-Williams points out, “our doctoral degrees are all practitioner degrees for people who expect to keep working in the community.” There are no old-school academic lectures, and “students get real-time feedback [in panel sessions] from their peers and from faculty on their style and skill as a potential scholar, leader and practitioner in their respective fields.”


Dissertation support

In years two, three and four of residency, students create and complete their dissertations. “Year two is focused on conducting the research that will help you identify and refine your dissertation topic, and includes classes around this process,” Ritter-Williams explains.

“Students complete two multiday residency classes back-to-back in year three,” Ritter-Williams continues. "One of them focuses on individual work on the dissertation. The other is our version of a comprehensive exam in which students demonstrate how they have developed as a scholar/practitioner/leader." This also is known as a collaborative case study. Year four's residency is devoted exclusively to the dissertation.

The few days of residency each year also can help jump-start work on your dissertation — especially if you have a busy home life — because you have the time to focus on it, Sato stresses.

“If you can make that little sacrifice for a short period,” she says, “it’s worth it.”