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University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies expanded pilot for mentoring enhances holistic support system for working adult doctoral students

By Sharla Hooper

Mentoring, support sessions and workshops held by leaders, academic counseling, career advising and on-demand resources offer suite of services to students 

University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies is pleased to highlight its commitment to supporting doctoral students through its newly expanded pilot mentoring initiative, Alumni Mentor Program, as part of a robust suite of support services offered to students in practitioner doctorate programs. Operating from the Scholar, Practitioner, Leader Model, the College places students in the center of the Doctoral Education Ecosystem® with experts, resources and tools to help prepare them to be a leader in their organization, industry and community.

“The University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies is focused on integrating students into a practitioner community so that they can more effectively reach their career goals," states Hinrich Eylers, Ph.D., vice provost, College of Doctoral Studies. “Practitioner doctorate studies provide career-relevant education that leverages knowledge and experience of working adult learners in their chosen professions. We believe that every student should have access to comprehensive support that enhances their individual growth and their professional network, and our College leaders collaborate with students and faculty to achieve this more effectively."

The College of Doctoral Studies Alumni Mentor Program is designed to connect current doctoral students with College alumni. Students may have questions and concerns as they progress through their doctoral program, and mentors draw upon their own experience to help provide additional support and help their mentees work toward educational and career goals. The mentorship is expected to last approximately six (6) months, but mentors and mentees have the option to extend beyond that time frame. For the expanded pilot program launch, over 230 alumni have already volunteered.

“The mentor-mentee relationships created in our program between doctoral alumni and students provide our mentors the opportunity to share pertinent and valuable resources and suggest potential networking opportunities. It assists in the development and growth of our students while serving as a bridge to link knowledge and leadership practice to help foster a new generation of leadership in organizations,” states John Ramirez, MBA, dean of Operations in the College, who designed and leads the Alumni Mentor Program. “We have an active and engaged alumni community, and our alumni mentors serve as an advocate, coach, teacher, guide, role model, valued friend, benevolent authority, cheerful critic, and career enthusiast.”

Carla M. Harris is enrolled in the Doctor of Education, Post Masters Certificate in Curriculum and Instruction program at the College and was excited to sign up for the mentor program as soon as she heard of its availability. Her mentor provided a timely and much needed connection. “Adjusting to my family, work, and postgraduate studies wasn't easy. Having the right mentor changed the trajectory of my life,” she shares.

Harris has weekly meetings with her mentor to set goals and discuss her progress on those goals. “Setting goals every week made me accountable. My mentor would send me inspirational quotes every Sunday that would take me through the week. The time and thought that my mentor put in me are valued.” An added benefit was discovering mutual respect between her and her mentor, “The mentor and mentee can learn from each other, build networks, and grow as professionals.”

Pamayla Darbyshire, DHA, RN, a nurse for 40 years and retired officer from the Air Force Nurse Corps, completed her Doctor of Health Administration with the College in 2021, and is now volunteering as a mentor for three doctoral students. “If someone is thinking about being a mentor, I would encourage them to find out about their mentee’s background: where they’re coming from, what past education they have, what types of experiences they’ve had in their educational endeavors, what they’ve felt was lacking, and then let them know you understand. It’s important that mentees feel they’re not alone. We can learn from each other, and we can both grow in the mentorship relationship.”

College leadership also organizes a series of sessions in several areas of support. Mansureh Kebritchi, Ph.D., chair, Center for Educational and Instructional Technology Research (CEITR), leads the p each year that provides a forum and community for students to polish their research skills. The Group offers students access to an array of top-quality method resources, webinars, office hours, discussion forums, and short-burst learning videos to aid them in their research methods. Kimberly Underwood, Ph.D., chair, Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research (CWDIR), leads a formal Writing Support team of seven faculty members that opens with participants engaging in Socratic dialogue to generate critical thinking and behaviors needed to successfully progress through each stage of the doctoral journey. The sessions are designed to move students through increasing complex levels and provide intensive explorations of topics and active writing exercises.

There are informal areas of support that arise based on student needs. Underwood also leads an informal Coffee Chat program offering safe and supportive space for students to talk about challenges outside of the classroom, where students drive the agenda and have community spaces established for further sharing and connection. Lilia Santiague, Ph.D., associate dean of Program, Educational Leadership, leads a support group for doctoral students in the education program, titled “Ed.D. Essentials,” creating community and addressing challenges and opportunity specific to students’ experience working in education. Cathy Lalley, Ph.D., MHI, RN, associate dean of Program, Doctor of Health Administration, leads an ongoing support session for students in the program, where faculty and students come together to collaborate.

Faculty at College of Doctoral Studies offer both academic credentials and industry experience to the students they serve, with an average of 27.7 years of professional experience and 12.2 years of teaching experience with University of Phoenix. Professional experience of College faculty include that of chief executives, presidents, consultants, executive directors, and principals.

University of Phoenix serves a diverse student body and understands that 79.8% of its students are working adults seeking to enhance their careers through education. The College has an even higher percentage of working adults, with 96% employed while enrolled. In addition to the Doctoral Education Ecosystem®, doctoral students have access to the same 24/7 support channels as students across colleges and programs by University of Phoenix. The University's chatbot, Phoebe®, along with the Life Resource Center and the Virtual Student Union, offers always-on assistance, resources, and engagement opportunities that cater to students' diverse needs and schedules.  

Upon completing their academic journey, students can join the University’s strong alumni network with over one million members. The alumni network hosts in-person and virtual events throughout the year to support professional development, networking and community engagement.  

Through these support approaches, University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies redefines online education for the practitioner doctorate model, offering a comprehensive support network that empowers working adult professionals to pursue their academic and career aspirations with confidence.

Learn more here about the ways in which University of Phoenix supports its students.

About the College of Doctoral Studies

University of Phoenix’s College of Doctoral Studies focuses on today’s challenging business and organizational needs, from addressing critical social issues to developing solutions to accelerate community building and industry growth. The College’s research program is built around the Scholar, Practitioner, Leader Model which puts students in the center of the Doctoral Education Ecosystem® with experts, resources and tools to help prepare them to be a leader in their organization, industry and community. Through this program, students and researchers work with organizations to conduct research that can be applied in the workplace in real time.


About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix innovates to help working adults enhance their careers and develop skills in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, skills-mapped curriculum for our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and a Career Services for Life® commitment help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit