A Student-Centered Model to Support Success Throughout the Doctoral Journey

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Interested in an integrated strategy to provide a diverse community of adult learners the knowledge, skills, and credentials to enact positive social change in their communities? Our inclusive and student-centered approach to support services works to set expectations, ready skills, proactively guide, and support doctoral students through completion.


Michelle Stallone Brown has been with Walden University since 2008 and currently serves as the Director of Doctoral Committee Support and Student Progress within the Office of Research and Doctoral Services. In this role, she supports university-wide strategies and initiatives related to the doctoral student journey—from doctoral skills and readiness to integrated support through capstone completion. She also has experience as a doctoral program director, statistical analyst for government agencies, and a public-school educator.

Extended Abstract

Distance learning has helped to reshape access to high-quality education for working adult learners. A shift in graduate education toward broad inclusive support was evident at the recent Council of Graduate Schools conference (2021) with a focus on students at the center. As an online, broad-access admissions institution, it became critical to reimagine co-curricular instructional support to help doctoral students develop skills for academic success and make timely progress to graduation. By focusing on the entire doctoral journey, we are taking a more integrated approach with initiatives, services, and practices that support doctoral student progress. Intentional inclusivity and placing students at the center were key themes in this integrated approach.

In this session, we will engage with attendees to gather their experiences with the various points along the doctoral journey, and in particular, those in which there are opportunities to set expectations, ready skills, proactively guide, and support completion of the doctoral capstone. With the life cycle of the journey represented across the room, participants will add their thoughts and ideas to it, so we can examine together the many points touching the student experience and how institutions might work to integrate support.

Next, we will provide some background on the data-informed approach to doctoral support services that has evolved over the past few years at our institution. We will describe current and future initiatives in delivering co-curricular support to be inclusive of more students and to recognize their various learning needs at different points in their programs. As part of this session, information used to inform scaling to support a diverse and expanding population of doctoral students, including innovative and more effective modalities and access, will be discussed. We will include specific information on the holistic doctoral journey approach to integrate curricular and co-curricular support for all levels of readiness.