The Concierge Support Model: Promoting Doctoral Student Self Efficacy, Persistence, and Matriculation in an Online Program


Dr. Lori Kupczynski, Professor, University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

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Man contacting concierge service by pushing a golden button. Composite image between a hand photography and a 3D background.

Understanding the demands on doctoral students who work full-time, have families and other responsibilities, and are enrolled in a doctoral program, provides programs with an opportunity to help these learners succeed. The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) Doctor of Education team brainstormed the struggles of the learners and found a model that is proving to not only be effective but inspiring!

The institution caters to clinical healthcare practitioners who desire, and in many cases, need an academic terminal degree in order to teach in a higher learning institution, but how does a practicing clinician with outside responsibilities, juggle the 168 hours in a week and what on that list of responsibilities becomes set aside first?  Yes, academics!  It does not increase the family income at the time and it isn’t part of the family, so when stress and life get in the way, it is easy to get lost in the everyday.

To help address these challenges, USAHS implemented an effective practice resulting in a concierge model where the students receive individualized and focused support during the entire dissertation process.  The model includes:

1) A unique advising model of mentoring and coaching;

2) specialized residency experiences;

3) a guided dissertation process; and

4) committee members trained in the concierge model.

With use of this effective model, students who may otherwise feel disconnected or at risk of not completing the program are offered a clear pathway to success.

This practice offers the best educational value as it not only supports enrollment but also builds relationships with learners that create a support system. That support system reduces barriers, and learners graduate in less time than in a traditional model.  A learner begins with a student advisor who stays with them throughout the time as a doctoral student.  Once a learner transitions to candidacy, they then transition to a doctoral advisor, who walks the path with the student until graduation.  The core foundation is solidified during their first residency and continuously built on through individual interactions provided by all members of the doctoral team. 

The concierge model we implemented serves three primary needs—self-efficacy of the student experience as translated through persistence, completion of the program, and increasing the numbers of clinical healthcare practitioners needed in higher education institutions as required by accrediting standards. It is a win for everyone; the learner, their respective professions requiring academic terminal degrees to prepare future clinicians, and the university with a high completion rate juxtaposed to rigor and standards of quality level work in a Doctor of Education program.

For those of us who remember that dissertation journey, we know how frustrating it can be.  Much depended on the quality of the chair and the committee in regard to timely feedback, direction, and guidance, and we all crossed our fingers that everyone on our committee would be in agreement. It was a lengthy process and many did not ever complete it. With this model, not only do students have quality committees all trained in the Concierge Model, they have a doctoral advisor who walks the path with them every step of the way.  For the best statistic of all, since implementation, we are running at 100% retention throughout the dissertation process leading to graduation!  It may take a village to raise a child, but at USAHS, it takes an incredible, collaborative, and interprofessional team to guide students, who may otherwise feel disconnected or at risk of not completing the program, along a pathway to success!

Dr. Kupczynski and colleagues at USAHS are recipients of an OLC Effective Practice Award for this model of doctoral student support.  They will be recognized at the OLC Awards and Leadership Ceremony and Reception at Accelerate 2019.  Effective Practice awards recognize programs and initiatives that support Learning, Faculty, Students, and provide both Scalability and Access so that others may integrate them into their own institutions.  You can read more about the USAHS model here, and connect with Lori and her team at OLC Accelerate in November, or through LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter @loriski72!

Lori Kupczynski, EdD is a Professor in the Doctor of Education program at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences and the IRB Chair for the Texas campus. With over 20 years of experience in higher education, Lori is very active in the research community with a focus on online learning and leadership in higher education. Prior to her time at USAHS, Lori has served as a faculty, administrator and researcher within higher education. Lori, along with her team from USAHS, is a recipient of the Effective Practice Award ad OLC Accelerate 2019, and she is excited about sharing their model for success in the dissertation journey.

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