Wes Hillyard: Online program offers personal touch

Wes Hillyard, director of Academic Services at the University of Mary Washington.
Wes Hillyard is a doctoral student in the VCU School of
Education's Ed.D. in Leadership online program.

Wes Hillyard appreciates the convenience of the VCU School of Education’s Ed.D. in Leadership online program as well as the personal touch that his professors and fellow students bring. The program also introduces him to new ideas which he can immediately apply to his job.

While pursuing his degree, Hillyard has been working as the director of Academic Services at the University of Mary Washington. In fact, his co-workers were instrumental in his decision to enroll in this program by showing him the value of an advanced degree, and by instilling in him the confidence to pursue it.

He chose VCU because the content in the program is practitioner-based. Many of his textbooks and class content can be directly applied to his work, which helps him engage with the courses more and helps him bring new ideas to his office. The program being online is also an advantage since Hillyard doesn’t live in Richmond. However, he also values the in-person connections and is grateful to only be an hour away from campus so he can meet with his professor and fellow students as needed.

He says that the most rewarding aspect of the program is that he can transfer the concepts he learns from one class to another, as well as into his work. His professors encourage him and his classmates to look beyond the content of the course, and to pull experiences from work and other classes and synthesize all the information together.

Hillyard recommends that students who are interested in pursuing continuing education have a solid support group in place before starting. He says it’s also helpful to have your manager and coworkers on-board to help you allocate your time wisely. In the future, he hopes to use his academic and professional experience to help him advance into a cabinet-level position in a university setting.

He tries to keep the sometimes frantic pace of pursuing a doctoral degree in perspective.

"The race is with myself, not anyone else," he reminds himself when things become hectic. "It's important to stay focused on my personal and professional goals and not get bogged down in the day-to-day."