EdD Spotlight: Leveling up in Higher Ed Leadership

College faculty members are accustomed to research, teaching, and service, but many need extra training to grow as administrative leaders.

There was a time when David Beck fell into that category.

Before he became Chair of the nationally renowned Physician Assistant Studies Department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), Beck had a decade of experience as an award-winning assistant professor. He also had worked for years as a practicing physician assistant in the areas of internal medicine, emergency medicine, and family medicine.

But Beck didn’t have direct experience as a director. Things like leading departments, managing teams, and setting strategic priorities were not his direct responsibility.

Thus, he decided to enroll in the Doctor of Education (EdD) at the Pitt School of Education. He chose Higher Education Management as his area of concentration (ARCO). According to him, the program prepared him well to work as a program director and later as the inaugural Chair of the Physician Assistant Studies Department at SHRS.

“All that the professors taught me during the past three years, it’s almost like every single ARCO course was exactly what I needed at the time that I needed it,” says Beck. 

For example, he applied the insights from his courses on strategic planning, budgeting and resources, and adaptive leadership to his work at SHRS.

“Every assignment was practice for what was coming my way. I could already teach. But the program allowed me to level up in my leadership,” says Beck.

As a department chair, Beck oversees all aspects of the Physician Assistant Studies Department and allocates resources to ensure the department can fulfill its mission of teaching, research, and service. 

His school, which offers the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, provides a critical service to the healthcare system in the United States. Physician assistants help to extend care by performing additional functions that free up the time of medical doctors. The services include evaluating patients, prescribing medication, and treating a wide variety of injuries and ailments.

“Physician assistants are an important part of the healthcare system, especially by increasing access to high quality preventive and treatment services,” says Beck.

Through the Pitt EdD program, Beck created a special project aimed at improving the clinical rotation experience for students in the SHRS Physician Assistant Studies program. He designed a curriculum to provide the practicing clinicians with clear expectations for their responsibilities in mentoring students during their rotational experience. 

Beck says he chose an EdD over other leadership-focused programs, such as an MBA, because it also provided him the opportunity to develop as a scholarly practitioner and a higher education administrator.

In August 2020, Beck graduated from the Pitt EdD program. Since then, he has continued to recruit his colleagues from across Pitt to enroll in the program.

“This program provided me the opportunity to learn and prepare for everything I’ve wanted to do in my job,” says Beck.

As a result, Beck is now a faculty member who is that rare quadruple threat. In addition to excelling at teaching, research, and service, he is a highly effective administrative leader.

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The Doctor of Education (EdD) program at the Pitt School of Education is currently accepting applications.