|Posted on May 10, 2019 at 5:40 PM|
Galloway, N.J. - In marriage, a couple vows to work together. Mays Landing couple
Jerry and Nicole Nelson took their vows a little further ... to doctoral degrees in
Organizational Leadership from Stockton University.
Nicole Nelson is a Hamilton Township police officer, and Jerry Nelson works in
technology. Both had been seeking an interdisciplinary, face-to-face doctoral program
they could complete together.
In 2016, Stockton launched a brand new doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership.
The first cohort of 21 graduates received their degrees at the Graduate Commencement
on May 7.
The primary goal of the program is to help leaders improve so that they, in turn, will help
their respective organizations improve. It is interdisciplinary, specifically designed for
working professionals in different fields, with classes held online, in the evening, and on
Saturdays at the new Stockton University Atlantic City Academic Center.
For the Nelsons, Stockton’s degree was a perfect fit.
“(Jerry and I) both have different strengths and weaknesses, and knew that we would
need each other to effectively get through a program at this level,” said Nicole Nelson.
“The interdisciplinary aspect of (Stockton's) program gave us that opportunity, and it’s
exciting to think that even though we work in two completely different fields, we were
able to work in the same doctorate program.”
Teaching individuals from different professions how to work together was the exact
intent of the program.
“This degree took six years to put together,” said George Sharp, a coordinating faculty
member from the School of Education. “The goal was to create an educational
leadership doctoral degree that was different, unique, and stuck with Stockton’s mantra
of ‘distinctive’ education. We wanted to create a degree that put leaders of all types –
government, health care, faith-based, and so on – in a room together in communicative
situations to emphasize the importance of having strong leadership and communication
The Nelsons said the program helped their careers, and their marriage.
“We seem to be discussing the leadership aspects of our organizations much more with
each other,” Nicole said. “I have also found that we seem to be more open to discussing
our communication with regards to our parenting styles. I have noticed that while our
personalities haven’t changed, our ability to communicate effectively with each other
has certainly increased.”
Jerry Nelson agreed.
“Throughout the program, we each had our ups and downs, but together, we balanced
each other out,” he said. “We would always compete on who would get the better grade
or turn in their project first, but in the end, the only way I was able to complete this was
with her help. She pushed me the last mile, motivating me to make the milestones and
propped me up at the finish line.”
William Perkins, the Superintendent of the 177th Fighter Wing Headquarters Staff in the
New Jersey Air National Guard was the very first applicant and interviewee to gain
“The program had been dubbed by its designers and developers as ‘a development
program within a doctoral program,' and I believe that to be very accurate,” he said. “I
didn't just broaden my leadership competencies via learning, as I would have with any
other educational programs. This program cultivated a mindset of vertical development,
meaning it enhanced my habits, mindsets, and capacities to optimize those
Karl Guilian, a professor at Atlantic Cape Community College, said he gained
friendships as well as organizational skills.
“The program help me to enhance my way of thinking about people, as well as about
my various organizations,” he said. “The classwork, competencies and dissertation have
taught me to better understand myself so that I can be better prepared to be a leader. I
now feel much more confident and motivated to be a change agent, as I now have the
knowledge and credential to be successful. As a member of Cohort One, I have met a
group of people [to which] I truly feel a deep and emotional connection. I will forever
have their friendships, which is a reward in itself.”
Sharp said he, too, made long-lasting friendships with his students.
“I would really like to thank them for taking the risk of deciding to accept admission into
this very new, different type of program. Our purpose was to improve one leader at a
time, and this cohort now consists of many strong leaders.”
Members of Cohort One highly recommend the Organizational Leadership program,
especially the Nelsons.
“The faculty was outstanding,” said Nicole Nelson. “They became a second family.
They were always open, honest, and gave so much of their time and effort to help us
achieve our goals. They exemplify the meaning of true leadership, and I know that I
have made not only mentors, but friends for life.”
Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership graduates are: Tina Bridda, Daniel
Douglas, John Froonjian Jr., Karl Giulian, Robert Heinrich, Paul Herron, Jeannine
Ingenito, Kate Juliani, Walter Kappeler, Brian McBride, Kathleen McDonald, Nicole
Nelson, Warren Nelson, Dana Palma, William Perkins, Charlotte Phillip-Clarke, Charles
Powell V, Sharon Remeter, Kathryn Suk, Daniel Tomé, and Kristina War.
Applications for the next cohort of the Organizational Leadership doctoral program
applications are due May 17. More information about the Ed.D. in Organizational
Leadership is online at stockton.edu/graduate.
_ Reported by Kat Wentzell