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First Leadership Doctoral Class Includes Husband and Wife, 177 th Fighter Wing Superintendent

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

_ Reported by Kat Wentzell

Categories: LOCAL NEWS , What's going on !!!

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