Education for the Real World
Delaware Valley University’s holistic approach to graduate education prepares students for the future
by Jenny Graham

By offering students a mix of real-world opportunities and classes taught by top professionals in their respective fields, Delaware Valley University in Doylestown—DelVal for short—excels in a spectrum of graduate disciplines.

DelVal’s array of graduate degree programs include a Master of Business Administration track; Master of Arts degree programs in counseling psychology and policy studies; and Master of Science degree programs in educational leadership, special education, and teaching and learning. Students also have the option of pursuing a doctoral degree in education.

DelVal’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies also offers certification programs for those looking to pursue careers in school administration or as supervisors of curriculum and instruction or special education. There are even accelerated track options for students looking to speed their transition to their future workplaces.

While the fields themselves vary greatly in topics, one facet of the program remains consistent throughout: DelVal’s commitment to providing its students with an education they can put to work.

“One of the things we try to emphasize is that we’re student focused,” says James Moryan, Ph.D., dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies. “We’re practitioner based, so everyone who is teaching has lived the experience.”

Moryan cites the mission Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf, who founded DelVal in 1896, and his goal of providing practical skills to newly arrived immigrants, as one of the pillars upon which the university upholds to this day. DelVal started its life as the National Farm School, a vocation-based training school, and it provided real-world skills to these individuals who needed to acquire a trade to stay in the United States. This practicality is “something that’s always remained with the university,” Moryan explains.

This real-world approach even applies to scheduling. When the university ran focus groups, wherein students were asked questions regarding programming and scheduling, it became clear that many students worked full time and found it difficult to attend classes during weeknights. The university took this information into account and scheduled classes accordingly for Friday nights and Saturdays.

“There has been considerable growth [here] over the last three years,” Moryan says. “We’re still modest in size, but the gains we’ve made from even four or five years ago have been significant. We’re all very pleased.”

At present, 350 students are pursuing graduate education at DelVal. This includes Chad Watters, who holds an M.S. in teaching and learning from DelVal and is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in educational leadership.

“I’m almost one year into the program and I’ve been thrilled with it. What I learned in the master’s program has completely rung true,” he says. “The education has been completely consistent.”

The doctoral program, Moryan explains, is subdivided into two tracks. “One has to do with administration,” he explains, “and the other has to do with individuals in higher education looking to get a doctoral degree in educational leadership, but with a focus on higher education.”

With both tracks, students complete 20 courses as well as practicum work, meaning work in schools dealing with real issues. “This gives students the real-life experience that the university was founded upon,” Moryan says, adding that students then bring these experiences back into a classroom setting in the form of monthly peer discussions.

“The vast majority of our programs are face to face so students can come to campus and share their experiences,” Moryan says. “Most students prefer the face-to-face ‘cohort’ model. They like interacting with colleagues, especially those from different walks of life.”

In addition, Watters suggests, the standards to which the courses are held and the means by which professors teach—for example, through metaphor and thought experiment—have been invaluable. 

“The overarching philosophy [DelVal] has developed is a practitioner-based model,” Watters says. “And I think that they have done an excellent job of doing that.”

One of Watters’ standout professors has been Chris Manno, a working superintendent who has taught classes including school/community relations and theory. “He provides us with tremendous feedback, both positive and constructive,” Watters explains. “You can expect almost as much text as you submit.”

Watters, who is the father of four children of his own, is currently in his seventh year as the principal of Warwick Elementary School in the Central Bucks School District. Before that, he served as an assistant principal at Groveland Elementary School, and he also spent nearly 10 years at the front of the classroom as a teacher at Barclay Elementary School.

“The doctoral program is a lot of work, and it should be—it’s a doctoral program,” says Watters, who has two years of study still ahead. “I am a working professional, with a busy family, dedicated to the program and applying what I’m learning to help me be a better, more effective leader and person.”

Leadership is another theme running throughout DelVal’s various programs. “We want to ensure leadership is something that our students don’t necessarily have to learn on the job,” Moryan says. “We thought leadership needed to be provided to them based on experience.”

Autumn Canfield is a recent graduate who benefited from this real-world approach to learning taken by the university. “DelVal is definitely the place you want to go if you want more experiential learning and to get more of a 360 [degree] view,” Canfield says.

Canfield earned her undergraduate degree in wildlife conservation and management from DelVal in just three years and chose to remain at the university to pursue graduate study.

“All of my professors came from such unique backgrounds,” Canfield says of her graduate school instructors. “I got so much out of every class I took.”

One of her former professors, Russell C. Redding, is now serving as the secretary of agriculture for the state of Pennsylvania. “At the time he was one of the deans,” she recalls. “He taught an American government class.

“For him, teaching wasn’t just standing in front of the class. He brought a whole new experience,” she says of Redding, who brought in a multitude of professionals working in all aspects of government to speak to the class. “It was a nice 360-degree experience versus just trying to learn out of a textbook.”

Canfield graduated with her M.A. in policy studies this May and is now installed in a position as special projects coordinator for Doylestown Township. She began her career with the township as an intern, an opportunity presented to her during her time as a graduate student at DelVal.

Like Canfield, all students can and are encouraged to use the university as a resource as they move into their careers. As Moryan says, “It’s not about finding the best program for a student and leaving it at that; it’s about making a commitment for a lifetime.”

Delaware Valley University
700 East Butler Ave.
Doylestown PA 18901

Photograph by Allure West Studios