The decision to become a teacher represents more of a calling than a career. From an early age, Dr. Holly Schafer knew she wanted to be an educator.
“I know it sounds corny, but I feel like I’ve always known. When I was younger, playing school was something that I did on my own in my free time. It was always a passion of mine,” she said.
After many years in the classroom and in administrative positions, she finally took the step to expand her education through Youngstown State University’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership program.
Following college, she entered the classroom focused on teaching her students social studies and helping them better understand the complexities of government and history. Her love of the job and her students motivated her eventually to pursue administrative positions.
“I was a high school teacher for 13 years, and then I took a job as an assistant principal for four, and then, I was a high school principal for seven,” Dr. Schafer explained.
Though her professional schedule kept her very busy, the flexibility of YSU’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program was a big draw. She knew that attending on-campus courses on top of a full-time job would be more than she could comfortably manage.
“The opportunity to do a blend of in-person classes once a month on a Saturday and then going online for all the other time was fabulous. It worked well with my schedule, and I found it to be very valuable,” she said.
YSU’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program allowed Dr. Schafer to build on her experiences as she continued her growth as an educator, particularly with incorporating research into her work.
“Our statistics classes were wildly impactful. I loved the diversity and inclusion class, which was great in terms of new perspectives, and the classes that walk you through how to develop a research-based dissertation were incredible,” Dr. Schafer noted.
The research techniques and concepts inspired her to present the dissertation she completed, which focused on the impact of gender on administrative pay rates.
“I did a salaries study, comparing the salaries of male and female high school principals within the state of Ohio,” she said. “I’ve presented that information to other groups of people at a couple of conferences. Hopefully, that’s also helped in other people’s decision making — taking a look at where to focus your energy, if the straight salary is the motivator.”
Dr. Schafer’s dissertation and research have also helped shape her career direction since she completed the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in 2018. She now serves as the human resources director for Bay Village School District, west of Cleveland. She is part of a team that hires and supports personnel throughout the district, which employs and educates over 2,500 students, staff and coaches.
She attributes much of her current success to the relationships she forged while at YSU, and she keeps the knowledge she gained through the program top of mind. She’s proud to call herself an alumna.
“Those connections, those relationships that I have with my classmates, as well as those with the instructors, are critical to my success. At any point, I could pick up the phone and reach out to anyone in those circles, and they would be there to support me.”
Staying active and spending time with family take priority for Dr. Schafer who has four daughters between the ages of 18 and 29. She thinks she may have inspired her college-bound youngest to consider a career in education.
“As educators, we understand that you can’t stop learning. There’s always something that you can learn and grow from,” Dr. Schafer said, citing the ability of YSU faculty to “look at the world through a different lens.
Dr. Schafer wholeheartedly endorses the YSU Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program for prospective students.
“I would say take the risk. The rewards outweigh the risk in terms of the concern that you don’t have time because it’s a lot of work. It is, but I do feel like I grew again personally and professionally with that program.”
Learn more about YSU’s Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership online program.