GMercyU Griffin Success Story Shaun Dougherty

Meet Shaun Dougherty

Education, 2005

"I remember one particularly salient lesson from GMercyU, and share it in every class I teach. 'You have to decide which hills are worth dying on!' This came from my first class at GMercyU and has proven true in all professional endeavors."

Before enrolling at Gwynedd Mercy University, I earned a bachelor’s degree in math and economics from University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Shortly after graduating from UMass, I decided to switched gears and received a provisional certificate to teach high school math. For five years, I taught math at North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pa.
 
During that time, I wanted to continue my newly-found passion and GMercyU was a great local opportunity for me. My friend and colleague at the time had nothing but good things to say about his experience and other friends, who were undergraduates at GMercyU, also had nothing but good experiences. Once I interacted with the program, faculty and administrators, I felt compelled to not just to apply, but attend. 

My experience at GMercyU was through the master’s program in educational administration which meant all of my classes were held offsite.  Even so, my instructors connected me with a number of national professional and research organizations that I had previously not accessed. Each of these contributed to my personal and professional growth and, at least indirectly, contributed to my eventual pursuit of a doctorate.

The relationships with professors and staff, as well as my colleagues in my cohort, were the single biggest contributors to my learning and success. The professors were knowledgeable and had excellent command of both the subject area as well as its relevance to professional practice. Classes were engaging and professors were open and accessible to engage out of class time, electronically, by phone, and in person. 

Shortly after graduating, I became the Assistant Principal at North Penn High School where I quickly realized the teachings I learned at GMercyU were well-aligned with the demands of my new role. I believe that the quality of my preparation, as well as the local regard for GMercyU and its graduates, contributed to the ease with which I transitioned into an administrative role. 

A few years later, I decided to leave my role as an educational leader to pursue my doctorate in Quantitative Policy Analysis at Harvard Graduate School of Education. This change was motivated by the realization that I was designing programs and making educational decisions for students without really knowing how to understand the impact of those programs and decisions on their educational and life outcomes. I wanted to better understand the effects of programs and better inform policy and practice. 

Even when I decided to return to school, I found that the technical and academic training I had as part of my master's program prepared me well for full-time doctoral study. Now that I prepare educational leaders as an Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut, I regularly draw on the content and pedagogical experiences from my time at GMercyU when I plan and deliver my own course content.

As an Assistant Professor, I prepare current and aspiring educational leaders for leadership and policy roles in public education and prepare PhD students for roles as academic and professional researchers and policy makers. 

I remember one particularly salient lesson from GMercyU, and share it in every class I teach. "You have to decide which hills are worth dying on!" This came from my first class at GMercyU and has proven true in all professional endeavors. Many things are controversial and can be contested, but you have to know which ones really matter to you. In this way I was affirmed in my understanding that education is a principle- based endeavor, but reminded that not all principles can be equally held if one is to remain employed.