Ed.D. Student Applying Her Education to Social Work: Samantha Koury

Samantha Koury
Samantha Koury

If you’re looking for ways to grow as a leader and impact lasting change in your organization, earning an Ed.D. could benefit your career. 

Earning a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership and Organizational Innovation can be applicable to a variety of industries, not just education. One of our students, Samantha Koury, even says so herself. Keep reading for more details about Samantha’s experience in the program, how she applied it to her career in trauma-informed care, her thoughts on writing a dissertation and more.

“I can say that even if you are not a leader in the education field, you will be supported and find the curriculum to be very applicable to what you do on a daily basis.”


Describe your professional background and interests. What led you to pursue an Ed.D.?

My professional background is in psychology and social work. I have a master’s degree in social work, and I am currently using my education in my role as a co-director and trainer at a university-based institute that provides training, consultation, coaching and evaluation on trauma and trauma-informed care. I started social work because I originally thought I would be a counselor. However, I quickly found my passion in trauma-informed organizational change work after taking a position about seven years ago at the institute where I work now. I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of individuals in many different systems of care since then, including K-12 education, health care, behavioral health, addiction and criminal justice. I have seen the power of individuals, teams and organizations making shifts in the way they do their work so that the potential for doing more harm—what is referred to in the field as re-traumatization—is minimized while creating better opportunities for healing, growth and success.

I decided to pursue an Ed.D. for two reasons. The primary reason is because of my desire to meaningfully contribute to the field of trauma-informed care by addressing the research gaps regarding what it really takes for organizations to implement and sustain trauma-informed organizational change. There is still a need for specific, concrete strategies and empirical support for a model that can provide guidance to leaders of organizations who often have many competing priorities with limited resources. By pursuing an Ed.D., I can build on the practice-based experience and applied program evaluation from my workplace with innovative organizational and leadership strategies and the support/structure of an Ed.D. program. The second reason I chose to pursue an Ed.D.—specifically at Marymount University—is because I am always looking to better myself as a trainer/educator and a leader.


What tools have you been given to lead and help others grow as leaders? 

One of my favorite things about the Ed.D. program at Marymount University is the focus on building capacity for leadership. Certainly, that includes adding to our toolkit of concrete resources and learning different leadership theories and frameworks, but most importantly, it involves self-awareness and self-reflection. Every course in this program invites students to engage with the material at a personal level, whether that means completing self-assessments, discussion posts, journals with reflective prompts, or specifically applying the material to our work and vice versa. Leaders have such a responsibility to be mindful and aware of their impact on others. Those without the capacity to truly engage in self-reflection and self-awareness on a daily basis are not able to be successful.

“Every course in this program invites students to engage with the material at a personal level.”

The two most impactful courses for me with regard to tools to lead and help others grow as leaders were those on leadership coaching and transformative leadership. The coaching course gave me practical strategies (including specific language and questions) to coach those I supervise—which both empowers them and reduces my own workload as a leader because they are able to be confident in their own decision-making without me needing to step in as much. The transformative leadership course taught me the “Four Frames” model of systems thinking as a critical skill set for analyzing any situation and creating intentional, informed next steps.


Have you applied your studies to your current work? Please share a specific example.

Absolutely. Every class I have taken has directly applied to my current work as a leader and as someone continuously building my knowledge base of trauma-informed care. The most concrete example of this would be the needs assessment we completed as an assignment in our learning technologies class. I was able to build on the systems thinking project from the transformative leadership course and actually conduct the needs assessment at my organization. The process was truly eye-opening with regard to seeing a consolidated report based on feedback gathered from my team that included not only strengths and areas for improvement, but also recommended next steps to address the struggles we were experiencing based on the rapid growth of our team and contracts that year. The process gave me the language to eloquently talk about what was happening in the organization while pulling together learning from multiple classes to create real solutions.


Tell us about your dissertation so far.

While it has been, and will continue to be a lot of work until completion, I have loved the dissertation work. The dissertation is allowing me to realize my best hopes for pursuing the Ed.D. program by having an opportunity to have mastery over the current trauma-informed organizational literature and make a contribution to the field by gaining a better understanding of what leaders who are actually doing the trauma-informed work in their organizations see as the most critical components to making and sustaining the change. The program is set up in a way that students are very supported in the process because it is broken into smaller steps that feel more manageable to someone who works full-time and has a variety of other personal and professional responsibilities. I am extremely grateful for the guidance and support of my lead doctoral faculty mentor (LDFM) in this process—she is always willing to meet with me to talk through the process and to take time to provide written feedback along the way. I have gained so much already from completing the initial draft literature review and methods section, so I am very excited to hear what the leaders I will be interviewing have to share.

“ I am extremely grateful for the guidance and support of my lead doctoral faculty mentor in this process.”


Who would you recommend this program to?

I would recommend this program to anyone who wants to build their own personal capacity to be an effective leader and to meaningfully contribute to their field of work by engaging in research-informed practice and practice-informed research. As someone who is a more “non-traditional” student in the sense that I am not an educator in a school, I can say that even if you are not a leader in the education field, you will be supported and find the curriculum to be very applicable to what you do on a daily basis. I chose Marymount University’s Ed.D. program because of its focus on leadership and organizational innovation, and I have been pleased with its commitment to both in my experience thus far. 


Start Creating Change in your Organization Today

The Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership and Organizational Innovation at Marymount can be applied to a variety of careers and industries in addition to education. Our Online Ed.D. program is designed to be flexible enough for working professionals, and it features a robust curriculum that can be implemented to advance your career and achieve your goals.

Connect with an Enrollment Advisor today to learn more and take the next step.