Please share a little background about yourself.
Hello! I’m Jessica Burns-Turch, a doctoral student in Marymount University’s Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership and Organizational Innovation program. I am so excited to be spotlighted this spring to afford me the opportunity to share the incredible journey I’ve been on thus far.
I have always had a passion for serving the community that raised my husband and me, having grown up across the street from one another. I was blessed to spend fifteen years in the classroom teaching the U.S. and Virginia History and Government and working with students with learning disabilities.
In 2015, I left teaching to focus on our own 4 children, our businesses, and our community work. My husband and I own six Life Celebration Homes (funeral homes) here in Northern VA, all of which are family-owned and operated. One is right down the street from where we grew up.
What do you want to accomplish by earning your Ed.D. degree?
How did I go from the funeral industry to working on a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership and Organizational Innovation? Both in education and in the business world, I’ve seen a lack of strong leadership and strong leadership platforms.
I started looking for a program to both strengthen my leadership skills as a business owner and provide me with the necessary tools to educate other leaders as a professor at the collegiate level. Coupled with my experience in education and the business world, this Ed.D. will provide me with the necessary platform to effect change in leadership practices and policies.
What inspired you to attend Marymount University online?
Ironically, I had never taken an online course before this program. However, having four children, six businesses, coaching in the community, and engaging in multiple community projects, I knew I needed the flexibility of an online program. Still, it had been 15 years since I was in a classroom as a student, having earned my Master’s degree back in 2005.
I knew I needed a school with that same sense of community, diversity, and support I had back then. Back then, I had Marymount, so I decided to return this time around for that same “awesomeness.”
What excites you most about your Marymount online Ed.D. program?
I love that Marymount has designed this program with current material and current events surrounding leadership. This program isn’t filled exclusively with textbook material leaving us wondering about the application when we finish. This is real-time, supporting every step of our leadership journey.
Weekly modules and assignments afford us the opportunity to apply the knowledge we’ve gained in analyzing our current leadership roles and the roles of leaders in our communities. I love that we have classmates and leaders from all over the country, as far out as Hawaii. We have folks from all different backgrounds, cultures, and professions, providing a truly global perspective when we are collaborating.
How is the experience of studying online for you?
As I said, I had no idea what to expect from an online forum. I wondered how I would possibly make connections and build a support system with an online dynamic. However, the community we have formed is beyond anything I could have imagined.
We have a dynamic group of professors that are readily accessible and provide real-time feedback. One of the program designers that started us on our journey is Dr. Clara Hauth. She is full of life and encouragement, hilarious, but as the young folks say, “she keeps it real,” challenging us, and holding us accountable.
The gifted Dr. Azevedo kicked off our research study last semester with such patience and grace. Each of us has now been assigned a Lead Dissertation Faculty Mentor to guide us through each and every turn of the dissertation-in-practice process. We truly never feel alone.
Our cohort is divided into two teams. We support each other. We celebrate each other. There is always a team member that’s just a phone call away, whether it’s 12 noon or 12 midnight. There are three exceptional women in particular that have become my lifelines: Dee Dee, Felicia, and Jenny. We didn’t meet until this program, but we have formed a bond that will truly last the rest of our lives.
How are you balancing life and coursework as an online student?
The coursework follows a rhythm that allows for planning ahead. With taxing schedules, we steal moments when we can—20 minutes here, 15 minutes while waiting for kids at practice, audiobooks and Zoom meetings. We figure out how to make it happen. Most importantly, we have so much support along the way.
What advice do you have for people considering an online Ed.D. at Marymount?
If you are considering pursuing an Ed.D. and you are looking for a true community—a program that will be right there with you every step of the way—Marymount is the place for you. Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” This community, this family at Marymount, will help you make it possible.