Clemmer College faculty-led team secures $1.25 million in grant funding

Published 2:43 pm Thursday, September 8, 2022

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Funding to provide students the opportunity to obtain an Ed. D. without debt

JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State University faculty members with Clemmer College were recently awarded $1.25 million in grant funding to support a project known as the Rural Initiative for Training Administrators with Special Education Expertise (RITASEE), which aims to enhance service for all students in rural school settings by strengthening current leadership practices related to communication and collaboration; developing evidence-based school improvement systems to serve diverse learners; advocating for district and school-wide inclusive practices; and promoting positive school culture for all students.

The initiative is a result of the collaborative work between the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) and the Department of Educational Foundations and Special Education (EFSE). Team members include Project Director Dr. Ginger Christian; Co-Director Dr. Dawn Rowe; Dr. Pamela Mims; Dr. Cynthia Chambers; Dr. Virginia Foley; Dr. Pamela Scott; Dr. Jill Channing; and Dr. John Boyd.

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Known as “Scholars,” students who are accepted will be enrolled in a P-12 Educational Leadership doctoral program. Scholars will receive enriched curriculum, special education (SPED) seminars and 270 hours dedicated to SPED leadership internship experiences in schools, districts and the community. Graduates of RITASEE will complete their Ed. D. with specialized expertise in implementing, monitoring and evaluating student and program performance in rural school settings at an individual student, school, district and state level.

“This is an exciting season for our region, schools and future Scholars,” said RITASEE Project Director Dr. Christian. “This grant will provide tuition, books, national seminars and focused leadership internships to enhance training experiences and services for all students in rural school settings.”

Funded through the United States Office of Special Education Programs, the award will allow the team to provide scholarships to fund a minimum of 18 students’ doctorate in Education (Ed. D.) degrees through a competitive application process that will span approximately five years. Team members shared that the collaboration between ELPA and EFSE will strengthen the capacity of individuals as they learn and research with professors who are designing what Dr. Mims called a “coveted, alternative skill set.”

“This is the first of many collaborations across our two departments,” said RITASEE Co-Director Dr. Rowe. “We’re really leveraging our expertise to support people in the field and in the region to enable the development of leadership skills necessary to serve diverse learners.”

Scholars will have the opportunity to decide between two programs of study within ELPA – School Leadership or Administrative Endorsement.

“I am thrilled to see our aspiring school leaders build a deep knowledge of the regulations and laws that affect diverse learners so that they can best meet the needs of their students,” said Dr. Foley. “I also look forward to the research they will engage in, and the long-term impact that work will have on the region.”

Applications to RITASEE are open. Individuals interested in pursuing their Ed. D. through the initiative must have a minimum of three years of teaching experience for the Administrative Endorsement concentration. For the School Leadership concentration, applicants must currently hold a valid administrator license. To apply, prospective scholars may visit the ELPA web page on ETSU’s website at, then click “Rural Initiative for Training Administrators with Special Education Expertise Scholarship.”

For further information about the RITASEE scholarship, email Dr. Christian at For more information about ELPA program concentrations, email Dr. Foley at or Dr. Scott