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A leader and a learner

Doctoral student Zandra D. Rawlinson achieving professional goals and working with others through cohort

Zandra D. Rawlinson

Zandra D. Rawlinson

Aspiring to become a Chief Learning Officer is the compass that directs Zandra D. Rawlinson’s hard work and passion for learning.

After being out of school for 20 years, Rawlinson decided to return to VCU for her third degree, a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Rawlinson previously earned a master’s in adult education, and she currently works for VCU’s HR Learning and Development department where she designs and facilitates classes. While working at VCU, her desire to pursue her doctorate came naturally.

“I wanted to bridge my adult learning experience and leadership to advance myself in the training and development world,” said Rawlinson.

Educational leadership interested Rawlinson because of her goal to become a Chief Learning Officer within an organization. CLOs sit at the VP level and help organizations meet and set learning requirements.

“When I got a better understanding of the program, I realized it was a perfect fit because it would give me practical knowledge of what it means to be a leader. I would learn various skills while also being exposed to the world of research,” she said.

"When I got a better understanding of [Educational Leadership], I realized it was a perfect fit because it would give me practical knowledge of what it means to be a leader.”

Like cohorts before them, Rawlinson’s doctoral team works on a capstone study instead of a dissertation. In their case, they’re working with the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute (GEHLI) focusing on leadership development needs for aspiring and practicing women in the community college system. This research - which will focus on eight community colleges within a 2-hour drive of VCU - will benefit GEHLI and their mission of providing leadership development to women.

“We will be surveying and interviewing women leaders in the community college system to find out what their leadership development needs are, and determine what core competencies will make for effective women leaders,” Rawlinson explained.

When asked what her favorite part of the doctoral process is, Rawlinson referenced the relationship she has built with her cohort.

“The part I’ve enjoyed the most is being in a cohort. I’ve moved through the program with the same group of students, and this has allowed me to build closer relationships, which I really have enjoyed,” she said.

With six months until graduation, Rawlinson and her team are eager to dig into research in the spring and produce an outcome that will exemplify everything that they’ve worked so hard to accomplish.

Are you interested in advancing your career? Start by visiting the Academic Programs page on our site to learn more.