Glenwood Community School District Superintendent Embray Earns Doctorate

Dr. Devin Embray on graduation day at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky.

Devin Embray has already heard his share of doctor jokes.

He promises not to get too bothered if anyone calls him Mister instead of Doctor. But no one would blame Embray if he did.

The Glenwood Community School District Superintendent earned his Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership degree from the University of the Cumberlands. Embray, 55, successfully defended his doctoral dissertation to a panel at the private college located in Williamsburg, Ky., via Zoom. He completed most of his classwork for the degree online.

“I’m not used to it,” Embray said of the “doctor” designation. “I’ve been doing this gig a long time. This was kind of a shingle on the wall and a process for me. When people don’t call me Dr. Embray that doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s not really about that. It was something I set out to do before I retired. It’s been a goal.”

The doctorate is a culmination of nearly three years of work, but the goal process actually began in 2001.

“Life happened and I didn’t get a lot of traction with it,” Embray said of his initial doctoral path he eventually dropped out of.

He chose Cumberlands due to its “impressive online program,” affordability and the fact they would accept much of the course work he completed two decades ago.

He describes his dissertation as a “quantitative comparative analysis of leadership styles of shared and non-shared superintendents in Iowa related to climate and culture of staff.”

In layman’s terms, it’s a 112-page study of how well school districts function as a staff and as a learning community when factoring in leadership styles and if that district’s superintendent is full time in one district or splitting their time in more than one district.

His thesis consisted of two research questions: was there a difference in leadership styles among shared and non-shared superintendents and is there a difference in leaderships style of shared superintendents in regard to climate and culture of staff?

“The first question, I found significance in,” Embray said. “But in the second one, there wasn’t significance found with leadership styles in superintendents with regard to climate and culture except at the secondary level. “

To compile the bulk of his data, Embray relied on surveys he sent out to all of Iowa’s 263 school superintendents. He heard back from more than 140 superintendents. He combined his data with archive data provided by the state’s “climate and culture” surveys it does each year.

When completed, Embray faced a committee to defend his dissertation via Zoom for nearly an hour. He called the process of laying out his thesis, the data and his conclusions a “stressful process.” Following the presentation, Embray was asked to log off and wait for word from the committee.

“They texted me when they were done conferring to come back on (Zoom) and they debriefed with me and told me that I had successfully defended,” he said.

Embray isn’t sure if the dissertation will be published. He’d love to see his preliminary data built on for a “deeper dive” into leadership, climate and culture.

He does know he’d like to do some adjunct teaching at Cumberlands or perhaps another university to “give back.”

“I like the idea of helping prepare future educational leaders,” Embray said. “That would be kind of a cool thing to do.”


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