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A Partnership with Northern Arizona University and the Chair Academy - Training and Credentialing Fu


G. Blue Brazelton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Northern Arizona University

Kris Ewing, Ed.D., Associate Clinical Professor at Northern Arizona University



Higher education may have changed more in the past two decades than ever before in the history of education, and those who serve post-secondary educational institutions carry with them these changes in their professional duties and beyond. The current landscape of higher education demands both a broader and deeper set of skills from all who seek to support their institutional missions, especially those who have transitioned from academic posts to administration (Desrochers & Kirshstein, 2014). Those who serve as administrators, individuals who maintain the organization, operate in practice primarily of service as opposed to the academic duties of teaching and research (Pickersgill, van Barneveld, & Bearfield, 1998), and have been characterized by Szekeres (2004) as “the invisible workers” of the institution (p. 7). As educators and trainers of administrators and leaders of higher education, we look to contemporary needs and future projections concerning how the landscape of post-secondary education will look in order to design innovative curriculum to prepare for, and perhaps shape, that future. We do so by providing opportunities for Masters and Doctorates of Education (Ed.D.) to driven and inspired administrators hoping to become leaders within their field. By partnering with the Chair Academy we hope that our individual organizational efforts will yield greater success for those who serve academic departments and programs throughout the higher education landscape.

The Partnership

The Department of Educational Leadership at Northern Arizona University and the Chair Academy have forged a partnership of providing additional training and education for Academy participants. Both Northern Arizona University and the Chair Academy strongly believe in the importance of preparing institutional administrators for the diverse challenges and opportunities of educating industrious leaders. We pursued this partnership in order to bolster our shared goal of developing transformational leaders. Graduates of the Educational Leadership Department have gone on to serve in senior leadership positions within community colleges, state universities, and affiliated professional organizations around the United States. On behalf of the departmental faculty, we are proud to align with the Chair Academy and their near three decades of significant contributions to leadership development.

Through this partnership, a graduate certificate in the specialization of Community College and Higher Education (CCHE) Leadership is available to all who enroll in the Foundation Academy. Academy graduates will be eligible to earn six hours of graduate-level intern credit upon completion of the Foundation curriculum. These six hours can be applied to a 12-credit graduate leadership certificate. We have crafted two additional course sections specifically for Academy graduates, CCHE600: Leadership Skills and CCHE687: Institutional Effectiveness and Accountability. These courses will build off of the Academy curriculum to complete the graduate certificate. We have also made available the opportunity to continue coursework beyond the certificate toward a Master’s of Education in CCHE Leadership.

Benefit of Credentials

Over the last decade, a movement began to support those with Ph.Ds. and other terminal degrees for careers outside of academia, specifically named “altac” or “alternative academic” (Bickford & Whisnant, 2014, para. 1). While utilizing terminal degrees outside of the academy is not new, many take their training and talents to post within the professional industries of their fields. While approximately half of those with Ph.Ds. enter non-academic sectors for their first positions, the altac trend differs in that it focuses on preparing and transitioning academics from traditional instructional roles to administrative ones within educational institutions (Allum, Kent, & McCarthy, 2014; Cassuto & Jay, 2014). However, as many of the skills gained in doctoral programs may transition (e.g., problem solving, high-level critical thinking, refined analytical skills, and awareness in institutional contexts), a shift from a specific field of study to the role of higher education administrator should be approached with strategy and finesse.

The field of higher education administration has been vibrant for several decades through two primary subfields: college student populations and institutions as organizations. While not a perfect division (the two share significant overlap in practice), the former is focused on the development and learning of students outside the curriculum, and the latter with the overall functions related to the academic and administrative purposes of the institution (Thelin, 2011). Advanced degrees from these two subfields have been available to college and university administrators for several decades now, mirroring significant scholarship on the subject of higher education administration over the last seventy years. As such, those transitioning or continuing into various administrative posts should acknowledge the established history and contemporary developments of a field which has concerned itself with seeking, creating, and applying knowledge to the mission of educating.

Credentials from the field of higher education administration can be of great support to Academy graduates, including those currently holding terminal degrees in their fields of study. The Community College and Higher Education Leadership Educational Doctoral specialty counts among its alumni and current student professionals with Doctorates of Philosophy, Juris Doctorates and Doctorates of Business Administration. These industrious professionals have shared that they felt a credential of higher education administration and leadership would better support their career ambitions as well as their ability to serve in the diverse and growing capacities required of them.


Moving forward, the partnership between Northern Arizona University and the Chair Academy represents an important alignment from two premiere institutions for training higher education administrators and leaders within Arizona, North America, and globally. Ambitious administrators who view the Chair Academy as an incredibly useful professional development opportunity may find the same priorities from the CCHE Leadership faculty: innovation, collaboration, transformation, and excellence. Our program can provide the flexibility modern professionals require in order to pursue advanced credentials with fully online asynchronous courses with highly qualified instructors. Our faculty are familiar with the rigors of leadership and the specific objectives of the Chair Academy and bring decades of experience to the digital classroom. Through this partnership, those who complete the Foundation curriculum with the Chair Academy are only six graduate credits, or two tailored courses designed for current higher education administrators, away from a graduate certificate.


Allum, J. R., Kent, J. D., McCarthy, M. T. (2014). Understanding PhD career pathways for program improvement: A CGS report. Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools.

Bickford, D. M, & Whisnant, A. M. (2014, April 8). The altac track: Carving out a new professional space for PhDs in Academe. Retrieved from

Bolman, L. G., & Gallos, J. V. (2011). Reframing academic leadership. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Cassuto, L., & Jay, P. (2014). The PhD dissertation: In search of a usable future. Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, 15(1), 81-92.

Desrochers, D. M., & Kirshstein, R. (2014). Labor intensive or labor expensive? Changing staffing and compensation patterns in higher education. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research, Delta Cost Project.

Pickersgill, R., van Barneveld, K. & Bearfield, S. (1998). General and academic work: Are they different? A discussion paper on current practices and options for changing work organisation and enterprise bargaining. Canberra, NSW: Dept. of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs.

Szekeres, J. (2004). The invisible workers. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 26(1), 7-22.

Thelin, J. R. (2011). A history of American higher education (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.


G. Blue Brazelton is an Assistant Professor at Northern Arizona University studying the intersection of education and technology as it relates to student and institutional success.

Kris Ewing is an Associate Clinical Professor, also at Northern Arizona University, whose professional interests include examining and teaching the enterprise model as it applies to higher education.

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