Training B.C.'s leaders in education

January 12, 2006, vol. 35, no. 1
By Kate Hildebrand

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Be forewarned. Talking with Geoff Madoc-Jones, assistant professor and program coordinator for the faculty of education's doctoral program in educational leadership, may cause one to re-examine life goals, career strategies and savings plans - whatever it takes to find the time and money to enroll.

“Students come away knowing more, with increased confidence in their ability to lead, think, write, speak and articulate their purpose,” he says.

Plainly, Madoc-Jones makes a strong case. B.C., Canada and the world are calling for the best educational leaders, he says, and SFU is responding.

The program started in 1997 when the faculty challenged non-Canadian providers chasing the B.C. graduate education leadership market. “There are significant U.S. players in this area,” says Madoc-Jones. “So we created a program that involves educators learning the practices of decision-making that best serve Canadian schools and communities.”

Who's enrolling? Future and present leaders of education are applying from school districts, governments, First Nations, colleges and health care. Plus, they're coming from across B.C., Alberta, Yukon, the Northwest Territories as well as from Washington state.

“I went in focused on the academic work,” says Byron Robbie, superintendent of school district 58 (Nicola-Similkameen) who completed the program in 2005, “but gained as much from meeting and learning alongside other educational leaders.” A 1970 SFU political science graduate, Robbie says both the program and his classmates dealt with real issues and experiences. “This enabled me to think more seriously about social issues facing my community and to identify a whole new direction as a superintendent.”

Currently, there are 73 students enrolled in programs located in Vancouver, Prince George, Victoria and Kamloops. Another two sites will be added in 2006 at SFU Surrey and SFU Vancouver. A program (doctorat en leadership educationnel) for leaders of French institutions is in the works for spring 2007.

Demand is increasing, says Madoc-Jones, “partly due to a competitive work world but mostly because the world needs better prepared senior educational leaders to take us through these difficult times.”

The program combines transformative learning and collaborative projects which, he emphasizes, can only benefit participants and, in time, the rest of us. “Within a few years,” Madoc-Jones foresees, “SFU will have a significant influence upon the leadership of educational institutions in this province and beyond.” For more information about the program, visit

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