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New master’s program at Georgia Southern inspires alumnus for work, doctoral program

Growing up in Douglas, Georgia, Jerry Oliver didn’t know if he’d attend college. However, after high school he became the first in his family to make the leap.

Staying close to home, he completed an associate’s degree in psychology and was hooked on learning. He went on to complete a bachelor’s in psychology from Augusta University and a master’s in higher education administration from Georgia Southern University.

Serving as the student success and learning skills coordinator at Augusta University for the last 6 years, Oliver jumped at the chance to be a part of the Georgia Southern College of Education’s first cohort of students into the newly formed M.Ed. Evaluation, Assessment, Research and Learning (EARL).

“The M.Ed. EARL program was intriguing to me,” he said. “In my current role as a learning skills coordinator and also as the director of the African-American Male Initiative, I saw many opportunities where this program would directly benefit what I am doing on a daily basis.”

Once in the program, Oliver knew he had made the right choice.

“I enjoyed this program so much,” he said. “It was almost an escape for me. There were challenges, but the faculty were particularly great. I cannot say enough about Dr. Zinske. I never even met her in person, and yet she is very approachable and helpful.”

The program has been especially helpful in strengthening his writing and research skills.

“I now have more confidence in my writing ability, and the program taught me everything I needed to know about research — how to read it, understand it and do it,” he said.

With an interest for researching the impact of elementary education for African-American male students, Oliver realized that the M.Ed. EARL program also prepared him for a doctoral program.

“A lot of that thanks to the great faculty and especially Dr. Zinskie,” said Oliver. “She gave us what we needed to succeed, and I put a great deal of stock in her opinion because I have so much respect for her.”

Between Cordelia Zinskie, Ed.D., professor in the Department of Curriculum, Foundations and Reading, and Oliver’s parents, he received the encouragement and support to continue his studies and pursue a doctorate degree. Oliver applied to three educational doctorate programs across the country and was accepted to all three. He chose Georgia Southern and began this fall.

“In doing my research on doctoral programs, the Ed.D. programs at Georgia Southern have helped launch the careers of some really great people,” Oliver said.

During his studies in the M.Ed. EARL program, Oliver says he found his purpose.

“I am going to continue my research, and one day I hope to work in policy, as true change cannot happen without policy change.”

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving more than 26,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit


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