Doctoral student in online program becomes first to successfully complete dissertation

Every night after work, after dinner is ready and dishes are done, Joshua Overton sits down at the kitchen table with his daughters to do homework—both to help them with theirs and to work on his own.

Overton, middle school dean at St. Jude School and Parish, has been a student in the first cohort of Trevecca’s online Doctorate of Education in leadership and professional practice since its creation in January 2016. Recently, he became the first in his cohort to finish his dissertation—something he said has been a goal since he was in college earning his bachelor’s degree.  

“Before we do anything at all, my 6-year-old and I sit down and do homework. Then we can have fun,” Overton said. “She’s an old soul—she’s 6 going on 40, so she is totally OK with [getting work done first]. She says she already wants to be a teacher. My 3-year-old just kind of goes with the flow and does what a 3-year-old does,” he said. “I want to place an emphasis on education to them and convey that message that academics are important. Even when I was working on my bachelor’s, I wanted to pursue a doctorate. I knew it would be a long hard journey. [To be on the other side], I don’t know if I have the vocabulary to describe the feeling—it’s euphoric.”

Trevecca’s online program is non-traditional, designed for leaders in various fields such as business, healthcare, non-profit, ministry and education. The University has offered a face-to-face Ed.D. program since 1999, but added the online degree program in 2016.

“The Ed.D. is meant for people doing the work of leadership, in the trenches leading groups of people. There is a misconception that it's just for educators, but our students have come from almost every profession you can think of—we have sheriffs, social workers, pastors, teachers. If you are a person who is doing the work of leadership, this program is for you,” said Ryan Longnecker, online Ed.D. program director and associate professor.

Each student in the program completes a science-based, applied-research dissertation in concert with the coursework. Most students graduate within 27 months with no on-campus requirement.

“That is the paramount distinction of this program—the ability to complete the dissertation and the coursework simultaneously,” said Alice Patterson, director of doctor of education in leadership and professional practice.

Overton’s dissertation is entitled “Factors Affecting Teacher Job Satisfaction in Catholic Schools.”

“I work in the Catholic school system, and I know what derives satisfaction and what doesn’t,” Overton said. “I wanted to keep it simple, so I looked at factors that point to satisfaction in jobs in Catholic schools. I did surveys and interviews [to find what] drives job satisfaction. A school in inner-city New York has a totally different feel than one in rural Oklahoma, and I think it is useful to know [what]...the big contributors are.”

Marcia Walker, coordinator of clinical practices and field experience, served as Overton’s academic advisor throughout the three-year process. Walker said Overton is an amazing student.

“I am not shocked at all that he is the first to finish,” she said. “He works hard, and it’s been a privilege and an honor to serve as his advisor. You don’t get any better than him.”

Overton said now that his dissertation is done, and he only has one class left, he is just waiting to see what God has in store for him.

“Everybody that I’ve spoken with that got their doctorate from Trevecca has told me I wouldn’t believe what doors it opens for you,” Overton said. “I’m just kind of waiting to see what those doors are. I’ve had plans before, but God’s are always different. I just know the program has prepared me immensely [for whatever those possibilities might be].”

By Bailey Basham
Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695