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Union’s Ph.D. Program Welcomes New Leadership This Fall

By | Doctoral Degree | No Comments

Union’s Ph.D. Program Welcomes New Leadership This Fall

Dr. Michael Raffanti is the new Dean of the Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program. In this Q&A, Dr. Raffanti discusses his goals for the program as he begins his new role.

Q. What are you most excited about in your new role as the Dean of the Ph.D. program?

A. This is an exciting time to lead the Ph.D. program. I’m part of equipping leaders as they learn. I am excited to lead a program that is student-centered. Our goal as a university is to continually meet the needs of students. By putting students first, the curriculum remains relevant, not stagnant. I also want to thank Dr. Arlene Sacks, former dean and now Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, for her leadership and assistance in developing many of the curricular changes that we are now implementing and our students are benefiting from daily.

Second, I am excited to continue to work with such an excellent faculty as we have here at Union. The faculty is continually involved in scholarly research and develops the students to become scholar practitioners.

Third, I am excited to continue Union’s long-time focus on social justice. It is so rewarding to watch our students take on social justice issues within their communities. They are doing real work to help marginalized populations that face poverty and racism daily.

Fourth, I am excited to strengthen the close collaboration among departments. The common goal at Union is to serve students. This sets Union apart from other universities.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Union family? 

A. Everything. What attracted me at first about Union and still does, is the university’s commitment to educating people of all ages with the hope that education improves lives and communities. I am a first-generation college graduate. I understand the struggles nontraditional doctoral students encounter. Facilitating adults in their educational journey to use their knowledge and skills to better serve their communities is the most satisfying work I have ever done.

Q. Why is a strong Ph.D. program important to a university?

A. Strong Ph.D. program strengthens a university’s scholarship and influences the culture. You might say a strong program is a flagship of a university.

Q. What is your greatest piece of advice to give to students entering into our doctoral program?

A. Working toward a Ph.D. is the most transformative experience a person will undergo. You don’t know where this journey will take you, but it will be life changing. I try to prepare students to imagine the experience, to discuss the sacrifice this commitment takes with family, and to be realistic about the daily, weekly, workload. My doctorate has taken me to the Dean of the Union Institute & University Ph.D. program. Go for it!

About Dr. Michael Raffanti:

Mr. Raffanti joined Union in 2007 as a faculty member and served as the associate dean in the Ph.D. program prior to taking on his new position as dean. He earned his Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Change from Fielding Graduate University, Master in Teaching, Teachers of Native American Learners, from Evergreen State College, and his Bachelor of Arts in History and Philosophy from University of Portland. Dr. Raffanti also holds a Juris Doctor from the Boston College Law School. He has been published in the Journal of Ethnographic and Qualitative Research, Journal of Qualitative and Ethnographic Research, and Journal of Integral Theory and Practice and presented at many conferences.

Learn more about Union’s
distinctive doctoral program

A Celebration of Learning: Union’s 2016 Ph.D. Residency

By | Alumni, Doctoral Degree, Faculty & Staff, Students | No Comments

Highlights from the 2016 July Ph.D. Residency


Highlights from

the 2016 Ph.D. Residency

A Celebration of Learning was on display as students from around the nation gathered at the 2016 July Ph.D. Residency in Cincinnati, Ohio for the collective purpose of pursuing professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service and social responsibility. 

The residency opened Sunday, July 3rd with an Opening Night Dinner event featuring Dr. Betty Overton-Adkins, renowned social justice speaker, with a, powerful presentation entitled, “Intersectionality Part 2: Intersectionality and the New Normalcy.” Other featured events included Breakfast with University Provost Dr. Nelson Soto; New Student lunch with Dr. Arlene Sacks, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; Two MLK Capstone Presentations; Women & Power Hour with Dr. Diane Allerdyce, Program Chair; and Curriculum and Dissertation process with Dr. Raffanti, Dean of the Ph.D. Program.   

Outside of hitting the books after dinner, the evenings of the residency week were filled with fun group activities such as a Dance Social and Open Mic Night. The culminating event, held Friday, July 8th, was the Presidential Luncheon hosted by University President, Dr. Roger H. Sublett. Dr. Sublett reflected on the current state of higher education in America and Union’s role in transforming lives and communities. 

Our Ph.D. residency weeks are held twice a year in January and July. All doctoral students are required to attend the residencies. Most students find extreme value in these week-long connection events. Dr. Raffanti, Dean of the Ph.D. Program noted, “We make ourselves as faculty very available to our students that week, from mornings through well into the evenings,” Raffanti said. “We try to establish those connections you won’t find in other, similar programs.”

Learn more about Union’s
distinctive doctoral program