At Nova, learning is easy, practical and still controversial

John Wilbur Lee, district superintendent in the Chicago public schools, felt the need for training beyond his master's degree, but he had neither the time nor the financial resources to study in a traditional doctoral program.

That's why the external degree program of Nova University here appealed to him. He could continue his job and study at home, meeting frequently with his "cluster," a group of 20 to 25 other professional educators working toward their EdD degrees and being instructed by top-notch professors flown in from throughout the nation.

He had lectures with such educational leaders as James W. Guthrie, senior national lecturer in finance, who is a professor in the School of Education at the University of California at Berkeley; Elliot Wayne Eisner, a national lecturer in curriculum and professor education and art in the Stanford University School of Education; and Louis Masotti, a national lecturer in education policy systems, professor of political science and urban affairs, and director of the Center for Urban Affairs at Northwestern University.

In addition, Mr. Lee attended special number sessions at the Nova campus here , where students from clusters all over the nation gathered for intense study.

Mr. Lee became Dr. Lee in October 1976, when he had completed three years of study and his practicum -- on alternative programs for potential dropouts, understanding the role of pupil personnel services staff, applying a continuous- progress program, and completing a comparison of two reading programs.

The practicum is, according to Nova, the equivalent of a dissertation and must provide a solution to some actual school problem.

Nova, just 15 years old, started with this and two other external degree programs. The founders and Dr. Abraham S. Fischler, current president, felt that the new university must look to future needs of professionals, rather than plan it after past models. "We are mission-oriented," Dr. Fischler says. "We believed that our programs must be designed to improve the performance of professionals, and evidence is being collected which indicates that Nova alumni are having a strong, positive effect on the institutions in which they are employed."

Nova also offers doctoral programs in public administration as well as business administration.

It has been critized by some who are concerned at the high number of doctoral degrees it has conferred in a relatively short period. Dr.Fischler's responds that his private university started out with the intent of innovation, of meeting specific educational needs, and that the external degree program was one of them. As he states:

"Obviously, we're meeting needs."

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