Office of Research and Graduate Studies
It is not often in the life of an academic or of an academic institution that circumstances coalesce to bring about a new academic discipline. But it happened recently, thus a review of the circumstances may be of interest and potentially instructive. Disciplines are typically characterized as a field of study at institutions of higher learning; they have a definable body of knowledge, scholars who contribute to that body of knowledge, teachers who teach in the field, a community of people who identify with the field, a refereed journal, are often associated with a professional practice and, in many cases, the discipline offers a doctorate as the terminal degree. Prior to 2008 the academic discipline of aviation did not exist. While working at Central Missouri State University (CMSU) in his previous position, the then department chair of the Power and Transportation Department had been involved in the development of a multi-university Ph.D. program in Technology Management at Indiana State University (ISU). As the ISU program was being developed, a needs analysis survey revealed that there was a high interest in aviation as a specialization. The chair then left CMSU for the position of dean of the College of Aviation at the Daytona Beach campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) and, consequently, the aviation specialization was not developed in the ISU program. However, the new ERAU dean’s vision for an aviation Ph.D. was established. Soon the dean began to advocate for developing a Ph.D. in aviation. There is a substantial need for research and, thus, qualified well-trained researchers in the field of aviation. Commercial aviation has entered its second century and, quite literally, has transformed the world. It is estimated that over 3 billion passengers and 50 million tons of cargo are transported on commercial aviation annually, supporting over 57 million jobs and $2.2 trillion in economic activity. ERAU authorized the dean to establish a Ph.D. planning committee. One of the first tasks of the planning committee was to quantify the demand. A survey was provided to 10,356 students and alumni. The results were surprising. Of the responses, 1,903 (83%) indicated either Strongly Agree (50.4%) or Somewhat Agree (33.9%) to the statement: I would be interested in enrolling in ERAU’s Ph.D. program in Aviation program. With this strong evidence, the committee presented the program to the Board of Trustees which approved it in 2007. Shortly afterward, the institution submitted an application to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges, which denied it for various reasons, but the most poignant was this statement, “Address faculty qualification issues. Specifically, ensure that faculty have terminal degrees that relate to the courses they are teaching and/or have specific and described ‘other qualifications’ that make them appropriate instructors.” Since there was no previous terminal (Ph.D.) degree in aviation, it became necessary to select faculty who possessed the doctorate in some other field and whose academic and professional backgrounds matched the subject matter of the course to be taught. Using this strategy, a second application was submitted to SACS which was accepted. The first cohort of students began in 2010. The program admits only one cohort of approximately 15 students each year and now has an enrollment of 65 students. Eight have graduated. Early on in the development of the program the faculty realized that they had the opportunity to select a color to be associated with the degree; the color is often used for trimmings of doctors’ gowns, edging of hoods, and tassels of caps. While dark blue was an option since that color is associated with philosophy, the faculty desired to identify a color that would be unique to the discipline of aviation, much like purple is to law, orange is to engineering, and drab is to business. Examination into this issue revealed two interesting facts. First, there is no single authority on associating a color with a discipline. There are agencies that publish the various discipline colors, such as the American Council on Education (ACE), but none that acts as an approval agency. ACE encouraged the university to adopt the color of its choice. Second, nearly every color is already associated with a discipline. In all there are 25 color and discipline combinations listed by ACE, including obscure colors such as peacock blue (public administration), lilac (dentistry), citron (social work), and apricot (nursing). Armed with that information, the faculty considered several colors and ultimately decided to associate the color with something meaningful to the field of aviation – silver was chosen in honor of the color of the Wright Flyer.
2015 International Conference on Doctoral Education
University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, March 24-26, 2015
Scholarly Commons Citation
Brady, T., & Stolzer, A. J. (2015). Toward Developing an Academic Discipline. , (). Retrieved from http://commons.erau.edu/publication/80