Masters Matter: Dr. Hunter Boylan and Wes Shipley, Higher Education

Dr. Hunter Boylan, director of the National Center for Developmental Education and a professor of higher education, and graduate student Wes Shipley discuss the Master of Arts in higher education program at Appalachian State University. This program is housed in the Reich College of Education's Department of Leadership and Education Studies.


  • Hunter Boylan: My name is Hunter Boylan, and I direct the National Center for Developmental Education and I am also a professor of higher education here at Appalachian State.

    Wes Shipley: My name is Wes Shipley and I am master’s student here at Appalachian State University. I’m currently pursuing two master’s degrees. One in higher education with a concentration in teacher and another in instructional technology with a concentration in new media literacies.

    HB: Well, currently we are in the Reich College of Education and in the offices of the National Center for Developmental Education which is part of the higher education graduate program. At the moment, uh we are doing research with a couple of our graduate students on the impact of innovations and developmental education on faculty in the community college system, so that’s one of the things we do. Generally, we study anything that is going to help minority, first generation, low income students be successful in college.

    WS: So my research is centered on new materialisms and the ways in which how we mean presuppose what we mean or what we are able to mean. So the kind of material constraints and affordances of particular mediums for meaning in particulars ways. Currently I’m studying academic journals and what it means if academic journals are printed versus available online. Whether they accept a video or photography and the ways in which those constraints and affordances lend themselves to particular methods for producing and managing truth claims.

    I really appreciated having Dr. Boylan as a resource and as my advisor during my time here at Appalachian. His experience in the field, thirty plus years of experience hundreds of publications. He’s someone who really understands higher education and  so in helping me design uh this double major and picking where to go and how to navigate institutional politics and policies and negotiate what the future of higher education will be, Dr. Boylan’s perspective has been invaluable in navigating that challenging question of what’s next. What I will be doing with this degree, will be dependent on the future of higher education. Which I feel that Dr. Boylan has a good amount of insight into.

    Dr. Boylan is an extremely approachable person. I’ve come to him with lots of concerns and, you know, those anxieties you develop while you’re at school. I’ve frequented Dr. Boylan’s office to look for advice on what to do next in my academic career and in life in general.

    HB: And I have the privilege of being assigned students to act as their advisor which is a very important responsibility to me. It is one of the more important things I do cause I’m dealing with students of all ages, and in all sorts of occupational situations with all sorts of plans and aspirations. I have an opportunity to move those plans and aspirations along. I can be part of them charting their life. Charting their academic career. Thinking about their future. Thinking about how they are going to obtain their goals and objectives in the future. And I consider that to be an extraordinarily important responsibility.

    WS: One of the strongest reasons to consider App is the faculty really devotes a lot of their time and energy to helping students and working with students. We are not a research intensive institution, yet we do produce a lot of good research here, but the key focus of a lot of the faculty here is on students and on student development. And it seems like at a lot of bigger universities, professors are more focused on their research. Here, we are lucky because the professors are more focused on the students and helping the students. The professors are also engaged in interesting research, but it really helps a lot that they are focused on students.

    HB: One of the things I like about our graduate program is that we do have a diverse body of students. About a third of our students are relatively recent undergrads. They are in their twenties, they are just beginning their careers. Probably about sixty percent of our graduates are already adult working professionals. They are getting graduate degrees because they want to get promoted in the work that they are currently doing, or they want to do something different, or they want to interview for jobs in some other venue. It’s really a pleasure to work with both groups. I enjoy the younger students. They are bright, they’re eager, they’re interesting. I enjoy the older students because they bring a wealth of experience with them and a wealth of perspective with them. And so it’s an interesting group of people to teach and to advise and to work with.

    WS: One of  the interesting bonuses to studying higher education is that the faculty who teach those classes know a lot of interesting teaching techniques and they use active learning and they use student engagement. The classes end up being really interesting involved classes. That’s one of the side benefits to doing a degree in higher education.

    HB: Cool

    WS: Yeah!

    HB: I’m glad you noticed

    WS: Yeah I like it (Hunter Boylan chuckles)