Many Paths: Austin’s Story
By Nicole Sweeney Etter
Austin Floyd of Sumter, South Carolina, had never been to Wisconsin when he applied to Alverno. But in his search for an online education doctoral program with a spring start date, he stumbled on Alverno’s new online EdD program. The program’s flexibility and concentration in higher education leadership was just what he wanted. The hitch: The deadline to apply was that same day. He rushed to complete his application.
“I’m a single dad and a full-time worker, and as someone who is invested in my own community and other programs, I needed something that was flexible so I could work on school all night if I needed to, or wake up early, or do it on my lunch hour,” notes Floyd, who works for the South Carolina Technical College System as a Student Services and Strategic Initiatives Coordinator in the Academics, Student Affairs, and Research Division.
Floyd seriously considered two other online graduate programs, but he was won over by Alverno’s accelerated model, which will allow him to graduate in two years instead of three. It was like a marriage of convenience that turned out to be true love.
“I was actually a little skeptical of Alverno at first, but it has been the most amazing experience,” he says. “What makes Alverno distinct is the assessment model and its commitment to doing what’s effective, not what’s supposed to be or thought to be right or traditional. Alverno is wedded to impact and effectiveness, not tradition and history.”
Floyd often applies what he learns in class to his day job in real time, whether it’s courses about equity or education policy. “It’s absolutely applicable to what I’m doing now,” he says. “It’s about being transformative and thinking of innovative solutions so students can bring their whole selves to the classroom.”
He enrolled in Alverno before COVID, but he appreciated the EdD program’s flexibility all the more once the pandemic hit and his 9-year-old son shifted to virtual learning, too. “We’re going to do our work all day, side by side, at the same table,” he’d tell his son as he opened his laptop to work on his dissertation.
Although Floyd lives nearly 1,000 miles from Alverno’s campus, he still feels close to his classmates and his faculty advisor, Desiree Pointer-Mace. It helped that his cohort, which includes students scattered across several states, got to know each other through a weekend residency at Alverno at the start of the program. “I love my cohort,” he says. “There are 13 of us, and we text daily or every other day. We text our assignments, professional development opportunities, questions, encouragement, and even congratulations when things are going well with our jobs. We’ve had virtual happy hours and some of us have even exercised together virtually. We are really tight-knit, and we rely on each other.”
Through a year that has been difficult for everyone, Floyd is grateful that he has continued moving forward.
“God is what makes it possible for me to pursue this program and be a good father,” Floyd says. “He is the one who sustains, creates and elevates any successes that I have.”
Floyd will graduate in December, and he hopes his doctorate will help him achieve his goal of eventually becoming a vice president of student services. As a first-generation college student whose parents earned GEDs, Floyd is passionate about student success. His dissertation is titled “Being Black at Tech: System and Success Characteristics for Black Males in Community College.”
“It focuses on the experiences of successful Black male students …something that hasn’t been given too much attention,” he notes.
Floyd’s desire to make a positive impact extends beyond higher education. He also aspires to one day serve as a U.S. senator for South Carolina. “I want to impact law and policy,” he says. “I want to help people who come from diverse backgrounds or have been systemically excluded from opportunity and awareness of how life can look different than the one they’re living.”
This article appears in the spring/summer 2021 issue of Alverno Magazine.