News Gc Administrators Earn Doctoral Degrees - Garrett College
Apply Now
Plan a Visit
Request Info
Make a Gift

Campus News

April 25th, 2023

GC administrators earn doctoral degrees

Kerns and Sisler model lifelong learning philosophy for GC students

Robert (JR) Kerns

Robert (JR) Kerns, Dean of student affairs

Kelli Sisler

Kelli Sisler, Director of analytics, IR, assessment, and marketing

Lifelong learning is at the center of the community college educational philosophy. Garrett College administrators do more than embrace that philosophy – they actively model it.

Two GC administrators – Robert (JR) Kerns and Kelli Sisler – recently completed doctoral programs in higher education. Kerns, the College's dean of student affairs, earned a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Southern Mississippi. Sisler, director of analytics, institutional research, assessment, and marketing, earned a doctorate in higher education leadership from Liberty University.

"That's a powerful message for our students," said Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College's President. "JR and Kelli lived the message we promote to our students – it's possible to fit additional education and training into busy lives when you have a clear-cut educational goal. And they both graduated with distinction."

Midcap said Kerns and Sisler selected doctoral programs that focused on "furthering their education for the benefit of our students and the college."

Kerns successfully defended his capstone – "Community College Faculty Perceptions of Their Role in Student Recruitment" – last December. His study found that community college faculty not only serve an integral role in student recruitment, but also heavily influence where students ultimately matriculate.

"Faculty at Garrett College already do an amazing job of participating in student recruitment initiatives," said Kerns. "I think the study, which included extensive interviews with faculty members, identifies ways that the college could set the standard for how other community colleges recruit students in the future.

"Student recruitment is becoming an increasingly competitive environment and we need to use all the tools at our disposal to attract students to Garrett College," added Kerns.

Sisler successfully defended her capstone – "Recommendations to Improve the Student Matriculation Success Rate from Developmental Courses to College-Level Courses at Garrett College" – in March 2022. Her dissertation research played a critical role in Garrett College's decision to transition to a corequisite course model for students not college-ready in English and math.

"Corequisite courses provide the opportunity to mainstream students into gateway heterogenous courses with an additional developmental component for remediation and supplemental support," said Sisler, who also serves as GC's accreditation liaison officer (ALO) to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Kerns holds a Juris Doctorate from the West Virginia University College of Law, a Master of Laws from Michigan State University College of Law, a Master's of Science in library science from the University of Tennessee, a Master's of Science in psychology from Nova Southeastern University, a Master's of Business Administration from Frostburg State University, and a Bachelor's of Arts in economics from the University of Louisville. He is also a licensed attorney in West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

"JR is passionate about higher education and his work has been published by many of the top law review journals across the nation," said Dr. Ryan Harrod, GC's dean of academic affairs. "He has worked extremely hard to apply what he's learned in school to help our students achieve success at Garrett College."

Sisler holds a Master's of Business Administration and a Bachelor's of Science in Chemical Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. She is also a registered 200-hour teacher with Yoga Alliance and a personal trainer with many additional group fitness class training certificates.

"Kelli teaches yoga for our athletes for their mental well-being and to prevent injuries," noted Eric Hallenbeck, GC's co-athletic director and head baseball coach. "She cares about our students' success and overall health. Kelli's main priority is seeing our students achieve their goals, and I know her doctorate will benefit our students greatly."