First Person: Hayden Lewis

“With my Ed.D. from ONU, I’m taking on leadership roles that wouldn’t have been open to me previously.”

January 9, 2023 Academics

“I learned what leadership looks like in many fields as an Ed.D. student at Olivet Nazarene University,” says Dr. Hayden Lewis. “My dissertation was narrowed into my field of special education. But in my cohort, I learned from a nurse practitioner, a police officer, a detective, a higher education executive, a school principal and others about how to lead wherever I am.”

Dr. Lewis started her Ed.D. studies at ONU with in-person classes in 2018. Two years into her program, the COVID-19 pandemic re-organized everyone’s world. In her final year, summer classes were all virtual, and fall classes were in person with masks. “I missed being in person with my cohort because we had grown close to one another,” she says. “We did have our big milestones in person, and I was able to defend my dissertation in person.”

Today, Dr. Lewis is a member of the leadership team at an elementary school in Nashville. As the in-house special education coach for the school, she supervises a team of six, manages schoolwide data and intervention for students in all grades, oversees reading intervention for all teachers in the school, works closely with the reading interventionists, and tracks student growth and remediation progress.

Dr. Lewis is also an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University, where she earned her Master of Education (MEd) in special education in 2018. She recently taught the “Trends and Research in Learning Disabilities” class for graduate students. Her current student teacher was one of her students in that class.

“With my Ed.D. from ONU, I’m taking on leadership roles that wouldn’t have been open to me previously,” Dr. Lewis says. “When administrators see my advanced degree, they know that I’m a hard worker and serious about my career.”

Learning about who she is as a leader was one of the most important aspects of ONU’s Ed.D. program for her. Using tests and inventories, such as CliftonStrengths and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, students discovered what positions them for leadership. “My top strength are discipline and empathy,” Dr. Lewis says. “Knowing this reinforced for me that I’m in the right field and helped me explore this part of myself in a deeper way.”

She also recalls her cohort’s coursework in how to handle difficult conversations. “We videoed ourselves handling a difficult conversation,” she says. “Those exercises reframed my approach for interpersonal communication and removed some of the stress for me.”

Connections with ONU began for Dr. Lewis with her parents and grandparents, who are ONU alumni. With her Ed.D. degree from ONU, she is now connecting personally with other alumni and finding that new doors are opening for her through those conversations. She also stays in close touch with the members of her Ed.D. cohort, who have become very good friends.

“Because of my Ed.D. educational experience with ONU, I’m much more confident in my ability to handle challenging situations,” Dr. Lewis says. “I know that I have the capability to problem solve in new ways, to communicate well and to make informed decisions.”

To learn more about the Ed.D. program, contact the Office of Admissions at or 877-465-4838.

Published: 12/5/2022

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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