First Person: Michael Morris

“I discovered new and deeper ways to learn as the challenges of the Ed.D. program broadened my perspective on how much I still have to learn.”

January 13, 2023 Academics

“After earning my master’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University in 2002, I had a sense that there were some capabilities still dormant within me,” says Dr. Michael Morris. “I believed that the challenges and rigors of ONU’s Ed.D. program would unearth those. And that is exactly what happened for me.”

Between 2002 and 2014, Dr. Morris searched for the doctoral program that was a good fit for him. He examined many programs and talked with many graduates. In fact, he was accepted into four other programs, but due to family and career commitments, he had to delay starting his doctorate. He is grateful for that delay because ONU’s program turned out to be the perfect program for him.

“One of the greatest benefits of ONU’s program for me is how the dissertation research and coursework are done in lockstep,” he says. “This enhanced the whole learning experience, and made it highly practical and relevant for me.”

Dr. Morris also appreciates the eclectic nature of ONU’s program. Students come from many different domains and areas of influence, and they enrich the learning experience for one another. “I wasn’t expecting how my mind would be opened because of the diversity of the people in my cohort,” he says. “I love that ONU remains distinctively and unapologetically Christian, while welcoming learners of other faith backgrounds.”

Since completing the program and receiving his degree in 2017, Dr. Morris has focused on his expertise in guiding organizations in crisis. This includes consulting and serving at several academic institutions and churches spanning multiple denominations. Currently, he serves as lead pastor of one of the largest Wesleyan churches in the Southeast, managing a large ministerial and support staff, and working with many volunteers. He points to the ONU Ed.D. program as the change agent for his management style, maturity as a leader and humility in serving others.

“I learned that successful leadership begins with the realization that I will always have much to learn,” he says. “I discovered new and deeper ways to learn as the challenges of the Ed.D. program broadened my perspective on how much I still have to learn.”

In 2020, when the worlds of church and higher education changed rapidly, Dr. Morris was serving in a local church and in higher education. Equipped and ready because of his Ed.D. educational experience at ONU, he entered a whole new realm of crisis consulting for church and nonprofit leaders. He found that he was more prepared and more effective in helping them navigate the changes they were facing.

“There’s the initial flashpoint and celebration of receiving that doctoral degree,” he says. “After that, I was pleasantly surprised by how my Ed.D. degree added credibility to my areas of influence. Prior to earning my Ed.D., my expertise was backed by only personal experience and anecdotal observations. Since receiving my Ed.D., my research and highly relevant coursework have brought a level of validation to my areas of expertise that has allowed me to speak, consult, write and lead with a much greater degree of influence.”

Leadership opportunities in Christian higher education also began to be presented to Dr. Morris. Several of the candidacies were senior level positions, including university presidencies. “The dramatically changing landscape of Christian higher education made it necessary for universities to look for a different kind of leader,” Dr. Morris says. “A leader who could help them successfully navigate an incredibly challenging time and come out stronger in enrollment, development, morale of faculty and staff. I would not have even been on the radar of these universities and search firms without my Ed.D. from ONU.”

To those who are considering ONU’s Ed.D. program, Dr. Morris wants them to know that they won’t be comparing apples to apples when they compare this program with others. “With ONU’s program, you will receive a very substantial degree that is respected in all circles,” he says. “The relationships you develop through the program will continue to pay dividends. And the distinctly Christian context of the Ed.D. program at ONU adds a rich and rewarding foundation to the educational experience.”

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

Published: 11/30/2022

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

Where Your Future Begins

We Believe. You Belong Here. Discover why Olivet is a place where faith meets calling. Take the first step today.

Plan a Visit Start my Application