Debbie Thomas had always loved horses so, at the age of 52, she followed her passion, sold her Century 21 real estate business and enrolled in William Woods University’s undergraduate equestrian science program.
Now she’s one of three students who have completed the requirements for WWU’s new online Master of Education degree in equestrian education. She, along with Rachael Thomas of Ocala, Florida, and Laura Weatherspoon of Collinsville, Illinois, will receive their degrees during WWU’s winter commencement Saturday, Dec. 13.
Caroline Boyer Ferhat, the recipient of the 2014 Louis D. Beaumont Dad’s Association Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching, will be the commencement speaker during the 10 a.m. ceremony in Cutlip Auditorium.
Weatherspoon, who earned a B.S. degree from WWU in December 2010, rode her first horse when she was about 4. She began raising,
breeding, showing and selling Clydesdales at the age of 21, and says “This is definitely where my passion lies.”
“I decided to pursue this online degree because it fit with my busy lifestyle,” she said. “I love to travel and this gave me the freedom to do all my work on the internet from anywhere in the world … I would like to use my master’s degree to dive back into the pharmaceutical market as an international manager in the animal health division.”
Debbie Thomas, who lives in the Hartsburg/Ashland area of Missouri, started riding at age 6 and owned her first horse at 10. She even owned a 35-stall barn for eight years.
“I had all the tools, but didn’t have the degree,” she says now. “I had owned horses and I had shown horses; I sought my degree with the intention to teach.”
Rachael Thomas, too, plans to use her degree to teach, perhaps at the college-level. She has been teaching and training in the hunter/jumper area since she graduated from WWU with a
B.S. in 1999.
William Woods developed the online Master of Education degree in equestrian education, the first of its kind in the country, to meet the growing need for accredited faculty in today’s equestrian education industry.
The program was designed to help students acquire a number of skills: teaching and learning, improvement of instruction, curriculum construction, management of equestrian program resources, equestrian program development, instructional design for equestrian education, understanding and responding to current issues, application of instructional theories and strategies using technology, and action research.
Altogether 491 graduates will be recognized at this December ceremony. A total of 355 December degrees will be conferred. Another 136 graduates whose degrees were conferred in August are eligible to participate in the winter ceremony. A combined total of 887 students in all disciplines have graduated from WWU in the past 12 months.
Degrees earned by December and August graduates combined are three Associate of Arts, 11 Bachelor of Arts, one Bachelor of Fine Arts, 73 Bachelor of Science, 64 Master of Business Administration (MBA), 230 Master of Education (M.Ed.), 103 Education Specialist (Ed.S.) and six Doctor of Education degrees.
In addition to graduating seniors from the Fulton campus, students from cohorts in 29 Missouri communities will receive their diplomas: Adrian, Blue Springs, Camdenton, Cameron, Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Cosby, Eminence, Fulton, Hannibal, Hermann, Jefferson City, Joplin, Kearney, Kirksville, Lesterville, Liberty, Memphis, Moberly, Monett, Nevada, Poplar Bluff, Rolla, Sedalia, Springfield, Stockton, Warrensburg, Washington and West Plains.
The commencement speaker, Boyer Ferhat, is an assistant professor of psychology at WWU and chair of the arts and behavioral sciences division. She joined the William Woods faculty in 2011.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, cum laude, at Ursinus College in 2007 and a Ph.D. in applied developmental psychology with an emphasis in cognitive and early childhood development from George Mason University in May 2011.