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Darrell Cotton, doctor of education graduate

New online doctor of education program prepares graduates for inclusive leadership roles

For 20 years, Darrell Cotton climbed the ranks from history teacher to school administrator in Quaker education. Now he's poised to make an even greater impact through the University of Dayton's online doctor of education program.

After successfully navigating faculty, staff and 200 students as a headmaster through the pandemic at High Point Friends School, in High Point, North Carolina, Cotton is now principal of Steele Creek Preparatory Academy, a charter school of more than 600 students, most of them from low-income families.

"I think getting the job had everything to do with the doctoral program," Cotton said. "My background does not necessarily match the requirements of the job, but my years of experience along with this degree created the opportunity."

UD's online doctor of education program graduated its first students July 22. The program launched in 2019, reaching beyond Dayton to Cotton in North Carolina.

"Over the last several years I’ve been thinking about how I can further enhance my leadership and I was trying to find an appropriate graduate doctoral program," Cotton said. "There was something about the University of Dayton, and its emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion was particularly appealing to me. I realized the Marianist values and Friends values are very similar."

The program is rooted in the Marianist charisms of community and inclusivity. Students are encouraged to address issues in their organizations and communities from these lenses, which helped Cotton implement several initiatives at High Point Friends School. Most notably, he designed an engagement strategy for families of color to gather for meals, talk about challenges being in a predominantly white community, and build a path forward together.

"What I've been doing the last three years has all been a culminating activity that has meshed well," Cotton said. "Every class that I've taken, pretty much every paper that I've written, has helped me to frame my engagement strategy for my dissertation and my future."

Cotton said he will bring his Love Centered Model for Navigating in Moments of Doubt, which he outlined in his dissertation, to his new position. He said he hopes the model will help his new school develop its identity as a melting pot for students from various ethnicities united and  grounded in a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion.

More information about the program can be found at


News and Communications Staff