Holly Cothren's graduate students give her a 'bright and positive' vision for the future of education

Holly Cothren


Please tell us a little bit about yourself and describe your background in your respective field

I am Dr. Holly Cothren and am the proud grandparent of a lively two-year-old girl and three-year-old boy. My background in Educational Leadership consists of a dozen years in the role of principal and superintendent in an Arkansas school district. I have been teaching Educational Leadership courses here at Henderson State for eight years – three years as an adjunct and five years full time. I have held many leadership positions in various associations in the state including chairperson of the State Advisory Committee for Advanc-ED, vice president of the Board of Directors of the DeQueen Mena Educational Cooperative, and president of the Arkansas Professors of Educational Leadership (ArPEL). I currently serve on the State PLC Advisory Board and the Executive Committee for ArPEL.

What is your favorite aspect of teaching?

My favorite aspect of teaching in Educational Leadership is the impact that I can have on my students and on the schools in Arkansas. I love my students and have great passion for what I do. Training the next generation of school leaders to be ethical, collaborative, empathetic, supportive, and responsible is so important to me. My favorite courses to teach deal with educational law and school and district finance.

Please share something unique about yourself that most people don’t know.

I grew up on a farm and currently live on a farm; therefore, I know how to ride a horse, tell when a cow is nearing giving birth, and drive a tractor.

What career paths do students from the graduate courses you teach typically pursue?

Our students go on to become principals, superintendents, curriculum coordinators, and special education supervisors.

Why should a student choose Henderson State to pursue a graduate degree?

At Henderson, we have synchronous online classes in which we provide excellent support and teaching for our students. We have amazing interactive discussions within the cohort. Relationships are very important to us, and we make sure that students are advised carefully and correctly. We have field- based projects that demonstrate to our students the reality of what school administrators and leaders actually do. All of our instructors are current or former practitioners which provides real life information and leadership for our students.

What are the ways a graduate degree can enhance a person’s career?

A graduate degree in Educational Leadership can allow someone to move from a teaching position to a leadership position in a school and district. It allows for leaders to reach more and more students than in a classroom. Students go on a growth journey in this program in which they develop so many leadership skills.

What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about being a professor?

Challenging: There is never enough time in the day!

Rewarding: I love to teach. It is what I was called to do. I love this profession and really enjoy helping others to love it like I do.

What advice would you give to students aspiring to seek a graduate degree?

I encourage students to always look for ways for personal and professional growth. Never say to yourself, “I could never be a principal or superintendent.” I did it, and so can you.

How can students make the most of their college experience while studying for their graduate degree at Henderson?

Students can make the most of their college experience at Henderson by being prepared for class and attending the synchronous classes. We really build collegiality in these sessions, and the students make lifelong friends.

Can you please share a brief success story related to your students or experiences at Henderson?

We have so many former students out in the field who are currently acting principals, superintendents, curriculum leaders, and special education supervisors. We have many students who have graduated with one of our specialist degrees and gone on to complete doctorates.

Who inspires you and why?

My incredible students inspire me. They give me a bright and positive vision for the future of education in Arkansas.