One grad’s personal commitment to education informs student retention strategies

Dr. Marilyn Hamilton ’15
Photo by Greg Dohler.
Dr. Marilyn Hamilton ’15 never intended to stay in higher education. But 15 years after taking a job as an instructor at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), she’s now firmly seated in the ranks of well-respected higher education leaders, thanks, in part, to a colleague who encouraged her to pursue her PhD in Education at Walden.

Hamilton’s background was in early childhood education. She was an assistant teacher, lead teacher, center director, and consultant in that chapter of her career. She joined UDC in 1999 to set up the child development center and to teach courses in early childhood education. She returned to the university in 2004 to support the education department’s accreditation efforts. Once the program became accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, she was hired full time. But the Howard University bachelor’s and master’s graduate had no plan to pursue a PhD—until her colleague, the late Dr. Rosemary Bolig, told her about Walden University, where Bolig served as a dissertation coach and mentor.

“Rosemary just kept saying to me, ‘Marilyn, if you’re going to stay in higher ed, you need to get your doctorate,’” Hamilton recalls. “She thought Walden would be the best place for me.”

Bolig was correct. Hamilton had begun her doctorate at a traditional brick-and-mortar institution. “My parents were declining in health, and my children were young, so I couldn’t spend the time going to a face-to-face institution,” Hamilton says. “I began talking to Rosemary more about Walden and its philosophy of social change and social justice, and I decided to enroll.”

Hamilton took a year or two off to care for her parents, but she returned to her doctorate program after her mother passed away. “It was never my intention to not return, but my dissertation chair, Dr. Deborah Bauder, provided guidance and support that was extremely helpful during my leave of absence,” she says. “She understood what I was going through and kept my feet to the fire. I finished my PhD in Education in 2015.”

Having persisted through challenges as a student herself, Hamilton has made student retention a priority in her oversight of 25 associate degree and two certificate programs as dean of academic affairs at UDC Community College.

“We’re focused on making education more relevant and fitting to the needs of our students,” Hamilton says. “I’ve worked on initiatives such as Achieving the Dream, Complete College America, and Commit to Complete, which all help students with persistence, retention, and completion, encouraging them to go from their associate degrees to bachelor’s and beyond.”

Although her work now is at the community college level, she sees plenty of parallels for student retention at all levels of higher education. When asked what advice she would give other higher education administrators about student retention, Hamilton says: “There are many, many programs and initiatives out there. Pick the one that best suits your institution and modify it.”

Her most important tip is something she learned from experience when researching whether to pursue her doctorate. She talked to Bolig for months on end, but eventually, she just took the leap. “Just go ahead and do it,” Hamilton says. “There comes a point in time when you’ve done all your research and you’ve engaged everyone you needed to engage. You just have to decide to do it.”

Man sitting at latop
Whether looking for information on programs, admissions, or financial aid, we're here to help.
Whether looking for information on programs, admissions, or financial aid, we're here to help.
Talk to your personal enrollment advisor for more information today. Please use our International Form if you live outside of the U.S.
Talk to your personal enrollment advisor for more information today. Please use our Domestic Form if you live in the U.S.
*Required Field
Academic Interests
Required
Required
Contact Information
Required
Required
Invalid email address
Please provide a valid phone number
Required
Please provide a valid zipcode
Required
Additional Information
Required
Get Started

By submitting this form, I understand and agree that Walden University may contact me via email, text, telephone, and prerecorded message regarding furthering my education and that calls may be generated using automated technology. You may opt out at any time. Please view our privacy policy or contact us for more details.

Required

By checking this box, I agree that Walden University may contact me by email, text message, autodialed telephone call, and prerecorded message at the contact information provided above regarding opportunities and offers to further my education. I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time and that my consent is not a condition of any purchase. I have received the Walden University Privacy Policy