She thought it wasn't possible, but Dearing Elementary Principal Laura Hughes has fulfilled a lifelong goal. The principal has earned her Doctorate in Education from Georgia Southern University.
"Actually it had been a lifelong goal of mine to get my doctorate, and I didn't think it would ever happen," Dr. Hughes said. "I didn't think I would go to college, I didn't think I wanted to.... I just thought it was going to be too hard, that it was something that I couldn't get through."
There aren't too many options for getting a doctorate in the area, according to Dr. Hughes. She said at the University of Georgia, students are required to live on campus and meet other requirements which aren't feasible for a married, working mother of three children. It wasn't until Georgia Southern offered a satellite program at Augusta State University that Dr. Hughes saw her dream become a possibility.
Her dissertation was on the philosophy of ethics in Georgia elementary principals.
"It's such a value-laden and energy-charged subject, but I finally made it specific enough to talk to principals and find out what they thought about it," she said of the challenges she faced with her topic.
Dr. Hughes emailed a survey to every elementary principal in Georgia, and said she found the results very interesting. The results confirmed her original opinion that principals are not trained in ethical leadership, but most have been influenced by role models along the way.
"The overwhelming response was that principals have to model ethical behavior, and that if we're not modeling it, then it's pretty hard to expect it. So now I really try very hard to practice what I preach," she said.
Dr. Hughes doesn't expect the accomplishment to affect her professional career further.
"I love my job, and I love this county," she said. "I have no desire to do anything else. (Getting the doctorate) is just something that I did for me."
On the home front, Dr. Hughes said her husband, Mike, is now considering furthering his education "because he can't stand that I have more education that he does." Her children - Logan, 6, Sarah, 9, and Megan, 20, sometimes call her "Dr. Mom."
Her dissertation was dedicated to her mother in Florida, who also has her doctorate in education and was the inspiration behind Dr. Hughes' life-long goal. One change that Dr. Hughes did expect after her accomplishment has yet to take place.
"It's funny, I just imagined that I would have so much more free time, and I haven't seen that free time yet," she said with a laugh.
The faculty at Dearing Elementary threw a party in Dr. Hughes' honor. She said "they've been very supportive, they are just awesome." They gave her a plaque and a name-plate and made a "huge" sign for her office door. Dr. Hughes said the whole event has been fun.
"I just want people to know that they really can do anything if they put their mind to it. It seems like such a daunting task, but if you just take it one step at a time, you get through it," the new Doctor said. "I'm just proud of myself that I did it."