I researched several schools prior to enrolling in AIU. Few universities offered the Ph.D. in legal studies and I held on to AIU information for at least a year before finally enrolling. My impressions are both accolades and in a form I hope will be taken as constructive criticism.
I knew what I wanted to do (become an expert in the dynamics of self-represented parties in divorce). AIU’s Phase II, Curriculum Design, allowed me to create the program that would do that. Having been a Sociology professor for more than 10 years prior to designing my curriculum, I was prepared to go about it, but that might be tough for some. AIU did not offer any criticism or direction to modify the proposal I submitted, but I have no doubt that I’d have gotten help if I needed it.
My advisor’s background was excellent for my curriculum. She had engaged in the kind of research (legal issues related to domestic violence) I was doing and understood the kinds of dynamics that I was researching in my studies. I even cited one of her academic papers in one of mine. I appreciated her feedback and it made my work better. I did not like lesser qualified individuals grading my work. On one occasion someone ran my work through TurnItIn.com and suggested that too much had not been my work (I will give them credit for excellent diplomacy in their critique). Fortunately, as a professor myself I have had training in use of TurnItIn.com and Plagerism.com and was able to point out the errors in that analysis (or failure to analyze as was the case) and AIU accepted the paper.
I could never have finished this program without the self-paced format. I am a busy professional—I ghost write for attorneys, I teach part time for two major U.S. Universities, I mediate divorce and during the program I had to start managing my business. Amidst it all it took me 5 years to complete my program. Part of why it took so long was because during the program my wife was diagnosed with brain cancer. AIU was very understanding and did not pressure me to complete the program. Staff was always friendly and expressed appropriate empathy for my situation.
After 3 years AIU did however exempt me from the Thesis portion of my program, which I completed anyway. AIU provided it’s reasons for doing so, but regardless, I believe that the Thesis is too integral a part of the program to exempt it in any circumstance (It certainly was in my case where I had planned it to utilize prior learning as a capstone to the original research I did to become an expert in the needs of self-represented parties). I am proud of my Thesis—it is doctoral level work like none other I have done to date– and believe the Judicial Council of California will be taken aback by both what I did as well as the results.
Completion of my Ph.D. was a lifelong goal. The program of study that I wanted was unique. So unique that I couldn’t have done it without designing it myself. AIU enabled me to do that in a way that no other university could and gave me the time to do it well.
Mark L. Watkins