Vanessa McRae

Just because you don’t have face-to-face interaction doesn’t mean that you can’t ask questions when you don’t understand and receive answers that will be truly helpful.


Walden University


Master of Public Administration, Albany State University (2011), Bachelor of Business Administration, Georgia Southwestern University (2009)


PhD in Human Services




Why did you decide to attend Walden University to get your PhD degree in human services?

I chose to attend Walden University for my PhD in human services because Walden’s mission as a school is to bring about social change. This mission corresponds with my own personal and academic goals.

I did consider attending other universities, but I after I talked with students who went to Walden and read more about the school, I thought that it would be the best place for me.

What are your school’s biggest strengths?

I have been very pleased with my experience at Walden, so in my opinion there are too many strengths to name. The enrollment process was great, the professors are wonderful, and the resources that the school provides are comprehensive. I wouldn’t trade my experience at Walden for the world.

Do you view Walden University as a community?

Yes, I do view Walden as a community. My program in human services requires students to attend residencies. At the residencies, I have the chance to meet other students in my program who are from all over the world. We keep in touch through e-mail, phone calls and Facebook.

Does Walden University have brick-and-mortar campuses?

No, Walden University does not have brick-and-mortar campuses.


How are you paying for college?

I am paying for my PhD in human services with student loans. Walden University charges students in my program per credit hour. Each credit hour costs about $500 and each class is worth 5 credit hours. In addition to the course fees, we have technology fees that run about $90 per term.

How helpful was your school in assisting your financial aid process?

Walden was very helpful with my financial aid process. Since I had already attended 2 other degree programs, I was familiar with the financial aid process. But Walden did have an advisor who was there to answer my questions.

Do you feel like your overall cost of education is more or less than the cost of a degree at a traditional institution?

I think that my PhD in human services at Walden University costs a little more than it would if I attended a similar program at a brick-and-mortar institution. But I think that the cost is well worth the knowledge that I am gaining.

Admissions Requirements

Can you describe the admissions process from start to finish?

Usually, the admissions process requires an application and an application fee. I submitted an application but because I was invited to attend a webinar, my application fee was waived. My application included a personal statement and transcripts from the previous colleges that I had attended.

What did you write about in your personal statement?

In my personal statement, I wrote about my goals for the PhD program and why I thought that Walden University was the right school for me. I also wrote about what I hope to do with my degree once I graduate.

How many letters of recommendation did you submit in your application?

My application to Walden University didn’t require letters of recommendation.

Do you have any insight on how Walden University weighs the different parts of an admissions application?

I think that the biggest thing that Walden looks for when they are evaluating applicants is how well potential students will fit in with Walden’s mission. It is a school centered on social change, so their goal is to graduate students who will go on to make a difference in the world.

During the admissions process, did you interact with an admissions advisor?

Yes I did interact with an admissions advisor while I was going through the admissions process. My admissions advisor was very helpful and called me every day of the week when I was working on my application.

Classroom Experience

How is class material presented?

Class material is presented through an online portal called MyWalden. Students log in and view a screen that shows all of the classes they are taking. Each class is organized by week and has a discussion board, course applications and an area where you can correspond privately with the professor. MyWalden also gives students access to the online library, Walden’s researching and writing centers, and other online resources.

We can log in to our classes at any time, day or night. We have to turn in our assignments at specific times, but otherwise we can complete our work when our personal schedules allow it.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of this style of presentation?

The biggest benefit to this style of presentation is being able to access my coursework whenever my schedule allows. I don’t have to work around my professor’s schedule, as long as I turn my assignments in on time.

Each week of every course also comes with a thorough description of that week’s material, and the instructions are direct and helpful. I haven’t found any drawbacks to the way that course material is presented or organized.

Are you able to stay engaged in your online coursework?

Yes, I have been able to stay very engaged in my online classes. I participate in a mentoring program, which means that if I have a question, I will post it to my mentor and to the group of students who are also participating in the mentoring program. The mentor responds to the question and decides if it would be a good idea to arrange for a conference call so that students can hold an extended discussion and ask more questions.

Do your professors encourage class participation?

The main way that instructors encourage class discussion is through posting questions and responses to the discussion board. Students are also required to respond to each other on the discussion board. We can’t just skim each others’ posts. We have to think about what other students write and compose a thoughtful response.

What method of communication do you use to keep in touch with your professors?

I communicate with my instructors through e-mail and phone calls. Recently, I was working on a paper and kept second-guessing myself about my research. I finally called my instructor and talked it over with him. He gave me the confidence to submit the paper.

Can you rate the faculty on a scale of Excellent, Good, Average, Poor, Extremely Poor, in terms of:

Criteria Rating Reasons
Overall  Excellent Instructors go out of their ways to give thorough responses to my questions and papers.
Qualifications Excellent My instructors have degrees in their fields and lifetimes worth of experience.
Knowledgeable Excellent My instructors are very knowledgeable about their areas of expertise.
Lectures 1) Content: Excellent

2) Clarity: Excellent

The lectures in my human services PhD program are interesting and relevant to the course topics.
Assignments 1)Relevance: Excellent

2)Reasonable: Good

3)Clarity: Good

4)Assistance Provided: Excellent

5)Feedback Given: Excellent

Assignments are challenging and interesting. I have received very thorough feedback on my assignments.
Grading Excellent My instructors have given me the opportunity to improve in order to earn a higher grade.
Responsiveness  Excellent Instructors have always responded to my e-mails and phone calls within a day.
Reliability  Excellent My instructors have always been there when I needed assistance.
Interest taken in class as a whole Excellent Instructors are enthusiastic about the topics that they teach.
Interest taken in student as an individual Excellent Many of my instructors have gone above and beyond to give me attention and feedback when I have asked for it.

What resources does Walden University provide to help you succeed in the classroom?

I have used Walden’s online library while I have studied in my PhD program for human services, and Walden also offers a writing and tutoring center. If I am having trouble with a paper or would like feedback, I can submit the paper to the writing center and a tutor will read my paper and give me feedback.

What advice would you give to students to help them succeed in an online classroom?

My first piece of advice for other online students is to not be afraid. Many students are fearful of online learning, but once you get used to the system, you will excel.

I also advise you to realize that you need to manage your time and take your online coursework seriously. Unlike what many people believe, studying online is not easier than attending on-campus classes.

And finally, I advise other students to ask questions. Just because you don’t have face-to-face interaction doesn’t mean that you can’t ask questions when you don’t understand and receive answers that will be truly helpful.


Why did you choose to enroll in your human services program?

I decided to enroll in my human services PhD program because I want to counsel individuals who have been incarcerated. I would like to open a non-profit organization that helps to train recently released inmates in vocational skills so that they can lead healthy and productive lives.

Does your program include a dissertation component?

Walden’s PhD program in human resources does require a dissertation. Right now I am in the process of submitting my dissertation proposal. I also participate in a mentoring program that supports students through the dissertation process, and my mentor reviews my dissertation project as I work on it.

Are you given an advisor to assist you through the dissertation process?

We have a mentor and a dissertation committee chair who support us through the dissertation process. My mentor is part of a special program that I participate in with other students to gain targeted support on my dissertation. My committee chair will be a faculty member who I choose to lead my dissertation committee.

Does your program have a residency requirement?

Yes, my PhD program in human services at Walden University requires students to attend 4 residencies. We can choose the location of our residencies, and it is a great opportunity to meet other students in my program as well as my professors.

I attended a residency recently, and it included different session on writing, researching, and various resources that we have available to us at Walden.

If you were to do it again, would you sign up for Walden University’s PhD program in human services?

Yes, I would absolutely sign up again for Walden University’s PhD program in human services. I have been thrilled by the opportunities I have had to learn and to expand my knowledge. I can’t think of anything that I would want to change about my experience so far.


What general advice would you give to a student who is considering a PhD in human services at Walden University?

My advice for a student who is thinking about attending Walden University for a PhD in human services is to be honest with the admissions advisors about your goals and interests. When you visit Walden’s website, you can fill out a survey and an admissions advisor will contact you. When you speak with them on the phone, you should be open and honest rather than telling them what you think they want to hear. If you do this, they will be better able to match you with a program that fits your strengths and interests.