Introducing: Dr. Biden
By Leila Koohi
“Teaching isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am.” — Dr. Jill Biden
A not-so-recent op-ed titled Is There a Dr. in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D., by writer Joseph Epstein, published on December 11th, 2020 in the Wall Street Journal criticized Dr. Jill Biden’s “fraudulent” display of her title “Dr.” stating, “A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child.” Its words — albeit problematic on many fronts — highlight a systemic issue within workspaces surrounding the minimization of women’s professional credentials. So, in light of the op-ed’s criticisms, this piece seeks to remedy its misogynistic views of Dr. Biden’s work in the field of education, celebrating her contributions to ensuring accessible education for all. Here, we introduce the one and only, Dr. Biden.
Dr. Jill Jacobs-Biden received her Ed.D. — doctor of education — from the University of Delaware in 2007 with the her dissertation, “Student Retention at the Community College: Meeting Students’ Needs,” discussing the academic, psychological, social, and physical needs necessary to retaining community college students in the American post-secondary education system. She is a dedicated educator of 20 years and her dissertation, a hefty 130 pages of original research, text analysis, and policy recommendations is a testament to her passion. By asking four research questions relating to how post-secondary institutions can retain student retention by meeting their the academic, psychological, social, and physical needs, Dr. Biden compiled a list of questions to survey the population at Delaware Technical Community College. Her survey revealed that there are academic and financial barriers facing students at the institution, which is likely representative of the greater population of community college students across the United States, while also providing policy recommendations to mend the gaps in which students are falling through. To do so, as Dr. Biden states, “requires diligence and effort — but most of all, leadership.”
It is clear that Dr. Biden has followed through on her commitment to improving student retention through her own position of leadership. As Second Lady from 2009 to 2017, Dr. Biden continued to teach as a full-time English professor at Northern Virginia Community College and hosted events to spotlight the importance of community colleges in the United States; in 2010, Dr. Biden hosted the first White House Summit on Community Colleges and ran the a Community College to Career Bus Tour in 2012 while maintaining the position as honourary chair of the College Promise National Advisory Board. Now, transitioning into her position as First Lady with the election of her spouse, Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden assured in a White House profile that she would continue to advocate for community colleges and their students.
The op-ed as published in the Wall Street Journal, Is There a Dr. in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D., frames Dr. Biden as being a “lesser than” professional when she is, in reality, an incredibly educated individual worthy of her title. Dr. Biden’s thesis as a Ed.D. candidate and work during her time as Second Lady exemplify her unyielding faith in the community college network and in its students, serving as a role model to prove that a title or school name means little in the grand scheme of one’s educational journey. Sure, her degree may not serve useful in childbirth, but her doctoral work and contributions to the field of education will produce generations upon generations of M.D.’s that can in her stead.