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Lessons from the farm and MSU classroom helped Dr. Harry Burchett become an educational leader 

embedded-news-harry-burchett-edd.webpBefore Dr. Harry Burchett (Class of 1995, 1998, 2001, 2018) went on to make an impact in his chosen field, a very literal field impacted him.  

Whether earning his Doctor of Education at Morehead State University or taking on his current superintendent position at Harrison County Schools, Burchett credits much of his success to a foundation built on his family's farm in Paintsville.  

"Growing up, I watched and later helped them work the farm to help provide for our extended family, friends, and community the fruits of that labor," Burchett said. "In high school and later in college, I learned how those farming principles also apply to just about everything in life."  

With parents and grandparents who worked in education, Burchett knew he wanted to follow them to some degree and decided to attend MSU for both its reputation as a teaching school and its affordability. His mother, Patricia Burchett, a stay-at-home mother and full-time farmer, returned to school at MSU and lived on campus with his sisters. They attended Breckinridge Training School while his mother earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1979 while he remained on the farm with his father, Leon Burchett. Patricia later served on MSU's Board of Regents from 1984-86. 

Burchett admits he came to MSU's campus one way and (eventually) left another. He did not venture out of his comfort zone for the first year-and-a-half but said he later "re-evaluated my situation and looked to expand my experiences."  

"Through participation in student activities and social clubs, I had the opportunity to grow as a leader, travel the country and expand my network in ways that had not previously been possible," he said. "I learned to appreciate the diversity of the students at MSU and value what each individual could bring to the table. I learned that together, we were much better than we were apart."  

Once Burchett earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from MSU in 1995, he worked toward a Master of Arts in Education degree and "never really stopped." He always knew he wanted to pursue a career in education administration, getting an up-close look at the process following his father, an agriculture teacher turned school administrator, through front offices, administrative spaces and boardrooms.  

"I watched my father navigate issues around the schools much like he would have on the farm," Burchett said. "He always knew where he was headed with any issue. He was proactive in his approach, and he always put the most important things first. I observed these traits, and as a result, education administration just came naturally."  

Burchett finished his Master of Arts in Education degree in 1998 while working his first full-time job in education as an instructor for Johnson County Schools as a social sciences teacher. He later earned a Professional Certificate for Instructional Leadership – Principal from MSU in 2001 and a Professional Certificate for Instructional Leadership – School Superintendent from Eastern Kentucky University in 2004.  

While furthering his education, Burchett took on more responsibilities through various roles working for Johnson County Schools, including facilities and maintenance director, assistant principal, athletic director, technology director and policy director, before being named assistant superintendent in September 2013.  

To further his growth and development as a leader, Burchett enrolled in MSU's Doctor of Education program and found it to be the perfect fit for increasing his competency while providing convenience.  

"One of the most beneficial aspects of MSU's program is that it provides a healthy balance of in-person and online learning, which allows students with work and family obligations the flexibility to work at their individual pace," he said. "The requirement to work with diverse peers from across the country creates an environment where experiences of leadership and learning are shared amongst the cohort. This provides for a deeper understanding of the issues and the need to apply a more equitable outcome benefitting all students, staff and community stakeholders."  

Burchett earned a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from MSU in 2018, shortly before he became superintendent of Harrison County Schools. Whether it was leading from the front during a typical school week or adapting to continue to educate students through the COVID-19 pandemic, he said lessons from the MSU classroom and elsewhere became crucial for success.  

"The situational leadership skills founded on the farm and formally studied at MSU were instrumental in helping to guide our students, parents, community and educational teams through the most challenging time of my 28-year career," he said.  

Burchett said he would continue to prioritize being a servant leader as superintendent while fostering a spirit of community collaboration and personal care for each student's outcomes. He said if you want to know where his heart is as an educational leader, people in the state can simply turn to a familiar phrase, which he said sank in during the "second phase" of his undergraduate years at MSU.  

"The most important lesson I learned, which also happens to be our Kentucky State Motto, is 'United We Stand & Divided We Fall,'" Burchett said. "It seems at times that our community, state and nation have forgotten about the importance of maintaining a united approach to common sense and common goals for all. Always being the optimist, I look forward to a time when we realize the importance of our state's motto once again."  

MSU's Doctor of Education program provides you with advanced educational leadership skills while conducting academic research about education. The program's overall goal is to improve the educational attainment of Eastern Kentucky residents. 

This online program allows you to tailor the degree to suit your needs. Specializations are available in: 

  • Adult and Higher Education Leadership 
  • P-12 Administrative Leadership 
  • Educational Technology Leadership 
  • Exceptional Child Leadership 

The application deadline for MSU’s Doctor of Education program is Saturday, April 1. 

To learn more about MSU's Doctor of Education program, contact Dr. Tim Simpson, associate dean and director of the program, at or 606-783-2858

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