Video by Katy Hennig
The DBA at USF is a unique program that is well suited for top-level business owners and executives who are looking to continue their educational growth as well as contribute that research back into their professions.
“Our goal is to really bridge that gap between academics and practice,” said DBA program director Grandon Gill. The 27 participants in the DBA class come from a diverse range of high-level backgrounds, building the integrity of the program.
“We’re delighted that half of the people in the program are CEO’s of their own company so these are people that are not only able to make decisions but actually be able to implement them in a real work situation,” said Gill. We also have chief financial officers, controllers, chief information officers, or chief technology officers across a whole variety of industries.”
Work experience and time spent as executives and managers in the professional world are factors for entry to the program, but do not account for the anxiety that comes with returning to school for a new challenge.
“We were all laughing because of the night before jitters of going back to school, still the same.” said Rebecca Smith.
Smith is the president of The A.D. Morgan Corporation, which she founded in 1989, and says she is thrilled to be a part of the first class to participate in the program. Smith based the decision to go back to college to pursue a doctorate on a dream that she has always had to return to school to continue her education.
“You know it’s interesting because when you start a business or you’re in business, you get away from the academics where you theorize, you get into a routine of applying what you know,” said Smith. “But as the world gets bigger, as we grow older and see that the world is a big place, it’s so necessary to continue thinking about thinking.”
Smith is not alone in chasing after a lifelong goal; all of the students enrolled in the inaugural class of the DBA program are in highly successful careers and are returning to the academic world for similar reasons.
James Stikeleather is the chief innovation officer for Dell computers and recognizes the importance of keeping up with the evolution of technology and how that applies to the business world.
“One of the things that I wanted to do was to come back and improve my ability to actually do research, to critically analyze the research; to develop my skills on communicating the results of that research,” Stikeleather said. “It’s going to be interesting because I think more than ever before that need to marry practitioner with academician is critical and I just hope I’m up to it.”
The program is an intensive three-year research and analytics track, encouraging innovative development and application of that knowledge. As experienced learners, the students are determined to get back into the swing of learning, collaborating and contributing, bringing with them a new perspective this time around.
“A real consideration is maybe with all of the experience, with all the gray hairs, or in my case the fewer gray hairs,” said Stikeleather. “Maybe I can do it better, or if nothing else I will do it differently than I would have if I had gone straight through.”