“I made the decision to follow a PhD program… in addition to other full-time responsibilities. This decision was not taken lightly or without guidance from people I trust. In this article I was asked to share my experience for other working professionals who might consider a similar path.”
In our competitive world, letters behind our name signify that we have been “vetted” as having achieved a benchmark of excellence. There is a personal validation that goes along with the process. However, an academic journey is much more significant. Education engenders a powerful drive to change the status quo. Courage, wisdom, compassion – these attributes come from a mind that has embraced new knowledge. In other words, pursuing higher learning is a hero’s journey. In so doing, those who choose this path inspire others to follow their lead.
Many graduates have expressed a need to return to studies. Once they cross the stage to receive their diploma, they go through a grieving process. They miss the rich and rewarding “feeling” of learning, of connecting with other like-minded students. Most of all, they wish they had access to professors who have given them a taste of what is possible. They no longer are interested in mediocrity. Perhaps that is why MBA graduates are seriously entertaining the thought of pursuing a PhD.
CFAME Connection reached out to Grant Sullivan, one of our long standing CFAME professors and a CFAME Connection contributor, to share his thoughts on his PhD experience. Grant is mid-way through completing a PhD at Dalhousie while working full time as an executive in the private and public sectors.
Grant Sullivan: My PhD Experience
If you are reading this article, you likely believe that Professional Development is part of a healthy career. Many of us believe that Universities offer quality professional development with the added benefit of a clear milestone to be achieved – the degree. Whether you sign up for job requirement, recognition, and/or personal interest, the achievement of such a milestone is often one of the most rewarding moments of our careers.
Precisely because it is so difficult to juggle work, personal and self-development schedules, the achievement of a graduate degree, while working, is a worthy challenge. While there is no doubt that full time attendance and focus towards a degree optimizes the learning and experience, many quality applicants do not have the opportunity or interest in disconnecting from their other responsibilities.
In my course intensives with fellow professionals taking their MBA’s we often discuss these challenges and the light at the end of that tunnel (graduation). Most look forward to the day when they can rebalance their time allotments to other activities, but many wonder if they will again feel the need to stretch themselves in a similar way in future.
Recently, I made the decision to follow a PhD program. Again, for me, this is in addition to other full-time responsibilities. This decision was not taken lightly or without guidance from people I trust. In this article I was asked to share my experience for other working professionals who might consider a similar path.
Most large departments within a University offer a Doctorate program covering their specific discipline. My choice of program was the Interdisciplinary PhD program. This allows for a highly customized program of study tailored to suit the specific topic of interest.
I find the PhD program a bit different from other pursuits in that it is much more about following in depth a topic of great personal interest. In essence, you seek to teach a course, rather than receive instruction on it from others. To do this, you need to learn the best information related to your topic and research new information that creates enhanced understanding of the topic.
Most large departments within a University offer a Doctorate program covering their specific discipline. My choice of program was the Interdisciplinary PhD program. This allows for a highly customized program of study tailored to suit the specific topic of interest. Following this path requires a committee from multiple faculties that can effectively work together.
The admissions process is typically straight forward but with extensive administration to validate your qualification and the specific requirements of your program of study.
The committee is the group of typically 3-5 trusted faculty that guide you in the program requirements and help – immensely – with guidance and support as you conduct and begin to publicize your research. Selection of a committee is very important with some initial commitments required as a final part of the admissions process.
The admissions process is typically straight forward but with extensive administration to validate your qualification and the specific requirements of your program of study. The general process is to complete some courses – typically with a focus on research methodology and initial research into your topic area. Then, you follow one of several processes to establish (defend) your research aptitude. Finally, with that established you seek to publish a Thesis adding new knowledge to your field.
Your personal passion for a specific topic and the guidance from your committee should help to align these elements naturally. Typical completion of a doctorate program is 3-6 years.
As with many endeavors you can do yourself many favours by aligning the deliverables of one phase to the requirements of the next. Thus, the research and reports from your courses can form sections of your research proposals and your research to prove aptitude can form part of the thesis. Your personal passion for a specific topic and the guidance from your committee should help to align these elements naturally. Typical completion of a doctorate program is 3-6 years. While there is significant work involved in the process, the enlightenment that flows from an ancient process, a new community of peers, and the deep understanding of your topic of interest are their own rewards.
For those of you who would consider such a path, I have found it time consuming but satisfying. Having chosen a topic of general interest there are also several opportunities for media inquiries and other public presentations. My area of research is in the influencers to global enterprises transporting work into regions of lower population density such as Atlantic Canada. So, while my journey is incomplete, I look forward to leveraging the work I have done in my Doctorate program to help shape the next phase of my career.
I hope this information is useful as you chart your own course.
Grant has been a part-time professor at Dalhousie for over 15 years teaching Project Management, Electronic Commerce, Marketing Informatics, and Information Systems. Currently, Grant leads a Federal Government program helping firms in Atlantic Canada improve and execute their Innovation Agenda. CFAME Connection is delighted to advise that Grant has graciously agreed to share his research in future posts
Maria Artuso says
Grant, thank you for sharing your journey publicly. I too am considering this next phase or step in my professional career, and am trying to find balance in the ‘how’, and of course, the ‘what’ to gain most satisfaction, and engagement. Thank you Rebecca for sharing this story. I am seriously considering this opportunity through DAL…stay tuned. I need to find my footings…but will be in touch.
I am delighted that you are considering taking the next step on your academic journey. Will keep in touch!