DBA Student Story-CUAA

This DBA Student Story features Jennifer Kowal, a doctoral student concentrating on Organizational Performance and Change in the Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) program at Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. Outside of her education, she manages a full-time job and is a wife and a mother of three young adult children. She hopes to inspire and motivate others by sharing her academic experience.

Discover a little about Jennifer’s background and what led her to enroll in our DBA program.

Tell us about yourself

Hello, my name is Jennifer Kowal and I’m a student in the DBA program in Cohort #2 at CUWAA. I’m currently 5/12th done with the program, but who is counting? In addition to being a student, I’m a wife and mother of two college students, a high school student, and a full-time professional. Yes, I have a lot on my plate but I am determined to earn my DBA.

Why was now the right time to become a student again?

Well, simply put I have always wanted to be a Dr. It is an achievement I have wanted to conquer. However, I was unsure what kind of Doctorate or Ph.D. it would be, though certainly not a medical degree. Everything came together in the fall of 2021. Before I knew it, I was committed to making this goal happen. I started with some online research and found the DBA degree pretty quickly.

The DBA sounded familiar and maybe a bit comfortable since it is so close to the MBA. So, I continued my discovery by looking for schools that offered a DBA. I filled out forms for a few universities online. Within a week, I had scheduled introductory calls. As you can see, I can move pretty quickly in my decisions, once I know what I want.

The introduction calls with a few universities validated which DBA program was right for me. Also, from those conversations I knew which university would be the best fit.

What made you choose CUWAA’s DBA program?

I chose the DBA program at CUWAA because it checked all the boxes. Also, the decision just felt right. Follow your heart and gut, as it’s often said.

Two main criteria for me were the number of residencies and the cohort model. I knew I needed some on-campus time, but not too frequently. Furthermore, I knew I wanted the community offered by the cohort model in CUWAA’s DBA program. Within a couple of months, my acceptance letter arrived and I embraced being a student again in all ways.

What is your research focus?

My research focuses on motivation, curiosity, and a growth-oriented mindset in organizational development at the individual level. CUWAA’s Organizational Performance and Change concentration is teaching me to apply methods and theories for improving performance at all levels of an organization.

Describe the DBA program in your own words

The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program aims to develop individuals into scholar-practitioners. A scholar-practitioner integrates academic learning with practical experience in their chosen field of study. DBA students use theoretical knowledge and academic expertise to improve their practical work. Their valuable work experience also informs how they apply academic knowledge.

Students come from various fields, including education, business, and public policy. They typically possess a terminal degree and significant practical experience in their area of expertise.

What is a DBA scholar-practitioner exactly?

I like to think of being a scholar-practitioner as a bridge. On one side of the bridge is your day job, your work, your profession. On the other side is academic research. The DBA program develops its students to be that bridge, the conduit, between the practice of one’s profession and research. The bridge, in my mental model, is built with Legos and each scholar-practitioner adds more Legos to the body of knowledge in their field. Thereby strengthening both the academic and practitioner sides.

One aspect of being a scholar-practitioner that I find exciting is the opportunity to engage in research, evaluation, and critical analysis. I get to contribute to the development of new knowledge in my field. I’ll explain more about this opportunity in future articles.

The DBA program also opened up to me a whole new community of like-minded individuals committed to bridging the gap between theory and practice in their respective fields.

Any words of wisdom?

Here’s a quote from my cohort during our first residency. It sums up the program and is a daily reminder that some things, like this program, need to be challenging.

A terminal degree is so much more than a degree.  It can break you down to your most vulnerable form but has the potential to build you back together to become a resilient, determined, humble, and knowledgeable researcher.  This process takes time and patience.  Please don’t give up on yourself.  It’s not just about getting the degree.  It’s about becoming who you are meant to be.

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