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Posts from the ‘Doctoral Programs’ Category

NCU Student Profile: Education Is a Marathon Not a Sprint

BY: MARISSA POULSON

Sheila Thomas (Ed.D., Higher Education Leadership, candidate) has nearly 30 years of experience in higher education, working at both public and private institutions. During her career, she has been able to combine her passion for education with her interest in professional development.

NCU student Sheila Thomas is the State University Dean of Extended Education at the California State University Chancellor's Office.

NCU student Sheila Thomas is the State University Dean of Extended Education at the California State University Chancellor’s Office.

“My area of expertise is continuing education,” explains Thomas. “My current position [is] State University Dean of Extended Education at the California State University Chancellor’s Office.  I am responsible for facilitating workforce development, strategic communication, policy review [plus] advocating for extended and continuing education.”

While many academic administrators get their start in the classroom, and move through faculty ranks to dean and provost, Thomas, who earned her B.A. in Communications from Azusa Pacific University and her M.A. in Humanities from Cal State Dominguez Hills, never had a real interest in teaching.

“I think teaching and administration are both rewarding careers,” admits Thomas. “But for me, I like helping people. I think of my office as ‘information central’ and my staff and I do our best to answer questions and provide information.”

Educational conversations today often center on how higher education institutions are preparing students for the workforce, and Thomas’ office is at the forefront of facilitating solutions.

“I enjoy interacting with the workforce development community in the field and building… valuable partnerships,” she says.

“I have [also] made professional development for emerging leaders a priority,” adds Thomas, who serves on state and national boards and is active in professional associations, including the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, Association of Continuing Higher Education, American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, and the National Professional Science Masters Association.

When it came to her own professional development and earning that coveted doctorate, Thomas relied on her experience working for an array of higher education institutions, including her current role at the largest university system in the country. Her calculated approach to finding the right school included the necessary combination of quality, flexibility and affordability.

“Having worked in higher education my entire career, I know the importance of regional accreditation,” states Thomas. “I also needed a program that was online and had flexible scheduling, and that I could pay for every month without needing student loans.”

Thomas began her journey at NCU in 2007 when she enrolled part-time. While her progress has been slow and steady, she’s thrilled to have made it to the dissertation stage.

“My dissertation is entitled Defining a Successful Leadership Pathway: Women in the Academy and the Role of Institutional Support,” shares Thomas. “I’m really enjoying my research and I love the fact that my program fits well with my current position and career goals. I can use the information and my research immediately in my job.”

So what would be her advice to students when it comes to staying engaged and motivated in a program (or extensive project like a dissertation) over a long period of time?

“I learned early on that pursing a doctorate is a marathon not a sprint. There are stops and starts along the way, and sometimes you feel you are taking steps backward. I have tried to keep my goal firmly in mind and visualize that diploma hanging over my desk,” explains Thomas. “And…have a plan for your education. If you are in a doctoral program, choose a dissertation topic that you are passionate about and can sustain your interest [in],” she adds.

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

NCU Alumni Profile: Failure is Not a Career Option

BY: MARISSA POULSON

V Morrison 1

Commander Valerie Morrison completed her D.B.A. in 2013.

Commander Valerie Morrison (D.B.A., 2013) joined the Navy Nurse Corps as an Officer Candidate in the Bachelor Degree Completion Program with a long range goal: obtaining her master’s degree.

“My father dropped out of school to enlist in the Army during WWII and my mom only had some technical schooling as a secretary after high school,” shares Morrison, “but both of my parents were adamant that the five of us kids would go to college.”

In 1991, Morrison completed her bachelor’s degree and was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy Nurse Corps.  Eleven years later, she achieved her original goal, earning her Master of Science in Management from the Naval Postgraduate School.

While at school, Morrison had been inspired by a retired naval officer with a D.B.A. “He always brought examples from his consulting work with the City of Salinas to his policy course,” she recalls. “He was the example of how I wanted to advance my education.”

A year later, she attended an educational fair while working at Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Fla., and knew NCU’s online format would provide the flexibility she needed to obtain her doctorate. She enrolled in the D.B.A. in Management program and started her coursework in 2003. By 2009, she was working on her dissertation proposal when she was deployed to Kuwait.

Morrison was ready for it, but just four months later, her deployment ended abruptly and she returned to the States, her head swirling.

“It is difficult to explain how much mental preparation you make in order to deploy (leaving a then 2-year-old and 5-year-old with your husband and mother-in-law).  Reintegration is a very real challenge for military families…including mine,” she admits.

In fact, it seemed that her NCU coursework was the one constant in her life so she jumped back into it. Instead of progressing like she planned, however, she earned her first “U” grade, which led to an elongated leave of absence from NCU (“to get my head together”).

Morrison returned to NCU in 2010, around the same time she was selected for a great career opportunity as the Executive Assistant to the Director of the Navy Nurse Corps—a two-star Admiral.

“Working for the top nurse in the Navy is an awesome thing, but it also required many hours and lots of travel,” she says. “However, failure was not an option.”

That commitment was tested again, when in late 2011, Morrison was diagnosed with a cancerous sinus tumor.  While the surgery was a great success, precautionary radiation treatments packed a punch she wasn’t expecting.

“Being a nurse, I thought I would end the radiation treatments, be tired for about two weeks, and go about my happy way, but I was tired! Luckily, I was able to take an extended time off from work and put 100 percent effort into my dissertation manuscript.”

Morrison’s determination paid off. She successfully defended her dissertation – Examining the Relationship between Workplace Stress and Intent to Leave of Navy Nurses – on March 27, 2013.

When the Director of the Navy Nurse Corps retired in August, Morrison continued to move forward, now serving as the Career Planner for new Director of the Navy Nurse Corps.

“One of the great things about my job is that I get to work on behalf of the roughly 6,000 active, Reserve, and federal civilian nurses who work for Navy Medicine worldwide,” shares Morrison. “Every month, I travel up to Newport, RI, to Officer Development School, where I welcome the new ensigns. It’s so motivating to be around the future leaders of the Navy Nurse Corps.”

Morrison is also working to advance her professional standing through her research. “My abstract was accepted for a poster presentation at the Virginia Nurses Association Education Day in September.  I also presented at a Joint Clinical Nurse Specialist Symposium in July, and have been asked to present to a Ph.D. Theories course at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in October,” she reveals.

Additionally, Morrison is studying toward certification as a Nurse Executive (for higher level nursing professionals) and was selected to serve on the American Nurses Association Advisory Board for Nurse Fatigue (promoting health and safety for patients and nurses).

Despite everything on her plate, Morrison also volunteers as the Delegating Nurse as her kids’ school, and enjoys being a full-time mom and spending time with her family.

So how does she do it all? “I have several calendars—my Outlook calendar, a desk calendar, a wall calendar on the fridge, a weekly calendar on the pantry door.  I plan the year, the month, and the day,” she laughs. “If I can do it; anyone can do it.”

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

5 Tips from Academic Advisors on Achieving Academic Success

At Northcentral University, the role of our Academic Advisors is not just administrative. Our advisors strive to be supportive and encouraging of our students, advocating for their success.  NCU’s Academic Advisors direct students to academic resources and especially in the online environment, act as consistent point of contact to help students navigate the University’s policies, procedures and various departments.

After many years of being privy to how students learn best, what works, and what holds them back, our Academic Advisors now present the Top 5 Tips that successful students use to complete their programs successfully:

Time Management: Students often report their biggest struggle is making time for school work. Balancing academic obligations with family, work and professional obligations can be difficult. If adequate time is not set aside for assignment completion, students can fall behind quickly. Managing time effectively is one way to show your commitment to the program and honor your professional goals.

Utilization of Resources: Many of our most successful students understand the importance of seeking a variety of diverse perspectives. Taking advantage of tutoring, peer and instructor feedback, and APA and library resources will ensure students are up-to-date on requirements, and ultimately make them more confident about their work. For doctoral students this is especially important because of the nature of the dissertation phase where there is much more back and forth between editing and revision.  The ability to incorporate feedback and synthesize information and insight from a wide variety of sources is something that successful students take the time to learn and do well.

Proactive Communication: Successful students communicate proactively and seek assistance as early as possible when experiencing difficulty with the academic process.  They do not wait very long for a response before reaching out in another way or seeking confirmation that an initial communication has been received. Academic Advisors and your instructors should be informed if extenuating circumstances are preventing you from submitting assignments in a timely manner. In this way, successful students work to resolve problems while they are manageable and before problems begin to snowball.

Professional Application:  Successful students often have a professional context in which to apply their learning that works to their advantage. Students who are passionate about their subject and who concentrate on networking and building a professional name for themselves while still in school will feel even more confident when approaching graduation and professional application.  At the same time, professional networking and experience in the real world application of a course of study facilitates a student’s ability to complete high quality coursework.  Successful students look early and often toward their ultimate professional goals and how the topics they research or the concepts they study will enhance their understanding and assist them in their professional life.

Confidence: Advocating for oneself can portray a student in a positive and confident way.  Our most successful students are able to communicate succinctly and considerately when defending their theories, coursework and desire to fully understand feedback or policy.  It is not uncommon for advisors to hear a student express concern that being assertive to self-advocate might lead to negative repercussions.  In fact, the result is just the opposite when critique and questioning of rationale is articulated respectfully and with a confidence to acknowledge any misunderstanding.

Organizing Your Research

BY: ERIN WALSH

Writing a dissertation requires managing hundreds of citations and sources. Careful organization will save you countless hours rummaging through your research, but the million dollar question many students ask is “how do I do that?”

To answer this question, we asked NCU students, faculty and alumni — via Facebook and LinkedIn — how they keep track of their research. Their recommendations: Mendeley, Zotero, EndNote, Evernote, and of course, RefWorks:

  • Mendeley organizes documents and references, suggests related research, shows readership statistics and allows collaboration with groups. The basic version is free, but premium features can be added for a cost.

“I have been using Mendeley… it is great for being able to access material from different devices such as my iPad.” Denise Parker (Ed.D., Educational Technology & E-Learning, candidate)

“I use Mendeley as my main repository for articles and citations…I find that this is the perfect way to keep track of my materials.” Alan Jackson (D.B.A., candidate)

  • Zotero is available as a Firefox plugin or as a standalone application. By creating an account, you are able to sync your research information with other computers and an online library that is accessible from any computer connected to the Internet. Zotero is capable of identifying bibliographic information on web pages and, with a click, automatically saves it.  In many cases, Zotero will automatically capture citation information.  Items saved in your library are searchable. You can identify duplicates and insert citations directly into your research paper using a word processor plugin. There is a $20/year charge for 2G of server-based storage, but up to 300MB of storage is free.

“Zotero.” Susan Stillman, Ed.D. (NCU faculty)

  • EndNote groups citations into libraries with the file extension *.enl and a corresponding *.data folder. Access to certain searchable library catalogs and free databases are included in the software. EndNote offers automatic citation formatting with a list of 2,000 different styles. You can purchase EndNote for $113.95.

 “I’m a big fan of EndNote. It allows for organization and filtering by name of the author, title, year, etc. It allows you to take notes right through the program or you can attach your own notes to each article. For each reference I pull in I attach the PDF file, a notes page and a bibliography at the minimum.” Christopher Boulter (Ph.D., Psychology, candidate)

  • Evernote allows students and researchers to collect information from anywhere and save it in one single place: from notes, web clips, files, images and more, on any device. They offer MAC and Windows versions. Evernote offers free and premium accounts.

“I used and continue to use Evernote. Great for annotated bibliographies that are easily searchable – and by always using proper APA format, I only have to type the full citation once. The other times are just copy and paste.” Wayne Perry, Ph.D. (Director of Clinical Training, School of Marriage and Family Sciences, NCU)

“I tried EndNote and just didn’t find it to be a good fit for me (no specific issues, just felt a bit too structured). I ended up keeping references and notes in Evernote, which I could use from anywhere including on my phone and iPad. I saved PDFs into a system of folders set up by topic, and often used the Spotlight search feature on my Mac to search within these for authors or keywords.” Russell Walker (Ph.D., Business Administration, 2012)

  • RefWorks is a research management, writing and collaboration tool offered through the NCU Library’s institutional subscription. NCU began offering RefWorks in 2009. Workshops and tutorials on RefWorks may be accessed from the Library Workshop Videos or Quick Tutorial Videos pages.  Or, check for the availability of live training on RefWorks by visiting the Library Workshops Schedule page.

“RefWorks is a good tool for organizing research within the Library and is commonly available among databases making it easy to export citations directly into a RefWorks account. Within RefWorks you can organize citations into folders for easy reference and quickly produce an APA formatted reference list as well as create in-text citations within a document. Although we highly recommend students still consult the APA manual for confirmation.” Ed Salazar, M.A. (NCU Librarian)

 “When I wrote my dissertation, I used RefWorks. While there is a learning curve, it also provides the greatest amount of flexibility in the longer term. However, today I generally use Zotero for scholarly/academic work. While there is a free version, it is worth the $20 per year charge for the security of having a cloud-based backup of your reference database and notes.” Frank Cervone (Ph.D., Business Administration, 2007)

“RefWorks has developed a tool called Write-N-Cite, which not only converts Word’s XML file and synchronizes it to the online references, but allows in-text citation and reference list building in APA 6th ed. format. I highly recommend Write-N-Cite, because then your citation database isn’t limited to your device. There are drawbacks with this setup, as you must edit and organize your citations through RefWorks online.” David Czuba (Ed.D., Leadership in Higher Education, candidate)

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

6 Questions to Ask About Your Dissertation Topic

Picking a dissertation topic is a BIG Decision. “You will spend a great deal of time reading, researching, thinking, writing and talking about your dissertation topic,” says Dr. Heather Frederick.

“To pick a topic that you are only vaguely interested in is like marrying someone you only kind of like.” Additionally, picking a topic that is too close to home (for example, the impact of divorce while going through a divorce) can make it very difficult for you to maintain a scholarly voice. Dr. Frederick’s advice – “Just don’t do it!”

Your initial dissertation idea(s) may change as you begin conducting your literature review and writing your concept paper. However, you should be able to answer yes to these six questions:

1. Am I passionate about this topic?
2. Do I enjoy talking about this topic with others?
3. Do I really want to become an expert in this area?
4. Can I study this and still be interested in it a year from now?
5. Can I study this area from an objective standpoint?
6. Am I objective about this topic in general?

If you have answered yes to all six questions, then you may have a winner!

What’s next? Read as much as you can about your general research area. Ideas for dissertation research do not materialize out of thin air. Rather, a good idea will come after you have conducted a fair amount of reading in an area and then thought about the next logical step in a sequence of research.

Originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of Higher Degrees.

Tips on Getting Published in Academic Journals

While many of us use academic journals as resources for information, for an elite group of scholars, they serve as a platform for showcasing research and discovery. Planning to pursue a career in academia or climb the ranks of the professional world? Getting published in an academic journal could be a catalyst for growth in whatever career you choose.

If you’re tossing around the idea of submitting an article for the first time, take a few minutes to browse the suggestions below before you hit send.

Do the Research
The ultimate goal is to make a significant contribution to your academic arena, so find the academic journal that will best play host to your ideas. If you completed research on space travel, you wouldn’t submit your article to a journal about prehistoric animals, would you? Try browsing the databases you have become so familiar with throughout your academic career to find the best fit for your work.

Be Conscious of the Requirements
Like any publication, academic journals have an expected standard for submission. Becoming well-versed on the requirements before submitting your work gives you a better chance of getting published. Many journals, such as the American Educational Research Journal – a publication available through NCU’s library – even provide a Submission Preparation Checklist to follow.

Get Feedback Before You Submit
Have someone you trust proofread and suggest changes before you submit your final work. A fresh set of eyes can provide a new perspective and suggestions for positive change. Whether it’s the spelling error you missed after staring at your computer screen for fifteen hours, or a complete overhaul of the first paragraph, change can be good!

Don’t Get Frustrated With Rejection
For every article you see in an academic journal, there were probably thousands that were submitted for review. Don’t take it personally if you’re rejected a few times. Use the opportunity to refine your work or do a little more research to find a more appropriate platform for your ideas.

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