How one grad powered through her doctorate in her 20s

Jennifer Miller
Dr. Jennifer Miller

DEGREE EARNED: Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

HOW LONG IT TOOK: 3 1/2 years

KEEPING BUSY: I began my DBA in July 2013 when I was working as an accountant for the U.S. Army and the federal government was enduring furloughs. But I ended up changing jobs and moving three times—the first job didn’t challenge me despite a significant change, the second was too taxing although eye-opening, and I made my most recent move for a promotion in a dynamic environment. Making these changes while working on my degree took a lot of coordination and planning and some luck.

MULTITASKING LIKE A PRO: I found myself studying wherever and whenever I could. I would do discussion board posts in my car during lunch or at airports and read while working out. While working at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, I would print out required readings and take them to the pool.

PERSISTING THROUGH CHALLENGES: Transitioning from coursework to the proposal development and doctoral study was where things became difficult. My first chair had to drop me because he couldn’t accommodate the number of students he had. I found my guardian angel in the chair I had sought from the get-go, Dr. Cheryl McMahan, whose roster finally opened up a bit.

FINDING SUPPORT: Dr. McMahan always made me feel like she had a stake in my doctoral study and me as a student. She cared about what was going on, how we got here, where we were going next, and what the goals were. I call her “Machine McMahan” because she consistently had an impressive 2- to 3-day turnaround on reviews. We need to clone her.My degree has made me a more marketable job candidate. I now have the flexibility to apply to more selective hospitals that are closer to my home. I’m interested in following the family nurse practitioner route, and I intend to re-enroll with Walden to obtain my Master of Science in Nursing soon.

FOCUS ON THE FUTURE: I had taken courses for college credit while I was still in high school, and I had my master’s by the age of 22. Once I found Walden, my mindset was that I would rather get a doctorate done in my 20s. Not many other universities thought I had enough professional experience to do that. Thanks to Walden, I completed my degree at 28, and I won’t have to stress about needing a doctorate to get a second-career dream job in academia later in life.

CROSSING THE FINISH LINE: When I got the e-mail containing the chief academic officer’s signature, I took a screenshot, and my eyes started filling up with water. I took a picture of myself in that moment and sent it with the screenshot to my chair and thought, “Oh, my gosh, we are done.”

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