“My obligation as a Walden graduate is to use every skill that I’ve developed to effect change. Earning my doctorate will give me the credibility to publish,” says Dr. Mark Maxwell, a recent PhD in Public Policy and Administration graduate. He has already drafted one manuscript based on his dissertation with his doctoral committee chair due this fall, and he’s working on a second. His goal is to continue to find and synthesize research in a form that people can relate to and understand.

Dr. Maxwell’s educational journey at Walden has been very rewarding. He says he is not the same person he was when he started the PhD program. “Now, I am a more confident and a more competent person.” In addition, he has met some inspiring people along the way. “It is not only the faculty that has been amazing at Walden. I have made some incredible friendships with fellow students.”

His spouse—Tim Young, whom he married in Washington, D.C., in January 2013 after more than two decades together—and their sons helped keep him going through their continuous support. Dr. Maxwell will return to the D.C. area for commencement on July 12, and his family will be there to cheer for him as he celebrates with thousands of other Walden graduates and their friends and families. “They’re ready for me to put a bow on it.”

“My father was a Korean War veteran and my mother was a homemaker who had an eighth-grade education. She produced nine children. All of us have done well for ourselves, and the bulk of us have college educations. I will be the first of her children to earn a doctorate and the first in the family to earn a doctorate. My family is extremely proud,” says Dr. Maxwell.

As he prepares for commencement, Dr. Maxwell reflects on his Walden journey and goals for the future in Spotlight on Walden.

If there has been one defining moment since returning to school to pursue your doctoral degree, what would you say it was?

The defining moment came when I completed my coursework and reality set in that I had to write a dissertation. I had a “do it or die” feeling, because for me the dissertation was symbolic of “sink or swim.”

What advice would you give to students who are working through their dissertation?

I would encourage a doctoral student to narrow his or her focus. Know your topic, build a support system of positive thinkers, and keep the dream killers away. Accept the advice that is given to you by your committee members. If your relationship is solid with your committee members, you will have a sense of collaboration. Your committee members are critical to your success. Establish a timeline for you and the committee and communicate clearly and often.

Now that you have graduated, what’s next for you?

I am communicating with several colleges about academic positions. My goal is to teach and publish. In the public and private sectors, I will continue to seek out positions that will allow me to serve as an advocate for underserved populations.

I was recently added to the board of The Handsome Father, a nonprofit organization that is working to expand options for gay men who are interested in becoming dads but are unsure of where to turn. I will continue to work with Freedom to Marry and the Campaign for Southern Equality this year.

I am writing two additional articles based on my dissertation of the legal rights of same-sex couples who want to adopt jointly, and by early next year, I hope to complete a book manuscript based on the study. I am also taking care of my children. Justin is now 17, Torin is 14, and Michael, who is currently fostered but we hope to adopt, is 13.

How has your education at Walden prepared you for the future?

My Walden degree has emboldened me to stand up for individuals and groups that feel they do not have a voice. As an alumnus of Walden University, I have an obligation to take action in situations where social injustice exists. I know that I have the backing of an amazing university that is composed of students and faculty members with the mission of making the world better for all of us.

Learn how Dr. Maxwell is changing his world and watch his inspiring Scholar of Change video.

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