What’s this about a PhD?

In 2006, as part of my MBA coursework, I took a class in organizational behavior from Dr. John Reed. Over the course of the semester, I realized that organizational behavior, and psychology more broadly, gave me the tools and frameworks I had been looking for to understand and make sense of what I saw happening around me at work and in my personal associations. However, I didn’t know what to do with it or how to take it forward.

Dr. Reed became a mentor and friend and we stayed in touch and I was honored to provide a blurb for his book on executive coaching. As the years passed, I kept coming back to what I had learned in that class and seeing ways in which the theories, concepts, and frameworks we studied related directly to the work I was doing. And, Dr. Reed kept prodding me. Eventually, I realized how melding the two could create an innovative way to help organizations in the future. I wrote an article that was published in strategy+business elaborating on my premise. Around that time, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to develop my thinking further or establish a professional practice without further study and a credential. Looking around, I found virtually no PhD programs that would allow me to continue working and pursue the degree simultaneously. Only one met all my criteria: nonprofit, history of producing recognized scholar-practitioners, accredited, and predominantly online. I was accepted by The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and began work on my doctorate in Organizational Leadership in May 2018.

Up to that point, I’d been a snob about higher education and discounted what could be learned through an online program. I’ve since been proven wrong. In the last two years, I’ve learned a tremendous amount and have become a competent researcher. My dissertation is in progress on the topic of how for-profit organizations in the United States apply ethical leadership in response to anti-Black racism involving their employees either as targets or perpetrators. The feedback I have received so far from my advisor, professors, and other members of the academic and business communities has been very encouraging.

I’ve had people ask me how I could work on my PhD if my depression has been so bad. My coursework is all asynchronous, meaning that I can do it whenever and wherever. Unlike in my professional life, the deadlines for my doctoral work are fuzzy. It is something that lets me still feel intelligent and accomplished even on days where I struggle to get out of bed.

At the moment, my PhD work is something that gives me purpose. It gives me a sense of self worth and helps me to feel like I’m good at and for something. It’s hard to express the ways in which depression can beat down my self confidence. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to see my vision play out one day. Until then, I just keep moving forward.

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