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DePaul DBA Prepares Business Professionals for Academia

DBA candidates gain evidence-based research skills

For Jennifer McGarry, helping train tomorrow’s accountants does more than pay the bills. As a CPA with 15-plus years of experience, McGarry enjoys engaging students in the classroom and helping them become the qualified future accountants companies will hire.

“I think accounting is a popularly misunderstood profession,” she says. “Dispelling some of those stereotypes has become my passion, as well as helping students understand the opportunities that exist for them.”

McGarry is one of eight students within the 2018 cohort of DePaul University’s Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) program. The Kellstadt Graduate School of Business launched the part-time, three-year program in 2016, with the goal of helping experienced business professionals take their business careers to the next level. The program’s unique curriculum also prepares professionals, like McGarry, transition to academic careers.

McGarry, who has taught as an adjunct instructor for Western Illinois University and St. Ambrose University for the last four years, recently accepted a tenure-track position at Loras College in Iowa. Earning a DBA allowed her to become qualified for her new position.

DBA candidates advance through the program by participating in nine, two-and-a-half day residencies led by Kellstadt faculty on a Friday-Sunday schedule that allows participants to continue working during the week. The curriculum and face-to-face interaction with fellow cohort members has prepared McGarry for the rigors of teaching and research.

“Being in the industry for as long as I’ve been, I’m very process-oriented,” she says. “I’m a CPA, so when I say ‘research,’ I’m researching tax issues for my clients, but academic, evidence-based research is a different beast. The faculty in the program are giving us the tools we need to be successful with our research.”

DBA Program Director Bob Rubin, who is a professor in the college’s Department of Management & Entrepreneurship, says the DBA curriculum prepares business professionals to become applied researchers who can work in both academic and corporate environments.

During the first year of the program, candidates take courses in research methods and are broken up into small groups to work with a faculty advisor to develop a research project. The coursework also covers qualitative research, data analysis and statistics, business strategy and organizational development. Students use the research tools and methods acquired along with their area of specialization to complete a traditional dissertation.

“We want to demystify the research process,” Rubin says. “In our group research projects, faculty advisors are moving students from the conception of an idea to the completion of an entire research project, so they’re accessing literature, writing a literature review, asking testable questions, collecting and analyzing data and writing it up in an academic paper and making a presentation, all in one year.”

The program attracts business executives across all areas. The 2018 cohort includes students with backgrounds in marketing, finance, data analytics, operational management and more. Rubin says the mixed cohort provides a stimulating learning environment.

DBA candidate Brian Thompson, who recently completed his first year in the program, teaches finance and economic courses as an adjunct professor at the Driehaus College of Business. He also manages two consulting and inves​tment businesses, Black & Essington Solutions and Black & Essington Capital.

“The program has really allowed me to see things from a different perspective and has given me the ability to bring evidence-based research to the investment process or to solving a problem for a client in a much more thorough way,” Thompson says. “I think I’ve had a much more critical eye when looking at things than I did a year ago.

Rubin says the DBA program trains students to use both their research skills and real-world experience to enhance classrooms within business schools.

“By helping people take their corporate experience and match it up with evidence and theory, students pursuing academic careers become powerhouse instructors,” Rubin says. “I think these are the folks who are going make the best business school faculty.”

Learn more about the DePaul’s Doctorate in Business Administration