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Navigating Excellence: How a Doctorate in Leadership Can Transform Your Career

Apr 3, 2024
6 min Read
Creighton University Staff

Completing an online doctorate in leadership can open doors to remarkable career transformations. However, this educational journey goes beyond acquiring skills and fosters profound personal growth.

A good EdD leadership program explores leadership dynamics and blends theory with real-world applications. Graduates emerge with enhanced skills and a nuanced understanding of organizational complexities. It doesn’t just propel careers forward; it sparks a complete transformation—shaping individuals with deep insights, visionary leadership and readiness for future challenges.

The EdD Advantage

Creighton’s online Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Leadership (EdD) has developed emergent leaders for over a decade. The program’s innovative plan of study builds on reflective practice, rigorous scholarship and unwavering support. To help students navigate an online doctorate in leadership, Creighton developed a program that aligns with the specific ambitions of each learner, ensuring that the journey isn’t a standardized trek but a personalized journey toward excellence.

Creighton’s vibrant online community prepares individuals to collaborate and thrive. We foster a learning space where faculty and students bring their diverse life experiences, unique perspectives and knowledge to conversations founded in real-life scenarios. It’s not just “sage on the stage” instruction. Our commitment is to learn from one another, building interdisciplinary understanding and growth.

Real-world Balancing Act

Pursuing a doctorate in leadership is unique because it is intended to fit into your active everyday life and career. Your work experiences shape your learning, and your point of view adds value to your peers, creating a transformative journey for any future leader.

Captain Kathryn “Kat” Wijnaldum, EdD’19, worked to balance her studies with a busy military career and family commitments. She showed determination, studying even during her kids’ baseball games. With good time management and support from her family and Navy leadership, she successfully finished her doctoral work.

As the Officer in Charge of the Surface Nuclear Propulsion Mobile Training Team for the U.S. Navy, Captain Wijnaldum says, “I had a leadership team that supported me in balancing education with work. My military detailers gave me flexibility, ensuring I finished my dissertation before taking on my ship executive officer role.”

Real-world Impact

The effectiveness of any leadership doctoral program is best gauged by its impact on its graduates. Creighton’s EdD turns theory into practical success. Zoran Grabovac, EdD'22, shapes privacy at John Deere’s Moline headquarters, crediting the program for enhancing his ethical decision-making.

His expertise lies in ensuring the company aligns seamlessly with global privacy laws, maintaining meticulous compliance. Reflecting on his EdD journey, Grabovac notes the program instills ethical decision-making frameworks, prompting graduates to contemplate the implications of their decisions on people and fostering a more thoughtful approach. He adds, “Decisions are made with a comprehensive review of the impact on stakeholders such as the organization, communities, employees, the environment, customers and others who may be impacted. We all share an ecosystem; balance is needed for the ecosystem to continue to be healthy and thrive.”

Rebecca Rivera, EdD’16, was drawn to pursue a doctorate to continue teaching criminal justice, which is her passion and area of professional expertise. She sought an online program that would accommodate her research interests. “I was looking for a school that could meet my needs. I was a single mom of a teenage boy. I worked full-time. I also still taught part-time, so I wasn’t in a position where I could sit in a physical class.”

Additionally, she chose Creighton for its mission fit and welcoming culture. She readily admits to trepidation in her readiness. “When I got to residency, I parked my car, got out, and was like, ‘I’m going home. I’m not smart enough. These people are smarter than I am. I can’t be here. What am I thinking?’” After driving all that distance, she decided she would give it a chance. “Immediately, Creighton was so inclusive, and they made you feel accepted and welcomed. They made you feel like you were able to obtain your doctoral degree, and so that really sealed the deal for me.”

Benefits of an EdD

When Kat Wijnaldum graduated from the Naval Academy and began her career as a Surface Warfare Officer, she knew she wanted to lead and make an impact. After early command experience, she realized she needed new skills to reach higher leadership roles and properly develop her crews. That motivated her to pursue her EdD in Leadership from Creighton while serving full-time in the Navy on the Joint Staff.

Grabovac added, “I believed in the structure of the program. It was very focused on the practical application of theory instead of just studying the theory itself.” The ability to apply what he would learn to real-life leadership challenges attracted Zoran to the program. “The research broadens your perspective, and you start to understand the people and events based on the experiences of their past.”

Influence on Skill Development

Grabovac says the program enhanced his writing and ethical decision-making. “Writing was a big piece–you definitely become a better writer.” He believes the program changed how he thinks, communicates, makes decisions, and leads. It improved his practical skills, such as research, communicating succinctly, and connecting ideas.

Captain Wijnaldum credits Creighton for teaching her “how to communicate effectively and manage a lot in a small amount of time and still remain effective.” More importantly, she directly applied her new knowledge and skills on duty. She notes: “I could apply recommendations I had put in that dissertation. And my people thrived. (Our command) received retention excellence awards.”

Navigating the Dissertation Journey

Central to Creighton’s EdD program is a distinctive dissertation in practice that allows you to share your findings as a scholar and practitioner promptly. Our approach to this dissertation ensures the immediate application of your findings. You’ll receive support throughout finishing your dissertation, with the intentionality that guides you successfully across the finish line. Your work will contribute to academic knowledge and address leadership issues in the real world.

Rivera’s nationally published research made a significant impact. She uses her Creighton training to inform the criminal justice system, championing a philosophy of changing cultural ideology by understanding it from a restorative perspective. She has mentored those with incarceration histories and thinks, “Because I am a person of color and also a female, I have inspired women leaving prison and people of color to see that we can make it.”

Wijnaldum shared her experience. “Creighton taught me how to do the research. If I can substantiate [recommendations] by facts and communicate them in an executable plan, anyone can run with it.” She adds, “The Creighton experience taught me how to communicate effectively, quickly, sometimes succinctly or sometimes with great depth. They understand what I’m recommending.”

Crafting Careers

Clearly, the Creighton EdD expanded Captain Wijnaldum’s skillset and propelled her upward mobility. But more importantly, it enabled her to fulfill her original purpose: to invest in and develop crews properly. “I’ve had sailors contact me, and one of my officers thanked me for demonstrating what right looks like from a leadership standpoint. That was really encouraging.”

Rivera adds, “It catapulted me into the career that I wanted. I saw myself with the additional perks of being published and doing some really great things like writing courses and helping prisons create educational programs, things I would have never thought in a million years that I would see myself doing.”

Does Your Journey Lead through Creighton?

For those considering a doctoral degree in leadership, Grabovac emphasizes that “there is never a perfect or better time to start.” His advice? “Just jump right in. Enjoy the journey. You can rely on phenomenal support from the faculty and your fellow students.” He also advises clearly communicating your goals to family and friends, so they understand the commitment required.

For Rivera, Creighton’s supportive approach helped her realize her potential. “This program will work for you, and while intense, it’ll be worth every bit of everything you went through to get there.” She emerged living her dream, with teaching positions allowing her to research criminal justice “and the opportunity to help leadership make those transitions in law enforcement from punishment to accountability.” Her heartfelt dedication epitomizes Creighton’s mission of empowering students to transform themselves and the world.

We are proud that our students continue to make a difference in their communities and across the globe every day.

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