I received my diploma in the mail this last weekend, and it was probably one of the high points of working towards my Ph.D.  The accomplishment did not seem real to me until I looked down at a framed diploma. The University of Wisconsin never actually sent me my undergraduate diploma in 1978, due to my overdue parking tickets and library fines, and I somehow missed all three graduation ceremonies. This time, however, I paid the parking ticket I had received after my defense ran long, and a diploma arrived 90 days later. Hooray, I have an official Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Wisconsin!

This post is my public celebration of the goal I set out to achieve by the end of 2010.


I want to share three highlights of the “journey,” and my rationale as to why this journey was so significant to me.

Key Journey Moments:

  1. The realization that I had a topic I was passionate about, and that was worthy of the research and attaining the necessary cooperating informants for.
  2. Completing the proposal and having the committee accept it.
  3. Getting my “papers” and dissertation stamped (literally), and turning in the 3 x 2 inch stamped receipt along with a check, to the Bursars office (located, of course, in a different building altogether).

Having a Ph.D. now puts me in a new career zone, but it is really the seven years of graduate school leading up to this moment that has had the most impact on my work.

Here’s why:

  1. Formative Evaluation: Meeting a professor in 2003 (Professor Alan Knox) who gave “on the job” meaning to what was required class reading. Professor Knox, who retires in May, opened my eyes to the value of formative evaluation. I adopted it immediately into my practice. Five years later, Alan shepherded me through the dissertation process. Today, formative evaluation is a critical part of my Micro-collaboration model.
  2. Games & Simulations: Finding myself in a commonly titled Ed Tech class that turned out to be about video games and learning. A young associate professor from MIT, named Kurt Squire, was inspiring what would turn out to be a handful of next generation game studies professors. For me, well, I hired a programmer interested in educational games and we created Score Your Pour, Gridlock Buster, PlayTrue Challenge and 13 extensive game-based curricula for teaching middle school kids about Bullying, Nutrition and Drug Prevention education.
  3. Moodle: Being energized by a former extension chancellor, Don Hanna, and his Technology in Higher Education course; he chose to use an open source CMS rather than the university sanctioned one. This system, called Moodle, has become the core of a new SaaS delivered LMS product we market to associations called, CourseStage.
  4. Self Directed Learning: Coming to realize that the Adult Learning Principles that Professor Betty Hayes made so interesting, paralleled what the Internet was transforming education into for all demographic groups; self directed purposeful learning.
  5. Tacit Knowledge: Realizing during the two semesters with Professor Rich Halverson that practical wisdom and getting at the essence of people’s tacit knowledge was critical to creating situational learning experiences.
  6. Respect for Researchers: Professors Lori Bakken and Carolyn Kelley taught me what is required to be a researcher.  Although I played one for twelve months, I came to realize that while I respected the process and discipline required, I was not cut out for a future of deep thinking.  The personal sacrifice is just too great.

In my Financing Post Secondary Education course, Professor David Wiley lectured on the virtues and advantages of a college education and advanced degrees. He talked about the monetary advancement and other benefits. I agree that my research skills help me make more informed decisions; my children will probably achieve more, and I am better off financially.

In the end, I am personally better off because my education has helped increase my self esteem, my emotional intelligence, my ability to adapt to situations, and my communication skills.  Most importantly, it strengthened my work ethic, self awareness, and also provided proof that I can achieve any goal I set forth to accomplish.