Origins and Dissertations

Peter Parker was bitten by a spider. Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents’ murders. Barry Allen and Bruce Banner were both irradiated. And, I…sat in a hotel conference room. I never thought I’d help over 300 students earn their doctoral degrees, but here we are, and this is how we got here…

“Jackie is such a sweet lady,” I thought to myself, “but there’s no way she’s ever going to finish her dissertation.” Five years ago today I was on a plane heading home, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Jackie and Daphne and Paulo and a handful of the several other doctoral students I had just met.

For the past few days I had been sitting in a hotel conference room talking with doctoral students about their studies. At the time, I was what’s called a full-time adjunct. I taught a class or two at a time for each of several online universities. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, and this was a great way to feed my family while doing something I love.

Most of the time I was able to fulfill my teaching responsibilities from anywhere…usually at home, but also on vacation and the occasional business trip. But, this week I was attending a “residency” for a doctoral program with which I taught. Students had come in from all over the country to learn more about the dissertation process, to begin to develop their topics, and to get some much-needed face-time with faculty in the program.

But, as I listened to student after student, day after day, it became clear to me that many of these students needed more support than the university was able to provide. I tried to help as many folks as a I could while I was there, to cut through the confusion, to attain a sense of clarity, to develop a real plan.

On Day One I thought I was helping. Eyes were lighting up. Furrowed brows gave way to slight smiles and full-on grins. Stress abated. Confidence began to take flight.

Towards the end of Day Two, I met with a couple of my Day-One students again. Although they seemed to feel better than they had the previous day, I could already see the clarity we established was slipping away, like sand through their fingers.

By Day Three, several students had scheduled “second appointments” with me. The trend I observed was quite clear, and equally troubling. Virtually none of the understanding we developed during our first meeting had survived as long as 48 hours. They just didn’t have enough foundation. They hadn’t fully bought into the the philosophy and strategy I shared with them. They had resolved themselves to work harder but had gone back to working on the wrong things.

So, I sat on a plane heading home, grateful for having met so many inspiring students over the previous few days but also deflated that the advice I had given them did not seem to have taken root.

I knew that these students needed more help than the university could really provide. They needed someone to provide ongoing support and advice, someone to turn to when confusion or frustration mounted, someone to establish structure, direction, and accountability.

Since I knew that the university wouldn’t provide this highly personal level of support, I began to wonder whether students were looking for this help elsewhere. When I got home, I decided to hang out a shingle…just to see whether anyone would be interested…

Five years later, I’ve helped hundreds of students reach graduation. I’ve had a business owner report that his sales were up high double digits because he was able to leverage the credibility his doctoral degree brings to the table. Several mid-to-executive-level managers increased their annual salaries by $30-$50,000 after completing their dissertations. Dozens landed new positions, many calling those positions their dream jobs. All of my students talk about how happy they are to be done with their dissertations.

But, by favorite response when I asked a recent graduate about the best part of having finished his dissertation: “Dr. Strickland, I got my life back!”

If you’d like to get your life back, click here to schedule a quick, 15-minute chat with me to see if you’re a good fit for our Fast Track Your Dissertation Coaching Program. If you are, then I’ll invite you to join the fastest group of dissertation students out there and help you to reach graduation a good year or two faster than you would on your own.

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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