Overcoming Obstacles During Your Dissertation with Dr. Sandra Ingram

Dr. Sandra Ingram has worked as a minister, a teacher, and the Dean of Sophomore/Transitional Students at Winston-Salem State University. She is currently writing a book and mentoring teachers in her area.

Dr. Ingram received her bachelor’s degree in Biology at Livingstone College before earning her master’s degree in Biology Secondary Education from North Carolina A&T State University. In her 50s, Dr. Ingram decided to go back to school, and she successfully earned her doctoral degree from Capella University.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Dr. Sandra Ingram talks about the issues she ran into during her dissertation process
  • Warning signs that a mentor may not be the right fit for you
  • The incredible opportunities that Dr. Ingram pursued after earning her doctoral degree
  • What are the common challenges that teachers face at the start of their careers?
  • How Dr. Ingram developed her personal approach to teaching
  • Dr. Ingram shares her experience mentoring students who are working on their dissertations

In this episode…

During the dissertation process, there are often unforeseen circumstances that can temporarily throw you off course and prevent you from graduating on time. As Dr. Sandra Ingram knows firsthand, these challenges can impact any dissertation student, despite the utmost amount of planning.

Even after her proposal was approved, Dr. Ingram was still thrown a curveball that almost prevented her from completing her dissertation. Luckily, she found an experienced mentor to guide her through the dissertation process and help her get back on track. Now, Dr. Ingram is using her degree to mentor new teachers and aid students in their pursuit toward higher education.

Tune in to this episode of An Unconventional Life as Dr. Russell Strickland talks to Dr. Sandra Ingram about the challenges she faced during her dissertation process and how she overcame those obstacles. Dr. Ingram discusses how Dissertation Done helped her complete her dissertation on time, what to look for when choosing a mentor, and the life-changing opportunities she pursued after earning her degree—including teaching English to students in China. Stay tuned.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done, America’s #1 authority in dissertation completion for working professionals.

Founded by Dr. Russell Strickland, Dissertation Done serves people in two ways:

  1. If you’re struggling with your dissertation, getting ready to start your dissertation, or just plain wanting to get your dissertation done as soon as possible, go to www.dissertationdone.com/done and Let’s Get Your Dissertation Done!
  2. If you’re busy living your Unconventional Life and have a message that you want to share, maybe you should join our Expand Your Authority Program to become a published author. Go to www.dissertationdone.com/book and let me know that you’d like to talk about Expanding Your Authority.

Visit www.dissertationdone.com to learn more about our other services and leave a message or call them at 888-80-DR-NOW (888-803-7669) to schedule your free 30 to 45-minute phone consultation.

Episode Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript is here for your reading convenience. It was created by machines and may (a-hem) contain some errors. If you email us about these errors, the machines will undoubtedly find out. I hope they won’t get angry.

Intro  0:03

Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy 1% out there, who earned their doctoral degrees and then went on to use them in crazy, cool, unique and unconventional ways. Here’s your host, astrophysicist, teacher, author, dissertation coach and more. Dr. Russell Strickland.

Dr. Russell Strickland  0:28

Hi, this is Dr. Russell Strickland here host of An Unconventional Life Podcast where I feature stories from the unconventional 1% who not only earned their doctoral degrees but went on to leverage them in all sorts of strange, exciting, cool and unconventional ways throughout their careers. I have with me today, Dr. Sandra Ingram. And I like let you know that Dr. Ingram has worked with me as a student, a doctoral student with Dissertation Done, she’s actually had feet on both sides of the educational aisles so to speak. She’s worked as a Dean of Sophomore Students at a major university here in our state, but has also served as a mentor as a minister. When I talk about an unconventional life, we’re going to have a fun time here speaking with Dr. Ingram. Dr. Ingram, welcome, and thank you for joining us here.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  1:19

Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure. You’re well,

Dr. Russell Strickland  1:21

you’re welcome. Well, I want to just very briefly give our sponsorship message and this episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done. And as I mentioned, Dr. Ingram is familiar. At Dissertation Done we help you get your dissertation done a lot faster than you would on your own. We can help you from the beginning of the process to the end. I’d like to say from here to graduation, wherever that might be. In Dr. Ingram’s case we help with data analysis and some things after that. I’m sure we’ll talk about that a little bit later on. But if you are a doctoral student who’s struggling with the dissertation process, if you’re in education, nursing, business, religion, psychology, anywhere where you’re studying people on a day to day way our processes set up just just precisely for you. So reach out to us at www.dissertationdone.com and we’d like to help you get your dissertation done and get your life back. Dr. Ingram, when we first met, you were kind of neck deep in trying to get your your dissertation finished, you had to proposal approved. And then kind of there was a snag, you had everything all set up and they pulled the rug out from under your feet. You want to tell folks about that. And the reason why we’re setting up the story, by the way is Dr. Ingram has a good story here. A happy story she finished as Dr. Ingram. But I want you guys to realize that a lot of folks have trouble with the dissertation process and hearing the real deal, the true stories from folks who have been through it, not only who had difficulties, but were able to overcome those difficulties and earn their degrees. Very inspiring. So doctoring your story is very inspiring, inspiring, and why don’t you tell us a little bit about How you got your proposal approved and then they kind of pull the rug out from under your feet.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  3:05

Thank you. First I would like to say that working on a dissertation is a process and I would like everyone to know that when I started my dissertation, I was in my late 50s. So that shouldn’t deter anyone. Absolutely. So, after I started and got my proposal approved, I ran into snags with my data. I was promised data from a particular school district, and I waited for that data for over a year, and it did not materialize. And at the end of the year, I was told that my research did not was not a good fit for their school. So I had to go back and meet with my mentor. I’m going to try to decide who was going to be done. And I would just like to say that having a good mentor is something that you really want to have. And I ran into snags with my mentor. And so I was her first mentee. And so there are a lot of questions that I had that I didn’t get answers for. It’s slowed up my progress.

Dr. Russell Strickland  4:23

Yeah, that’s when you’re working on your first dissertation would be nice if the person you’re working with it wasn’t their first dissertation too.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  4:31

Yes, it would be it would be nice for it to be someone who has some experience. And I would have to say after I you know, requested a new mentor and that took a little while for me to get one but I did and he was awesome. Good. So the right mentor can propel you forward quickly. And but I would like to say when I was and I don’t even know if Dr. Strickland knows this one day, I will On the Internet, and I was looking for a way to get this dissertation done because I was stuck. And I was asking my mentor and I wasn’t getting answers, and I didn’t know what to do. And at those points, you get frustrated, and you throw your hands up and you say what to do. I don’t know. And I feel like when, but you don’t quit. You have to hang in there. We’re number one, you’ve put too much time and effort in and at this point, and yes, so. And it came up and I saw Dissertation Done. I was like, oh, okay, this person really helped me to get this dissertation. So I did click on his site, and fortunately for me, I got to meet him, and he propelled me forward. Also, a lot with clarity on what I’m doing. When you’re working on a dissertation and you’re doing online and sometimes you really have to get it for yourself. A lot of times, there’s no one to explain it to you. So yeah, but we’re just working on a doctorate degree. That’s what you learned to do. So after my new mentor worked with me to find a place to get some data, then I said, Okay, and so I could continue writing. And another thing I would say, with committee members and a mentor, that was I didn’t really know how to leave, that my feedback was not very good. My feedback would be things like you’d have a period at the end of the sentence or you didn’t put a comma. So there was no meat. Right or directions as to where I should go.

Dr. Russell Strickland  6:53

And that’s a great point. Dr. Ingram is that if you as a doctoral student are receiving feedback And it’s all about grammar and mechanics and things like that. Your mentor, sorry, I’m gonna offend some people, I don’t care. It’s true. They’re being lazy. It’s the easiest thing in the world to go through and honestly have Microsoft Word put a little, underline saying, hey, there’s a comma that shouldn’t be here, or there’s a column missing here. And you can just put a note there saying, hey, Microsoft Word told me that you spelled something wrong, laziest thing in the world for a mentor to do. The hard part is making sure that you’ve got the framework in place, making sure that you got a foundation, you’ve got a structure, you’ve got an interesting problem that is backed up by literature and all of these things. That’s the tough part. And unfortunately, if you do see that your mentors focusing on the superficial, the grammar and things like that, very early on in the process, it is a warning sign to, to at least have a talk with that mentor and maybe start looking to see if you can get someone else in there. Because that’s not a good start over relationship?

Dr. Sandra Ingram  8:01

No, it’s not. And you know, in that I have to say the person was very nice. You know, they just didn’t know. Yeah. And I guess they were doing the best they could that but that didn’t help me because it was my dime and my money and your time and you know what

Dr. Russell Strickland  8:19

more than anybody else does, then yeah, that’s always going to be the case you can have the best mentor in the world is still gonna be more important to you than anybody else. You can come work with us a Dissertation Done as much as I hate to say it, it’s going to mean more you than it will be me. Yeah, well, I just can’t I just can’t be any other way.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  8:35

Well, that makes sense. It makes sense. But after I found a resource to get my data, then I contacted you and Dr. Strickland would help me to do that. But we even ran into snags with where I was getting my data from it had to be encrypted. I it had to be a one computer. Unfortunately, he had to travel from Durham, where I stay to, for us to even go under the overhangs because I could not put it on the disk. And I could not email it to him. So there are all kinds of problems. But thankfully, I think we just did that one time. I believe so. But yes,

Dr. Russell Strickland  9:27

underlies a really important thing that we found in working with students over the years. Getting your data, like getting possession of your data, collecting your data and analyzing your data. It’s the last hurdle to graduate. Yes, there are other things you’re gonna have to do. There’s work it’s going to take time, you’re going to have little bumps in the road, but you can get through all of that. But as you recognize you got stuck for a year trying to get your data. You had a plan in place, it was all there is greed, right? And they just pulled out back down on you.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  9:57


Dr. Sandra Ingram  9:59

And I will tell you This school’s in another district about an hour and a half away, and I even drove there and met with them and talked with them.

Dr. Russell Strickland  10:09

Tried to

Dr. Sandra Ingram  10:10

well, and they told me this was at the beginning to me, yes, you can have this data. And so we have seven. And then when they told me that they couldn’t give it to me, I really sent them back every email, right, that they had sent me we talked about this week. Yes. Yes, saying that they would do it. But what happened? I don’t know. So after that point, another thing is was okay, if I couldn’t get the data I needed I needed to change

Dr. Sandra Ingram  10:41

my proposal topic

Dr. Russell Strickland  10:43

a little or a lot. Yeah, no,

Dr. Sandra Ingram  10:44

I yes. And that would have taken a lot as a matter of fact, that would have meant going from a Ph.D. program to an EdD program, which I didn’t have a problem with that but what it meant was going back and taking more classes work that was about to

Dr. Russell Strickland  11:02

happen, right? I understand.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  11:04

Yes. So I wasn’t going back into the class to do that I had finished that I had two years of classwork, that was enough. And so so we decided to my new mentor. So I helped me figure out and got the approval of me to change some things in the dissertation. I had to add some things in and take some other things out. But at least I didn’t have to rewrite the whole thing. Which was a blessing because that

Dr. Russell Strickland  11:33

Yeah, a lot. You know, those of you who are working through your proposal, you can imagine having gotten that approval and having gotten IRB to say yes, yes. And then thinking about Okay, now I’m going to go back to before those points. That’s not, yeah, not a happy thought at all. So I’m glad that we were able that you were able to find that data that you were able to us and that we can help you analyze absolutely, because that was important. But then after that, things went wrong. relatively quickly and relatively high, right?

Dr. Sandra Ingram  12:02

Yes. So with my new mentor what we did after we got the data within, I don’t know, six months or less.

Dr. Russell Strickland  12:12

Yeah, that less than that.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  12:15

It was it was laid out in three months.

Dr. Russell Strickland  12:17

Yeah, I think that’s about it.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  12:18

Yeah, I think was about three months. But I remember when I crying, it’s just saying, I’m not doing this anymore. I’m giving up stuffing, I’m quitting. This is not worth it. And then I had a dream in the dream. I was at graduation with my cap and gown. So there you go. There you go. So I say okay, well, maybe I can hold out a little while longer because it took me what, seven years to do this. And that’s a long time. Yeah, that’s a long time of your life. Well, you know,

Dr. Russell Strickland  12:53

Dr. Ingram, there’s no quit and you

Dr. Sandra Ingram  12:55

know, what’s

Dr. Russell Strickland  12:57

going to happen and that’s, that’s so many The folks we talked to as well, they come and they say I’m frustrated. I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. Yes. But I know I’m not going to quit.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  13:07

That’s why. So, I’m

Dr. Russell Strickland  13:10

not an option. Yes, who you are, is if you hit those moments of weakness and despair, you’re like, oh, what am I going to do? But, but yeah, quitting is just, there’s too much you’ve invested in this, this part of your identity. So many people have, you know, think of themselves as a doctor before they ever get that degree. And this is just the culmination of that realization for them. Yes.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  13:33

And I will tell you the thought of having to pay that money back for school and didn’t have anything, you know, that just could never happen.

Dr. Russell Strickland  13:42

every single month. Yeah, that little reminder, and it’s not a little reminder, a big reminder,

Dr. Sandra Ingram  13:47

It’s a pretty big reminder.

Dr. Russell Strickland  13:50

All right, so as folks can see it, the process is not always easy. It’s not always straightforward. I hope I was able to play some small part again, and getting those You’re getting through the end of that process. Yes. But the idea here is that even when you’re facing difficulty, you can absolutely totally overcome it. And you need to keep going. Don’t quit. Yes. Because you have done so many interesting and cool things since you graduated. And I want to talk more about that. Because as I mentioned, you are a minister and I know that you’re working on a book right now. You’ve worked in education, or you did this really cool thing for a while. Well, while you were sort of kind of teaching in China, I’d like you to tell folks about that. Where do you want to start? Because there’s been a lot of cool things.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  14:37

Okay, well, first, I like to say, um, after I retired, and I said, Okay, so what am I going to do now because, you know, I still have a lot of energy and work in me and place to do so. I applied to teach English to students in China and so did that and that was very interesting and very rewarding. And I would tell you to get qualified to teach the students is a process also. Yeah. And so after the qualification and your salary depends on your education, your background and things. So, you know, the dissertation came in handy.

Dr. Russell Strickland  15:26

Having that PhD helps. But it helped in another way, which people might not realize. Tell me. He said that once you got out there, you’re kind of on a website and people are getting to pick who they want to be the teacher. Yeah, there’s a lot of teachers out there. So what, how were you able to stand out?

Dr. Sandra Ingram  15:45

Well, I’ll tell you, um, the way the programs are set up, you can do videos. You can write down everything, your accomplishments and the parent sees that the past Look at that. But you have to make videos to impress the students to like you as well. Okay? Yes. So it’s a combination of parents and students. And of course, the parents are always going to want the what the best. And they look at because I had many years and education at 20 years, while taught at the middle school, high school, and then college and so and so I’ve had a lot of different teaching experience, and even take the community college right so that all those things and then having the dissertation in curriculum and instruction also helped.

Dr. Russell Strickland  16:45

You know, those Chinese Tiger moms want to go out bragging. Oh, my kid is getting taught English by an American doctor, right?

Dr. Sandra Ingram  16:51

Yes, yes. So all those things were absolutely plus with absolutely a plus and with doing that I also write in a book. Okay. Yes, and this book is a lot different from the dissertation. But it is a book, but the processes are the same in a lot of ways. So I am happy about that without just learning the process of getting through them. Because get into the dissertation of that book, you know, we to realize that I can write another book. Right. And that process, also internal

Dr. Russell Strickland  17:35

and this one is a lot easier now, right? Because you don’t have people yell over your shoulder telling you where you don’t like now you’re whining for you.

Dr. Sandra Ingram  17:43

Yes, yes, yes. And it makes a big difference. I still have to research I still have to work I still have to read. But not that the dissertation wasn’t a pleasure, but this is a different kind of place. Right?

Dr. Russell Strickland  17:59

I know the books not done yet. So you may want to hold back and not tell everybody but would you like to share what this is about? Sure. Okay,

Dr. Sandra Ingram  18:09

is this um, this book I was writing I had started to write a book on prayer. And then but what I realized that, and I’m still going to complete that book, but out of that book is coming. My first book is called Before You Pray Again. And it’s the things that you have not thought about to get your prayers answered. Yeah, that question about why aren’t my prayers answered? So it answers a lot of questions. And I did go and research questions that people wanted the answers to. Very nice to include because books should always be to help somebody else and not necessarily about you, but what you can give to help somebody else. And I also started up a little I called a creative curriculum, which is the a business that I’m going to start, and that includes going around to the different schools, high schools, because it was my own school. I also work with teachers in education, and I supervise teachers. So a lot of the principals want people that have worked with new teachers and to help them so I had gotten some feedback on that. And so I would be, I will be starting to back up whenever Mr. Mrs. COVID decided to go home

Dr. Russell Strickland  19:39

start to take take a break. What about when you talk about new teachers? Are there some common issues or concerns or problems that they face that that you’ve seen you’re working with them?

Dr. Sandra Ingram  19:52

Yes. The basic thing with a new teacher is that It’s really overwhelming and to learn how to organize, and it’s not just about your work and what you have to do because that part they know rail, but you have to learn how to deal with students. And yeah, and that’s a different answer. A lot of young people have not had a lot of life experience, because it is up to you to have control in your classroom. True. So in order to help teachers to understand how to understand their students and what they are doing, and I have a background in alternative school, I have a background I’ve worked with emotionally disturbed students. And plus, in which scoots coaches regular students, so there’s a lot of different areas I can cover, but usually with new teachers is how to get it all done.

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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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