You Have to Get Uncomfortable to Get Comfortable with Dr. Jocelyn McDonald

Jocelyn McDonald, Ph.D. is an Educational Technologist, Podcaster, Blogger, and Technology Integration Specialist for professional learning and small businesses. She is a proud advocate for social change in education and is dedicated to making a positive impact.  She holds a Bachelors in Chemistry, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction in Instructional Technology, and a Ph.D. in Educational Technology.

With 15+ years in education, she is passionate about supporting the transformation of education through technology for equitable access to 21st century education. While she makes strong efforts to use her influence to impact achievement in schools and communities by building relationships with various stakeholders, she still looks forward to continuing to develop professionally as she develops and learns from others. 



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

  • Grandma + single mom + promise = Ph.D.
  • You ARE normal, IF you surround yourself with the right people
  • Listening to the right message makes all the difference
  • Getting used to the Doctor title
  • When opportunity rains, it pours
  • Getting used to hearing your own voice
  • Being a technology mentor to public educators during the pandemic
  • Being a different type of doctor

In this episode…

In this episode of An Unconventional Life, Dr. Jocelyn McDonald and Dr. Russell Strickland discuss the myriad opportunities available after you earn your doctoral degree. Dr. McDonald talks about starting her own podcast and how she has used it to help public educators manage technology in their classrooms during the pandemic. And, in our continuing feature, “Doctors, they’re just like you,” Dr. Mac discusses the challenges she faced during her dissertation journey and how surrounding herself with the right people made all of the difference.

As Dr. Mac says, “Give yourself permission to be great,” by following the proven path to get your dissertation done and leverage your new title to serve those you are called to serve!

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 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 and let me know that you’d like to talk about Expanding Your Authority.

Visit 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 [00:00:03] Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy one percent 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 turned teacher, author, dissertation coach, and more, Dr. Russell Strickland.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:00:28] Hello and welcome to An Unconventional Life, I’m your host, Dr. Russell Strickland, the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done. And today I have with me Dr. Jocelyn McDonald. Dr. McDonald is an educational technologist, a podcaster, and a blogger. She works with educators in the K through 12 space, specifically relating to technology and the digital divide. I can’t wait to talk to you about this because this is a very important subject for a group of people that’s close to my heart. You know that I am big on education. Dr. McDonald, welcome.


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:01:00] Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:01:02] You are so welcome. And I want to let everybody know that today’s episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done. So if you are an adult doctoral student who is getting ready to start the dissertation process or maybe bogged down in the dissertation process right now, reach out to us at And we’ll set up some time to talk to you, see if you might be a good fit for our Fast-Track Your Dissertation coaching program, where we take our doctoral students from here to graduation, usually in a year or less, but always cutting years off your time to graduation. And if by any chance you’ve already graduated and you’re out there in the expert space, you are a coach, consultant, public speaker, counselor, anything like that. And you’d like to get your name out there. There’s no better way to expand your authority than by becoming a published author. So through our Expand Your Authority program, we take authors from literally the blank page to being an expert published author in less time than you thought possible. You can find out more by reaching out to us at That’s So that’s the commercial. Dr. McDonald, again, welcome and thank you so much for being here today.


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:02:13] Oh, thank you. It’s a pleasure. And I’m honored to be a guest.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:02:17] Well, for those of you who happen to be watching our video on YouTube, she says she’s got her really cool podcast back there and we’re going to get into that. I’m looking forward to talking about that first thing, though. Let’s let’s go back. You told me that you have a really personal story about why you started this doctoral journey. And, you know, for most people, it’s a crazy thought to to think that I’m going to become a Ph.D. or I’m gonna become a doctor. What was it that made you make that commitment? Decide to take the plunge.


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:02:49] Yeah, so when I was young, I would have a very close relationship with my grandmother and I would always tell her I’m going to be a doctor and to get this big fancy house and that she would have her own quarter of a house with her own wing. And I was going to be a doctor. And so I went to school and, you know, I got my degree in chemistry. And then I became a mom and a single parent. And so some of the dreams that I was experiencing cannot put on hold. And so I had to start working and to support my son at the time. And when I started working, I got into education and started teaching and I was still do small jobs and on the side. And then I got into entrepreneurship. And so I started focusing more on that, then trying to grow and go back to school. However, in 2012, I sadly lost or that year, and I kind of did a reflection of my why and things that I wanted to do that I hadn’t done. And at that point, all the other stuff didn’t really matter. And so I decided to go back to school to work on my master’s so I can eventually get my doctorate.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:04:02] Yeah, that’s so important. I tell all all the clients I work with, whether they’re students with Dissertation Done, Expand Your Authority, whatever it is. It’s really important to my work that folks understand their why. There’s there’s a lot of motivation to that. But also you can decide how to strategically move forward in life when you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. What’s important to you becomes central and what’s not important to you easily gets wiped to the side. So I really appreciate you mentioning that, that examination of the why and being important to you, because I think it’s critical myself.


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:04:41] It completely shifted. You know, I’m doing things now that I wasn’t expecting to do before she asked.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:04:46] And and that’s a common theme, too. It’s amazing what a doctoral degree brings out of us and brings to us in terms of opportunity. So I look forward to talking to you about that, but less so after you made the decision to get into the doctoral degree program. How did that go? What what what was it like for you, where you remote? Were you on campus? What was the process for you?


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:05:11] Right. So as I said before, I was a single parent and I did my master’s program in person and it was very challenging. And so I decided to go the remote route and do a completely online so I can have a more flexible schedule. I’m still working full time. And so and that experience was something new. I’ve taken online courses before, but it was in the mix with taking also in-person courses. And and so to do a completely online was definitely new and a little bit scary because you don’t you have to have that support that you have with your peers and class. And so then you have others around you who are trying to do have the same goals as you and we are online. You have to really try to figure out how to still have that support system to help support you through the way no one else is. I understand what you’re going through and your immediate family. You know, this is a new realm for them.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:06:10] It’s critical because you’re right, when you’re on campus at a university setting, there is this normative pressure. Everybody else is doing it. Everybody else knows why to do it. And there’s even know there’s a culture there. The the older students model for the younger students, what you should be doing and the younger students become older students at some point. And so there is this this this culture that’s that’s evident. And when you’re detached, you know, like at an online school doing work remotely, it is much more difficult. So finding those those resources, finding a group that you can plug into finding someone that’s going to create a sense of accountability and what you need to be doing at any given time is really, really important. And you can do that. There’s things you can find on social media, Facebook and such like that. You can work with someone like me. We do that. You can just find your own cohort, recruit your own group. But getting that critical support and having some group of people tell you it’s OK to be doing this, this is normal to be doing this. This is what you should be doing as opposed to your family. Well intentioned as it may be, not knowing what the hell you’re doing. Right, because it’s just so foreign to them. It’s not what they they did what they have done. Unless you’re lucky enough to have another, you know, another PhD in the family, which I know a few people who are like that, but they are very few and far between.


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:07:34] The first know that was another part of my life, the first college graduate and the first with my family. So that was something that was important to me. I knew that they understand. But you’re right. That support system was something I. I think I had when I first started, I had to figure it out, and so I felt alone, so it was really I mean, I had to drive. So that helped course. But it was definitely would have been a lot easier if I had support it throughout the process.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:08:01] And like I said, drive or persistence is important. But equally important is having someone who can help you figure out what you’re supposed to be doing because persistence in the wrong direction isn’t helpful. You know, if you’re if you’re heading east and you’re supposed to be heading north, it’s going to take you a long time to get there. But but, yeah, that’s that’s one of the things we find as critical for success, is that persistence that drive the why is really, really helpful. And then getting some support from people who will keep you motivated to move forward and also keep you moving in the right direction is critical. As you’re going through this process. How did tell us about your dissertation journey? What was that process like for you? Was it easy, clear sailing, bumps along the road?


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:08:51] You know, I was scared to death. You know, it’s like me. You think about me coming or having a grand process. I get to do your best. And I was scared that I wasn’t going to finish. It was it was a process. And then we have life happenings in between. But, you know, I had to take it a step at a time and try to find my way to make those small goals, to get to the next step and get to the next step, because I think that perspective was the most nerve wrecking in arthritis is it wasn’t that bad as I thought it was.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:09:27] And then the hindsight works, right? Everything’s awful. And you get to the other side.


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:09:34] Right. Right. But, yeah, it was it was a great experience. And I’ve learned and develop and I learn how to, I guess, find a support system, especially with the online. Finding others who are online. And I mean, I think we’re so used to communicating in person, that is we’re now having to learn how to communicate virtually. And I think that was a challenge and not knowing what to say or who to say it to or having someone to guide you that way and not asking the right questions and then having to spend more time trying to figure things out. When you ask someone a question of support, which direction to go.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:10:15] Yeah. So I thing that I find has gotten lost in this, which is it’s an odd thing, but whenever I’ve been associated with academia at any level, there is always been what I what I kind of call a department mom, someone in the at the school, either in the department, maybe higher up in the in the administration. Often there’ll be a secretary, administrator of some sort, and sometimes they’ll be a professor. But it’s someone that’s really focused on their students. Easy to access, easy to talk to, knows everybody, knows all the processes, knows all of these things. And I know when I was at in grad school, for example, that if I ever had a question about something, I would go talk to Sandy. And she knew how to do anything and everything. She had authority over nothing. But she could make everything happened. She couldn’t sign anything. But if you wanted something to happen, if you if Sandy wanted it to happen, you were in good shape. And and I don’t know that I’ve heard of that dynamic since we’ve gotten to know this this online this virtual environment where things seem to be much less informal. You know, you’ve got channels that you have to go through. I hope that’s not getting lost because that’s something that I, I know I relied on when I was an undergrad. And a grad student is being able to know those right people who were who were connected in and everybody like and I said, if you wanted to get something done, you don’t go to the person in charge. You go to the person who tells the person in charge what to do. So what’s beyond the support issues? What did you think about, you know, as you’re starting to develop your your dissertation and write and those sorts of things? How was that process for you? Was it something that was just work but you felt like you were in the straight line, or did you find.


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:12:11] No, no. You know, it was very hard because although I think I’m a strong writer, getting started writing has always been the problem. And I went through the literature review process and trying to figure out how to write in the scholarly format was different from what the I guess the format that we’re accustomed to writing before you get into a program like this. And so the style is different and not knowing if I had enough of the right sources or if just not knowing if I’m doing it right and just kind of putting myself out there to say, OK, this is like going in the right direction. Do I have enough information is. Covering what I’m what I wanted to do and one of my challenges is trying to figure out like my topic and trying to narrow it down, see if I’m actually giving putting, I guess, into the scholarly world something some information that’s worth reading or needed by the scholarly community.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:13:08] We find so many people have trouble with that at a dissertation done on multiple fronts. And the first is, again, understand your why for most people that we work with that are adults that are going back to school to get a doctoral degree. You’re why really focuses around getting your doctoral degree. It’s not. I want to be a research professor. I want to get my doctoral degree so I can do other things so that I can help people in certain ways. And just getting it done is what’s really important. And so that’s got to strategically start with your topic. The topic isn’t something that you love or care about necessarily. It’s something you can do and get from beginning to middle to end in a reasonable period of time. So many people will pick something they’re passionate about and it’s like open ended and they don’t know what it means to finish that project. And I’m like, does that really connect with your why? Is that really what you want to be doing right now? Because although this thing sounds very interesting. You’re not here to do something very interesting, you’re here to get a get a degree and then other people will have this notion of is this something important and relevant for the scholarly community? And they don’t quite understand how science works. Science is not something where you take leaps and leaps and leaps. Science is something where you move things forward a little bit at a time, just here and here and here, just a little bit at a time. And so your work by moving things forward a little bit is valuable. It is what we do in science. And a lot of a lot of folks have these grand dreams, romantic notions of the dissertation, changing the world completely. And and it doesn’t have to do that at all. Helps us understand a little corner of it a little bit better. That is the standard and a lot of people feel disappointed about that in a sense that they’re not changing the world with their dissertation, but what they’re doing is enabling themselves to go out and change the world by helping these people are called to serve once they have their doctoral degree.


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:15:05] Yeah. You know, so I had to hear that from someone because I think, like you were saying, I was focusing on a lot of the grand things and making the best possible. And I still wanted that, of course. But I was I have to hear someone say, keep it simple. Once you get the title, you can go change the world once you’re done. And I think that helped me to focus in that I was putting too much in it being extraordinary and focusing on it on what I could immediately solve. And I can continue my work afterwards if I wanted that.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:15:42] That’s why they call it commencement, right? They don’t call it termination right away. They call it commencement. But yeah, I get this picture I have in my head of some sort of like reverse Icarus when people are talking about their dissertation because it’s like they’re putting it on a pedestal that’s so high that they’re never going to be able to fly up there and reach it. And it doesn’t have to be that way. You have to keep in mind, lots and lots of people have gotten their doctoral degree. It’s only one percent of the population. It seems really small, but it’s a big place right around here. That’s still a lot of people, a lot of people have gotten this done. And and you can do it, too. Don’t try to put this out of your reach because you’re romanticizing it too much. Yes. So once you pick the topic and you started that process of moving forward, that what was next? How did things go from there?


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:16:35] So after it took me a while to kind of narrow it down and also trying to go back to whether it was going to be a quantitative a qualitative study. And, you know, I know that the literature review kind of determines what that’s supposed to be, but I was gung ho on having a quantitative study because I felt more comfortable with.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:16:54] I disagree with the literature review needs to tell you with what’s going to be you get to decide what your project is. We’re working with students. That’s what we do first is like, OK, what’s the why? What I’m doing right now? Why am I doing a dissertation? Because I want to graduate. So the dissertation needs to get done. Quantitative projects. As much as people can be scared of them, they are faster and easier to complete the qualitative ones. It’ll take you a lot more work, kind of physical work to get a qualitative project done. Quantitative projects is maybe a little bit more mental work, but you can get it done a lot quicker and with a lot less effort. So that’s the direction I like to steer people towards as well. And so you just have to ask the right question. So the literature review will support a quantitative study because you can ask a qualitative question. You can ask a quantitative question about almost anything. It’s just a matter of of deciding what’s driving things here. If you let the research drive things for you, you don’t know where it’s going to go and you don’t know if the direction they’ll go is in line with your goal. It might drive you in a direction where your dissertation takes four years to finish. And I’d rather not do that one and do a dissertation I can finish in a year so that I can graduate and do something to help people with those other three years.


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:18:10] And that’s an important. Yes, interesting example, because I think a lot of me, the questions that I really was driving me in different directions and when I heard that keep it simple part, that’s when I tried to change how I was asking the question. You you can ask a qualitative question for just about anything. And, you know, I was getting steered to a qualitative way of saying, no, I want to do quantitative.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:18:33] I’m glad you’re able to stick to your guns on that, because, number one, I just like quantitative work anyway. That’s kind of my DNA. But I truly do believe it’s also the right answer for folks that are like us, that are going back and getting a doctoral degree later on. It’s not research driven. It’s not that we’re going to be doing this research for the rest of our lives. There are other ways we’re going to help people when we get our degrees and the quantitative projects. The easiest way to get to that point where you’ve got your doctoral degree in your you’re out there doing what you call to do. So so what about a lot of people worry about their dissertation defense or early on in the process, at least that’s something I hear from students who are early in the process I’m worried about. I got to defend this thing. How did that process go for you? What was that like?


Dr. Jocelyn McDonald [00:19:19] That was I was pretty nervous about it because, you know, you get to present in front of someone. Luckily, I was able to do it virtually. And so I just kept practicing and everything. But the defense part wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be because I had already done the research and I spent so much time. And and so I knew the contents of just discussing it was just a part of just sharing it in my own words, without. Happens, read this lengthy anticipation.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:19:49] Listen to Dr. Mac, guys. You’re just sharing what you’re what you already done in your own words. It really is easy. Being nervous makes sense because you haven’t done it before. But I keep telling folks time and time again, you’re committing as much as you may have disagreed with them during this process. They don’t invite you to a defense so that they can fail you. That makes them look bad. They invite you to a defense because you’re ready and when you can just share what you’ve already done in your own words. Yes, that is.

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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.