The Incredible Disappearing Advisor, Fate, and Wite-Out with Dr. Jennifer Gardella

Jennifer Gardella, Ph.D. works with a select group of clients supporting them with weekly blogging and daily social media. Using her time-tested strategies she positions her clients as experts and their business as the go-to place for their goods and services.  And, for clients who grew up with the phone attached to the kitchen wall, Dr. Gardella get them out of overwhelm using her superpower of explaining things in small pieces for understanding.  

Dr. Gardella has had quite an interesting path to success and will share some of that story with us today.  The highlights include earning a PhD in Educational Psychology from Rutgers University, starting her business from scratch at the age of 45, blogging for the Huffington Post, presenting a TEDx Talk, and speaking at the PA Conference for Women. 

Dr. Gardella was raised in New Jersey by New Yorker parents and appreciates relationships built on integrity, loyalty, and shared sarcasm.  She now resides in Bucks County, PA while her three daughters are launching into the world.  In her spare time you can find her exercising, writing her blog, breaking bread with her circle of trust, and working on her golf game.  She is an avid goal setter with three simple ones for this year – feel free to reach out and ask her what she’s working on.


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

  • What do you do when a doctoral program tells you that raising kids for nine years is “doing nothing?”
  • The incredible disappearing advisor, fate, and wite-out
  • Choosing how to get your dissertation done
  • A “real job” vs. staying home in your bunny slippers
  • Selling your authentic self to your ideal client
  • 25 goals vs. 3 goals

In this episode…

What are your goals? Do you have too many? What the reason behind each goal? Knowing your why is perhaps the single most important aspect of intentionality. After all, you can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where to want to be.

In this episode of An Unconventional Life, Dr. Jennifer Gardella and Dr. Russell Strickland discuss how busy you can be “doing nothing,” the power of focus, and making bunny slippers a lifestyle choice. Dr. Gardella’s doctoral dream began after raising her three kids to school age and being challenged by the university’s admissions to prove that she’d done anything over the past decade. Research, relationships, and resiliency took Dr. Gardella from there to graduation and beyond. She now runs her own business where is guides business owners through the straits of social media to the open seas of exposure, visibility, and profits.

According to Dr. Gardella, goal-setting muscles are great, but so are restraint and focus. When she had twenty simultaneous goals, she found it hard to be productive. Now, she has just three goals for the year and feels like her clarity and focus are much better. What are you focussed on right now?

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 like I’m your host, Dr. Russell Strickland, the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done. And today I have with me Dr. Jennifer Gardella. Dr. Gardere is your social media expert. She can help position you as an expert and drive traffic to your goods and services so that your phone rings off the hook, which is amazing. Anyone who is in that expert space, she works with just a select group of clients and helps them with monthly SEO blogging and social media support. She actually writes your strategic plan for you and optimizes your profiles and does all the work for you. So that’s just all amazing. She’s a speaker. She’s been a blogger with the Huffington Post. She’s been a speaker at the PR conference for women. She’s done a TEDx Talk presentation. She’s an alumnus of Rutgers University. Dr. Gardella, welcome to the show today.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:01:18] Well, thank you so much for having me on, Russell. I appreciate it.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:01:21] You are one hundred percent welcome. Before we jump in, I want to let everybody know that today’s episode brought to you by Dissertation Done. At Dissertation Done, we primarily help adult doctoral students through the dissertation process. So if you’re a doctoral student, you’re approaching the dissertation process. Best thing you can do is proactively reach out to us at That’s And we’ll help make sure that you never hit any of the snags or potholes that we’re going to probably be talking about with Dr.  Gardella today. But if you are like most of our students and you are hitting those snags and potholes again, We’ll see if you might be a good fit for our Fast-Track Your Dissertation coaching program. Now, if you’re beyond that and you want to be an expert like we’re going to be talking about here with Dr. Gardella, one of the best ways I can think of to really establish your credibility beyond having the first name of doctor is to be a published author to have literally written the book in your area of expertize. We hope folks with that get you from the blank page to becoming a published author in less time than you thought possible. And we can help you with that if you go to that’s So that’s the commercial. Dr. Gardella, again, welcome.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:02:39] Hi.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:02:40] So like I ask most folks, the decision to start a doctoral degree program is an odd one for most people. The four for us, we’re the crazy ones. And we decided to jump in. What what prompted you what was your motivation to to pursue your doctoral degree?


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:02:59] Well, thanks for asking. I’m nothing but honest. So I grew up with a dad who had actually had an ad from Rutgers University. I went to Fordham where my father went. I then worked at Rutgers after I graduated from Fordham, got a master’s degree for free because I was an employee. By the way, I highly recommend that route to fund your Ph.D. program if you can do it.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:03:24] My wife works at Duke University. And the benefit’s not as great as it used to be, but they do drop their tuition, I think, down to like state-level tuition.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:03:33] Exactly.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:03:34] If you’re if you’re a sibling of another sibling, a dependent of an employee. And so my sons like looking at Duke kind of like that, it might be nice.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:03:44] So it’s not a bad place to go?


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:03:47] Not at all.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:03:48] Yeah. So I got a master’s from Rutgers and by the time I finished up my master’s degree, I was pregnant with my first daughter. I was still working full time. I knew I was going to stay home. They had an aid program and I went into it and realized it was all too much on our family. My husband at the time was getting his MBA. So there’s just a lot of education and officials going after people’s last names. Anyway, it was kind of enough. And then when my fast forward, several years later, I’ve had three children at this point, actually, not several. About four years later, my little one was going off to kindergarten and I thought, well, I was not really able at that time to get a full time job. My husband was working at that point between in two different cities, none of where we lived. And so I said, well, what’s the next logical thing to do? Let’s go back and get a PhD. Rutgers at that time had converted the and well, part of the program was converted to a PhD program. It was largely ego driven for me at this point. I had taken nine years off and I said, what’s the best thing that I can put after my name that’s going to make up for these nine years? Right? Because I had run the PTA meetings and the Girl Scout troops and all of these different things. And I was rooted in corporate America for that, right? Yeah, a lot of it was a lot of the same skills, but yeah. Yeah, it was a really interesting experience to get back in my professors who probably would deny that they ever said this to me. They said, well, you really haven’t done anything in nine years, so we’re going to make you go through the whole application process. And before anybody even gives you a recommendation, we need you to get your GRE scores then. And I said, what level do you want me to hit? And they told me and I exceeded that. And I’m like, Are you guys ready? So they let me in that I started in two thousand and seven and I finished up about six or seven years later and 13.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:05:36] Awesome, awesome. Now, when you said it was ego driven, I look at that a slightly different way to put a lot of folks it’s identity driven, which technically is the same thing, but it’s like calling somebody normal or average. Right. And everyone wants to be normal. No one wants to be the same.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:05:54] All right.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:05:55] But, yeah, I see a lot of folks that have this issue of their identifying in their hearts as a doctor even before they finished everything. And myself, I personally started when I was like straight out of college. And I went through a doctoral degree program and almost finished, but not to the point where my thesis advisor died. And that just allowed me to reflect and it allowed me to reflect on the fact that I didn’t want to be a poor graduate student for another three or four years starting over else. And so I went a different path for a while, but it kind of like The Godfather Part III, it pulled me back in and and I finished that degree, a different reaction that finished a doctoral degree some years later. So I think that that’s common. Whether people go away and come back is not so common. But but certainly once you get bitten by the bug, you feel like you really need to to finish.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:06:47] Yeah. And if you have the drive to go and get a state that is such an unusual thing for anyone to want to want in the world, like most people graduate from college and they’re never going to sit in the classroom again. They’re never going to take another test. They’re never going to do anything. If you have the drive, I think it’s a path to pursue.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:07:05] Absolutely. And there’s something we’re going to talk about this, but there’s so many extraordinarily valuable, exciting, interesting opportunities that come that come up once you hit this sometimes that one of my previous guest on the podcast says you have the opportunity to just knock on the door. It comes in the window, down the chimney. It’s like everywheres. So I’m looking forward to talking about that. But tell me obviously very prepared when they challenge you to get a GRE score. And you said, OK, we’re we’ve got that done. What happened as you got into the program? Did you find all of it was just as easy as that? Or how did that go for you?


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:07:45] I have something to prove to myself going into my PhD program, honestly, I was a nontraditional student. I was or I already have three children. I had baby sitters that I had to coordinate. I had a family at home that was always waiting for me. But it was there were a lot of other older parents in the room, which was kind of fun. And what I loved is that I was in an intellectual community with a lot of diverse learners and with a lot of different age groups. And we all are still in touch. And I think that even if we’re just friends on Facebook but I know like, for instance, I’m looking for a teaching job right now. I know that I can call. And I did call last week, not only one of my advisors up at Rutgers, but I called one of my fellow students. We haven’t kept in touch more than Facebook in probably five years. And she was right there for me. So there was a certain bond that brought us all together. And when you go through the process of helping each other, some of us were like, I love numbers and others really like to do things like read and write, which is not one of my favorite, which was not one of my fortes or favorite things in the program. So when it was time to do things like study for qualifying exams or we banded together, it was really neat.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:08:57] Yeah, that’s good. What do they say about like relationships? Born of crisis, right?


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:09:02] Yeah, exactly. Sheer stress.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:09:05] So so you mentioned getting through. Tell me a little bit about your dissertation process. What was that like for you? Like you mentioned, you had the support network, which is very important.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:09:17] Right? So I had a great support network of students. What happened during my dissertation was that there were I’d say, four or five professors in my department at that time. And Rutgers is great because they have a PhD advisor for all PhD students in the school. The two of the professors were never going to be able to work with a student like me just because of interests. One professor was retiring and another one was then going to be my dissertation advisor. It was really great just at Rutgers, at least at that time. I don’t actually know what they do now, but you had to do two short projects that kind of leading towards your dissertation finish those with this particular professor. And then I was speaking actually at a huge conference and heard that he had left the university. And I thought to myself, why am I hearing this in New Orleans when I was just I can’t like what is going on. I think that’s the timing of it. I heard I definitely heard it was either New Orleans or Colorado. And so, sure enough, he had hightailed it out of the university due to a personal issue. And we did not have there were several of us that were left high and dry. I then was not able to transition to any of the other professors in my department and they tried to cancel me out of the program. Hey, look, you can go down to Penn or you can do this. I’m like, I’m not starting over. I’m not doing any part of this. I’m finishing. And so I actually wound up going to the PhD advisor and I said, what do we do? And he goes, I’ll take you all but you instead of having a highly quantitative dissertation, we’re going to have there’s going to be a qual piece because that was his and it turned out that I did the dissertation that I was supposed to do. I mean, I’m truly a believer in what happens on your path is what’s supposed to happen on your path. Yeah. So it was an unbelievably stressful experience, as it always is, for anybody right down to the I’ve put the wrong date on the cover sheet that all my committee members had to sign and had to find a typewriter and wite-out that literally a half hour before it was submitted for graduation. But I did it and it taught me this beautiful lesson in just getting it done, you know?


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:11:32] Yeah, I think that’s that’s so important. I think the fact that you did get a lot of the experience coalesced for you and was something that you could really appreciate, something you were a little lucky about, I think my experience. But but that notion of knowing it’s time to get things done. Here’s what I need to do to get it done, whatever it takes to get it done. People don’t often go back and say, oh, there’s wite-out on this page here. What did you do? Like, the date looks fine. And so many of our it’s just a microcosm of so many of of dissertation students I talked to or thought I got to get rid of that sheet. I’ve got to redo it. I’ve got to maybe go find those signatures again and all that kind of stuff when in fact, all you had to do was just, you know, make a little mark on it. It wasn’t perfect anymore, but it’s still got the job done. And a lot of our students need to understand and appreciate the difference between getting the job done and having everything be perfect.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:12:29] Yeah, and I think that was something else that I learned at the very end, my personal life had consumed a lot of time and all of a sudden I was like, I’m graduating in four months. Well, that meant that a lot of people had a line around me and they were not willing to do that all the time. And so, you know, when there are holes in my data, when I had I needed yet another rewrite. I didn’t know about services like yours like I was. I felt very much on my own. But I was like, I don’t think everyone understands. I’m graduating in May. I’m walking. I’m ready.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:12:58] It’s important that at least the people in the university agree with you on that, too. I mean, that that’s a discussion I tell our students to have with your faculty members, your committee members all the time, because some of them just don’t care. And they’re like, if it happens, it happens. But a lot of people are reasonably decent people. And if they know that this is your goal and they tell you it’s not a laughable goal, then they’re going to feel somewhat responsible for it as well. If you don’t do your part, that’s on you. But they still expect you to do your part, but they’re going to try to make sure they do their part as well as that is the thing. And I know so many students I talk to like, oh, I haven’t had a discussion with someone, but you want to graduate in eight months and you haven’t told someone I’d like to graduate in eight months. It’s a good idea to start setting that discussion and start setting those expectations as soon as possible, because if nothing else, they understand why you’re coming at them irate in January that you’re still working on your proposal or whatever it may be set this expectation that you want it to to be able to graduate in December. And then unless they told you no, that’s just not feasible, then they implicitly agree with that.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:14:08] Right.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:14:09] Well, tell me. I know that you said that you work with nontraditional students who sometimes might suffer setbacks in writing their dissertation or finishing. Tell me a little bit about your experience with that.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:14:23] With writing my dissertation?


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:14:25] With talking to individuals about that process of suffering setbacks, both in writing the dissertation and actually finishing with the Ph.D. program.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:14:35] Yeah. So the only thing that I can tell people to do is you have to make it. And I’ve learned this now. I have three children. One is out of college, one graduated from college two are in. You know, you have. There’s a lot of opportunities, a lot of things to do in the world, and when you are looking at your dissertation and a family and probably a job these days and everything else, you have to prioritize and the two things that you can pretty much kiss goodbye or sleep and a social life and everyone’s like, oh, but I don’t want to or and I’m like, OK, but then the rest of your life is going to suffer. So when I was at the very tail end of it and I was beyond stressed, I put people around me who would do nothing but encouragement. And like one thing that I did was I had my whole first draft spread out on my dining room table by chapter. And I posted a picture on Facebook and it gave me a sense of community at that point, like I had people that were really rooting for me, even though I refused to go out to dinner with them anymore, like I couldn’t do anything it was all about. And I was teaching at the time also at the college level, not full time, but it was enough. And so, yeah, it it’s about putting the right people around to cheer you on and then being realistic, like your dissertation may turn into a book. It may not, but it’s never going to turn into anything. If you don’t graduate,


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:15:54] You’ll get it done.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:15:54] You can always turn it into more. You can’t always turn it into a diploma that eventually run out your time.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:16:03] And that’s exactly what I tell. I have so many students that come to me and they have all of these bright dreams about I want to have my dissertation and turned into a book. I want to solve these problems and help these people and let them know that we’re going to cut this down. We’re going to make this smaller. We’re going to put it in a very little box. And you’re going to do this thing and you’re get your committee to say yes to you. And then after they say yes to you that you can do anything and everything else you want. But for now, let’s do this. Let’s focus on this little thing and make it happen from the little things. Not so little, but it’s much smaller than most students come in thinking it is. Yeah, absolutely. And another thing I’ll say to someone who’s saying, hey, I don’t want to give up my social life. I don’t want to give up sleep. I need this, that or the other. That’s the way that Dr. Gardella did it. That’s the way a lot of people do it. But you have a choice. What you have to understand is there’s priorities and you deciding what’s important to you. I not too long ago started really aggressively trying to lose weight. And if someone told me you can’t eat bread, I would be like, what are you talking about? I like bread. But that’s a choice that I made when I saw. Here’s what I have to do and this is what I need to accomplish. That’s the choice I made. I’m not going to be doing that, at least for a while, because I see what it does and I see what my goals are and it’s not compatible with my goals. So you have to decide what that is for you. And one of my other podcast guests deals with people who have drug addictions. And he mentioned that such a powerful thing. If you tell them you have to do this, they are really hesitant or they’re really concerned about it. They’re not ready to do that yet. But if you tell them, well, this is what you want to do, how do you want to do it? So many of you will come to the exact same thing that you would advise them to do anyway. So just understand it’s your choice, but you do have to have enough time to get it done. So if you’re if your day is full already, something’s going to need to change something.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:17:58] But, you know, to I have a daughter who’s up at the University of Pittsburgh. She’s a junior studying for the LSAT. And one thing she just started doing, which I did hear about during my dissertation writing, she gets up every day. Now it’s six o’clock now. They’re lucky. It’s during covid. There’s nothing going on. I could never have gotten up at six o’clock during college to do anything, let alone study. But that’s what a lot of people do. That’s how they get through that dissertation or to your book process. Right. There’s only so many hours in the day that you have if you’re not a night person to write till midnight, then again, lose the sleep, but do it first thing in the morning. And that’s what my daughter is doing. So there’s lots of ways to get around it. Excuses will never it get you around it so you can lodge all the excuses or stack them all up. At the end of the day, you either have that degree finished or you don’t write


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:18:44] Excuses don’t get accolades.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:18:46] Do not get diplomas.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:18:47] And and for most of the students that I work with and the adults we work with on other things, your six o’clock is five o’clock because. Right. You have to get up early enough that most people will get up around six, six thirty or something to get ready for work and all the other things. I’m lucky enough that my kids are in school at home right now so I can actually sleep right up to like seven o’clock one day. But but yeah, when I’m getting up early and working on a project or something like that, it’s five o’clock. My, my business coach, it’s about four thirty every morning. And this is a for a project, this is like just what she does to get things done. Like I don’t know and that’s, that’s hard core. But but whatever works for you, that’s the point. Again, it’s choice.


Dr. Jennifer Gardella [00:19:29] Absolutely.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:19:30] That tells me you have to do it this way. They pull back and they say, who are you to tell me what to do? But if you tell them this is how people have done it, how are you going to do it? They might say, yeah, I’ll do that, too. Right. It’s all about choice. So tell me a little bit about you mentioned business. You started your own business and you help people do some interesting things. Tell me. What was that process like? So after you graduated? Tell me what happened after you graduated and take the story to starting your business.

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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.