Your Journey to Doctor is Not Over with Dr. Louis Fletcher

Dr. Louis L. Fletcher is the Director of Culture and Services for El Paso County Colorado School District 49. He is responsible for developing and implementing district-wide education, outreach, and training to promote a culture of inclusion, equity, and respect. Prior to coming to District 49, he was the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Webster University’s Denver Metro Campus where he led programs that resulted in active duty and retired veterans successfully achieving graduate degrees. He is also formerly the Regional Director for the Western Region of Troy University where he was responsible for leading the academic programs offered at 10 campuses in the western United States and Northeast Asia.

Dr. Fletcher served as an officer in the United States Air Force for 20 years in locations such as Korea, Greece, France, Germany, and various locations in the US; his final assignment was the founding dean of the Advanced Space Operations School in Colorado Springs.

Dr. Fletcher is a restorative practices instructor and advocate who has presented on the discipline nationally and internationally. His goal is to free people from the disputes they have with each other and the world at-large, so that they can find peace, respect, and love in their lives.



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

  • State of readiness and maintenance 101 for doctoral learners
  • Dr. Fletcher discusses the importance of alignment with your doctoral committee and your dissertation
  • How Dr. Fletcher used emotional discipline and self-awareness as a motivator to continue his doctoral journey
  • Zero in on your passion and make it your reality, don’t give up
  • The link between OODA Loop and your dissertation committee
  • How the tragic loss of his brother fuels his drive to give back
  • The power of forgiveness and freeing your mind

In this episode…

Are you a doctoral learner that has hit the wall and productivity has come to a halt?

In this episode of An Unconventional Life, expect to gain invaluable insight from Dr. Louis Fletcher as he reveals to Dr. Russell Strickland the challenges that motivated him to embark on his doctoral journey. He shares the tragic loss of his brother, becoming an instant parent of two children, and the departure of two dissertation chairs. His experiences were the driving forces by which he achieved his goals. The Drs. discuss inner strength, passion, and emotional discipline as motivators—staying power.

Dr. Fletcher’s heroic story will inspire you to keep moving forward and prosper!

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 turned teacher, author, dissertation coach, and more, Dr. Russell Strickland.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:00:28] Hello and welcome. I am your host of an Unconventional Life podcast, Dr. Russell Strickland, the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done. And I have with me today Dr. Louis Fletcher, who’s the Director of Culture and Services for El Paso County, Colorado, school district number forty-nine. Dr. Fletcher has a very interesting back story here that we’re going to get into. He’s served as a career man in the Air Force, been to, you know, Korea, Greece, France, Germany, and various places across the US. He is a Chief Administrative Officer, was the Chief Administrative Officer with Webster University’s Denver Metro campus. He’s formerly been a regional director for the western region of Troy University. So, a lot of practical background from the military, academic background. Currently, he’s a Restorative Practices Instructor and advocate and he’s presented on the discipline nationally and internationally. Dr. Fletcher, thank you so much for joining us here today.


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:01:33] It’s my pleasure to be here today. It was interesting in the pre-interview, talking to you about some things where you bring up grab a good time of day. I’m all over the place in terms of things I’m interested in. I do want to give a bit of that.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:01:46] I look forward to. I absolutely do. I’ll tell folks as we get started here that today’s episode is being brought to you by Dissertation Done. At Dissertation Done, we help adult doctoral students through the dissertation process. So, whether you are facing a dissertation coming up or facing one currently, reach out to us at and we’ll have a conversation, see if we might be a good fit to help you get to graduation as soon as possible. And if by any chance, you have gotten to graduation and you want to operate in that expert space as a coach or consultant, a counselor or something like that, the best way to get the word out there about what you do is to have your own book. If your first name is Doctor and you literally wrote the book on your area of expertise you become the de facto to go to standard expert. And we help folks do that as well through our exchange or authority program. You can find out more about that So, doctor, sorry, Dr. Fletcher. How are you doing today?


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:02:49] Doing very well, just coping with the four seasons we had this week in Colorado Springs, you know, we had snow, we had sun, we had a fall, we had spring the whole thing out here. But it’s one of the best places in the world to live. I can tell you that it’s been all over the world.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:03:05] It is absolutely gorgeous out there. We were talking just a few minutes ago about that. And this week I had our kids, because of the pandemic, have been virtual all year long. And my youngest is their last year of elementary school. And they always do this thing that they call the Gator Gallop. It’s their mascot, the Gators, and they do it as a fundraiser. And they go out and they run around the track for like I guess in fifth grade. It was 20 minutes this year. I thought it was like 15. But this year was 20 minutes. They were running around the track. And this year, of course, they didn’t have sunshine when it went when we were going back for the gator gallop. It’s like middle of May and it was 50 degrees and raining the entire time I was out there. So, I did my best to cheer them on and clap and all the kind of stuff. But I was just surprised. No kids wiped out because the track was slick, and it was raining, and it was overcast. But that being said, all the kids were so happy to get to see their friends for most of the first time all year, and they had fun. It’s great how kids can have fun despite what’s going on. Right.


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:04:11] That’s something we got to kind of keep that joy in ourselves when we get older. And I would say to our as a when I was in Montana, I was stationed in Montana and I was working on my first doctorate and it was a Ed.D. And I remember a German was a PhD who was Native American. He used to always call me the underdoc underdoc. So, I would say, OK, so I will tell you that was homage to him to say, if you’re out there as an underdoc and you’re out there trying to write these things, don’t get down and get upset. Try to find that joy of kids running, you know, in the gator gallop so that you could finish what you were doing and understand that there’s goodness on the other side.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:04:52] And there’s so much and we’re definitely gonna be talking about that today. But I do want I don’t want to honor what you just said there about folks getting things done. And I like to use the word Futuredoc, but I definitely like the little the little jab that underdoc has with it. You don’t want to stay an underdoc, that’s for sure, right?


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:05:13] No. No, you do not. And I was elected I was AB for a lot of years with that, Ed.D. And then, you know, so if I have something to say to all the folks out there who do feel like they want to give up, you know, I had a military career that I was involved in. I was being sent different places. It was just hard. And schools weren’t set up to be able to do anything other than be there and teach classes for them and that kind of thing. But then I got to go back around to the end of my career, and I said, OK, I started going for the Ed.D. again and then partway through it, I took even longer because my professor said to me, my chair said, hey, everything you say and everything you do says that you are a researcher. It might seem like a crazy idea, but if you take two more classes, you can get a Ph.D. instead of Ed.D. Now, this is going to delay you by a little bit, but are you up for it? And I’m like, yes, sure, let’s do it. So, I probably got a lot of hurls to be able to give out to our folks out there who are in it.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:06:11] Well, let’s start off by asking what in the world possessed you to pursue a PhD in the first place or doctoral degree in the first place? It’s not a normal thing to do. Right? Most real smart enough to know. Ninety nine percent of the population just then do it here. Well, what was your story?


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:06:29] Well, you know, that goes right there. First generation college student probably. And I don’t understand even with that, I never thought about a PhD. I tell you exactly what happened. I was stationed I was a second lieutenant at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, the Missile Launch Officer. And we had this thing that was called the Missile Crew Education Program, which meant just one of a four-year tour in Montana. One of the benefits was that you had the opportunity to get a master’s degree. So, I said OKAY, I just finished my undergrad, my bachelor’s degree. I’m here up in Montana. I’m with the Senate right now with me. Go ahead, get this master’s degree thing. So, I took a master’s in counseling and development from Northern Montana College, and I zoomed through that thing. I just loved it. I was just leaving it up. It was it was wonderful to me, and I got a 4.0. So, I mean, maybe I can do this education. So, I was still there, and I had two more years in I state. I said, well, what comes after master’s and Education Center? They were saying, hey, well, there’s a doctoral program. So, what can I do that? I said, well, you got time. I said, OK, well, let’s do that. So, I started doing a doctoral program Ed.D with Montana State University out of Bozeman, and I learned a lot. I got a lot of good research skills and everything like that, and it helped me with my career. But then, you know, a doctor doesn’t just take two years. So, after two years, it was a matter of saying, hey, well, you got to go to your next assignment. And I said, well, I don’t get to stay in Montana forever, so I got to go to my next assignment, and it was it was it was in Washington. No, it was Washington, D.C. So that will change. And not being there had to put that on hold for a bit. And I try to keep in touch with that. And over the next few years, I was able to do a few things. I visited a time or two to go back and take my comps and that kind of thing. I was All But Dissertation, so I finished the entire doctoral program. I did everything but defend, and that’s kind of where it stopped with all those places you talked about at the beginning, it was just hard to be able to maintain it.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:08:24] It really is I mean, when you are when you’re not tied to a university community, so we talk about on this podcast an unconventional life. And I look at there being two tracks in terms of doctoral students, and there are certainly more than that. But for our purposes, folks that go from high school to college to graduate school, they want to be research professors. I call those traditional doctoral students. And those guys are lucky in the sense that they have who they want to be is right there with them. You know, it is really like an old school, Middle Ages master apprentice relationship. You are studying at the foot of the master. He’s not a carpenter or a Cooper or a Smith. He’s a researcher. And you’re doing his work for him and carrying his water for him for a while. And then you get to the point where you’re working more or less as colleagues and you do your own thing, you graduate and the whole thing. It clearly makes sense what you’re supposed to be doing at any point in time. And there are other students that are around you that you see every day doing the same sorts of things. When you’re in a situation like you were and like I was, you might not know anybody else is getting their doctoral degree.


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:09:32] Right.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:09:34] You might not be able to communicate with them. You might not see what they’re doing when they’re getting up at three or four o’clock in the morning. I’m just guessing they got up extra early in the military to do their dissertation because some of our students would get up at four or five o’clock in the morning to get to work on theirs. You don’t get to see that. You don’t get to see that that’s normal for what you’re doing. And it becomes very hard to understand how you’re supposed to be able to get this done when you don’t have any kind of role models, any idea at all that you can look at and see, OK, he’s doing it this way. I’ll try that too.


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:10:04] Yeah, your kind of like an island. I remember doing the first work for the Ed.D. I was still going out on duty, give you a little slice of life, as a missileers. If you’re if you’re a missile launch officer, this is intercontinental ballistic missiles. And I was in Montana. You’re going out to the missile fields. You go out for no less than twenty-four hours, a hundred feet underground with systems monitoring nuclear weapons.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:10:26] Yeah.


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:10:27] Now, that sounds exciting, I’m sure, but we don’t play nuclear war every day or ever. So, it’s one of those things where you’re in a state of readiness and you get the getting everything ready to go. So, you have some time in there to be able to read and study and do those kinds of things that you’re sequestered a bit. But there’s other times when there’s stuff going on there, security situations, there are missiles going into a state of maintenance that’s not optimal. So, you have stuff that you have to do. So, so it’s kind of a start and stop fit and start kind of thing. So, it was a different kind of environment. And, you know, it’s just two people underground behind a giant blast door with all of this equipment. And then you find times in between. So, you manage. I managed it from my masters, and I managed for the doctoral piece. But then when I go from there and I go out there next to Howard University as an assistant professor of aerospace studies and then later at University of Maryland is the regional director of admissions, those jobs require you to get out with the community and work with your students and that kind of thing. So, I’m teaching other people so getting less and less time to do things for myself. So, I struggle as much as I could and got to the place where I could. But after a while, I had to put my feet on the side I always had in the back of my mind. That’s why I felt the underdoc when I talked about the underdoc thing is that it was just it was kind of in the back of my mind. Maybe he planted the mind worm on me to say, hey, if I say, underdoc, you’re going to finish this one day and I appreciate, I appreciate him for it. And like that, I appreciate and like the people that you appreciate, you can remember their names. Like my first chair was Dr. Gary Conti, I think he is at University Oklahoma right now. And Bob Dylan and those guys were, they did so well on that first piece, it made me know that I needed to do this. Like I said, follow your passion. I talk to people about that and transitions all the time to follow your passion. What do you need to do? Why do you want to do it and why do you want to be excellent at it?


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:12:17] Yeah, well, I’ll tell you, when you talk about remembering folks’ names, I do remember the names of my committee members, they were they were fine. I had no trouble with them. And I’ve worked with enough doctoral students now to know that that’s a bit of a lucky break. I think I did a reasonable job of selecting and managing those folks. But also, I got reasonably lucky that I did get a committee that was not dysfunctional, and it would be there to allow me to finish, if not help me to finish. But the person I remember, and he has since passed, but was Dr. Gary Sutter. I was working at the time as an adjunct at Grantham University. I think they’ve changed the name since then. They were down in Slidell, Louisiana, and Katrina convinced them to move out of state. They packed up and left and went to St. Louis or something, I think. But one day I was just venting about how I had gotten all the way through my dissertation process, and I realized that I didn’t know how I was going to get anybody to participate in my study. Nobody had told me that that was something I should really think about and plan on, and that wasn’t my strong suit. Some folks that they might have somebody on my committee, might look at that and say “And of course, you can find people that fill out your surveys, no big deal. And I’m looking at like how did not realize I should be thinking about that ahead of time. And I was talking to him about and he said, well, you can distribute the survey to our students. And that’s why I graduated. I mean, I probably graduated at some point regardless, and it didn’t actually I wasn’t stuck for very long. If I tell the story another way, people will be like, you were some sort of rock star finishing your dissertation that quickly. But I felt like I was stuck. I was definitely stuck. It was going to have to happen to get me instead. It just happened quickly, and I was lucky for that. But it was just a conversation I happened to have with somebody who was like, well, I can help you there. There wasn’t much to him to help me, but it was a lot to me, that’s for sure. Everybody needs help to finish this thing.


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:14:11] Absolutely. And you have to be ready for things. One of the major things for me stop in my first program was the fact that Gary Conti left the University of Montana or Montana. I got slapped in Montana for the University of Montana, Montana State University. Gary Conti left Montana State University.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:14:30] That’s usually a real big difference.


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:14:32] Yeah. When you lose here, we lose a really different. Yeah. When you lose your chair, it’s a traumatic thing. Now, what happened to parallel with North Central? I had my chair leave when I was in process too. I was like, oh my goodness, this can’t happen again. But because I had the experience before, I knew I had to dig down also a little bit more life experience at the dig down to be resilient and understand this is not the end of it. But what I say to you from when we’re talking the other day is that picking your committee is a political process.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:15:05] Yeah.


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:15:06] And everybody has to understand that. You have to have somebody who’s your chair, who is there for you, who is aligned with you and understands and is aligned with the research that you’re doing with your dissertation so that they can prep you well. If you pick somebody randomly and they are not aligned with doing, I can tell you what you’re going to be doing. Either you’re going to be doing what they’re good at or you’re going to be ABD or less. So, you have to you have to make sure your committee is picked in the right way that aligns with you. And you have some dissenters on there and they’ll be one person on your committee from who’s just like the honest, the honest broker from the administration to make sure nobody’s abusing you. And they really don’t say very much. Just make sure you’re not being abused. But, yeah, when you pick your committee, you’ve got to make sure you pick people who are kind and understand. When I say kind, they will hold you to task. And it does sound kind to other people, but it will hold you to task. They will be your biggest cheerleader and they will tell you, get your nose out of the books. Right now, you understand everything you need to understand, start to put pen to paper. I guess figuratively. You’re going to do it on a computer or something like that. But they will keep you on task.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:16:13] Yeah, I, I think I think that’s very important. The idea of selecting your committee and doing a good job with that, that is something that I do think I did well. My chair was somebody I thought I could get along with and I was very clear with him. I want to graduate. That’s what I’m trying to do here. I’d like to graduate soon. I don’t remember if I if I gave him a specific time frame. We talked to our students now about finishing your dissertation in about a year. And I don’t remember if that gave him that specific time frame, but I was probably somewhere around there ultimately. But that’s what I told him. That was my objective. And he agreed with that. And then I asked him, who have who have you worked with that can help me, help us? Actually, I was already learning some psychology that might help us to reach that goal because he had already bought into my goals. It was not my goal. It was our goal. And that’s a very important thing when you go talk to your committee members. You know, this is what I’m trying to do, you know, what do I need to do to make that happen or how can you help me to reach that goal? And a lot of times when you ask people that question, how can you help me to do this? You’re going to get some people that will just pull back and be like, no, this is your thing. But a lot of folks, there’s this thing called reciprocity. When you when you ask somebody for a favor in this weird way, they feel indebted to you, that you ask them for a favor. When you come to seek someone’s counsel, they feel honored by that, even if they’re in a position where they should be giving you that counsel when you ask for it, they feel honored sometimes and that can really help you win them over to your side.


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:17:46] Yeah. And like I said, it goes to the thing that I did, I learned in the military, and I see it right now. And it is a strange phenomenon. You don’t really pick your mentors, your mentors pick you, your mentor sees something in you, and you want to buy. What do you eventually go like? I need to go talk to my mentor. But you think back. How did a person become my mentor that they took you under their wing? And so, I think that’s one thing to recognize when somebody who somebody is trying to mentor you so you understand and receive that. But I got one for like the folks out there who are trying to say, well, how do you do with a family life? You obviously must be a bachelor and you just did whatever you wanted. No, I got I have two kids and I have a wife. And part of that whole thing of getting this done the second time when I was going through the PhD was seeing how I could have that fit into my life. And I couldn’t say I’m not going to be like my children and my wife. I got a great wife, supports me, but I had to go, hey, I’m going to be I did my dissertation on volunteer youth coaching, recreation versus competitive. And it’s up and it goes into motivation, and it’s got deeper levels to it than what you hear right there. But I had to do that because I had to do something that allowed me to be with my kids. So, I was a coach. I was giving my surveys, like you said to other coaches. I was putting that data together and aggregating the data and looking at what recreational coaches in terms of motivation and looking at competitive coaches who are also volunteers in terms of motivation. So, I’m doing this big thing in the background and just using the people around me in Colorado and looking at the different leagues that I coached in. I got gold crown Basketball League; here is a competitive feeder that goes into high schools and that kind of thing that goes hands with the Nuggets is over that. So, I’m doing all this in the context of that. So, the only way I could do it and finish were fitted into my life.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:19:36] Yeah.


Dr. Louis Fletcher [00:19:37] But I do have to caution they give to my doctoral students when they’re going through the process. I said fit into your life, but don’t make it the most. Don’t make it. Don’t make your subject a dissertation, the most important thing in your life. And that goes, for example, if a mom has a kid who’s autistic and they want to do their research about autism and that kind of thing, is that you’re going to face some things where it doesn’t confirm what you believe and it going to be hard for you to get through it because you’re going to say that’s wrong, that’s wrong, that’s wrong. And when you go to to defend your dissertation and people are picking at different points right there, you can be like you’re picking you apart. So, you have to make sure that you fit into your life, but then make it something so personal that it damages you when people refute you.

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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.