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DBA Students Receive International Research Awards

By Alyssa Clementi

USF's Doctor of Business Administration program, debuting just two years ago, is already building an international reputation for excellence. And its students are garnering research awards early in their academic careers, too.

One of the requirements when accepted into the three year, 72 credit-hour program, is attending three academic conferences. The aim is to expose student research proposals to reviews by other DBA scholars and practitioner scholars. The University of South Florida is the only accredited program with this requirement built into its curriculum.

"You want to see these academics in their natural habitat," said Matt Mullarkey, director of the DBA program. "How do they work? How do they interact? How do they get rewarded?"

"If you want to make a bridge or partner with academics and practitioner scholars, then you have to understand their motivations, the reward structures, and the systems," Mullarkey added.

Recently, 22 USF DBA students traveled to Paris for the 6th International Engaged Management Scholarship Conference on Sept. 8–11, hosted by the University of Paris-Dauphine and the Executive Doctorate in Business Administration Council. At this conference, 13 of the DBA students submitted 19 presentations for review. These presentations were included in panels, poster sessions, and paper sessions.

"I can assure you that in that conference, our DBA students stood out," said Mullarkey. "So much so that one of them, Jim Stikeleather, was awarded the best paper for research in progress at the conference."

Stikeleather submitted his research to the DBA Consortium, which, if chosen, is a chance to present research proposals and receive feedback from other DBA students and professors. Stikeleather, who has a background in computer systems, wanted to use his knowledge to research side effects of capitalism.

"I'm a die-hard capitalist. I absolutely believe capitalism has done more for humanity than any other invention except maybe fire," said Stikeleather. "But there are a lot of unintended consequences that have come with capitalism."

Stikeleather believes that in the future, the nature of business will be much broader, more complex, comprehensive, and challenging as individuals and society redefine its roles and expectations. He writes "a new model of business is necessary to help guide the decisions and designs of business models going into the future."

Along with the academic conference in Paris, nine DBA students were selected to attend the North American Case Research conference in Las Vegas, from Oct. 5-8. USF stood out once again, with DBA student Clinton Daniel taking home second place in the student case writing competition. He was recognized for his scholarly research with Fintech, a financial technology company located in Tampa.

Daniel teaches in the USF Information Systems Decision Sciences department, instructing courses in business intelligence and business data communications. Before joining the USF faculty, Daniel worked in several information technology roles for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

"My years of experience in the VA influenced my ability to be successful in the DBA program, due to a career of leading and implementing information technology projects," said Daniel. "The VA taught me the skills to work with massive scalability, which is a unique aspect to bring to the DBA program."

Mullarkey believes that kind of work experience, combined with the program's research emphasis, sets USF's program apart.  He says it is unusual for students to take home awards this early in their academic journey.

"So here we have two conferences, we have wonderful participants, and the overwhelming feedback from my academic peers was 'these people are incredible'," said Mullarkey.

Other institutions are starting to take notice. USF has been selected to host the 7th International Engaged Management Scholarship conference in 2017. Mullarkey credits the dedication and passion the students have for continued learning and work ethic.

"Students must have 12 years of professional work experience to join the program, but most of ours have 20," Mullarkey said. "Students need five years where they've had a significant senior level impact or serious span of control in an organization, ours have 10 or 15 years in executive positions."

"The caliber of these students is unparalleled," Mullarkey continued.

"I believe the work I do in this program will enable me to be a more disciplined practitioner who takes the time to thoughtfully research problems and opportunities," said Valerie Mockus, a DBA student. "This research will help me become a better partner with my clients."

Mockus is a president of Apple Pi Consulting, a financial aid consulting firm for higher education.

Fellow student Denise Gravatt, a professional services consultant for Florida Atlantic University's School of Accounting Executive Programs, echoes Mockus's sentiments. She chose USF's DBA program due to the interesting course topics, dedication to rigorous research, and respected faculty.

"We have such a collaborative cohort, and studying alongside my fellow doctoral students who keep the bar set high helps me strive even harder to achieve my own personal best academic success," said Gravatt.