DBA Program Attracts Leaders from the Military
The Students in the Muma College of Business Doctor of Business Administration program are seasoned executives with decades of experience leading companies through good times and bad. They come to learn how to conduct rigorous research into ways to solve problems, or to prepare for a career in teaching once they retire. But also sprinkled generously among the cohorts are military leaders.
Many are drawn from Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, taking advantage of the proximity of the massive base in south Tampa to the University of South FLorida. Many are retired military now working in the defense contracting realm. Almost all are taking advantage of the G.I Bill to pay for the entire cost of the three-year program.
All are leaders, many of whom have led soldiers into combat situations. Others come from the world of intelligence and cybersecurity or logistics and supply chain management. Of the 138 students who enrolled in their respective cohorts, dating back to 2016, 32 – one in every five – have military connections. They range in rank from a sergeant to a brigadier general who once served as the wing commander at MacDill.
Four of the students are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and three have degrees from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
“We benefit from living and working in a community where many members of all the military branches call home,” says Matt Mullarkey, PhD ‘14, Life Member. He’s program director of the DBA at the Muma College of Business, and himself a U.S. Army veteran. “We are part of the most military-welcoming university in the country and our incoming DBA students with military connections benefit from the supportive services offered through our USF Office of Veteran Success.
“Seasoned military professionals at the 20-plus year mark in their careers are often well positioned with access to people and data to conduct research into the various areas of inquiry that have interested them and their teams for years,” he says.
The DBA program positions military-connected students with the social-science research methods and organizational theories they can use to delve into these interesting areas of inquiry.
“Typically, these DBA participants bring exceptional experience leading teams and organizations around the world, often in extreme environments,” Mullarkey says. “They bring a mindset of continuous learning, a desire to get things done, a need to get to the facts and a desire to integrate the tools and techniques of research with real problems facing real people to make a pragmatic impact.
“Of course, many of these traits are consistent with the traits of every DBA student,” he adds. “It is their lived experience that makes their contributions to research an interesting and insightful addition to the multifaceted, multi-experiences members of each of our multi-disciplinary cohorts.”
Of the 35 students enrolled in the 2018 cohort, 10 were affiliated with the military, the most of any of the five cohorts dating back to the class of 2017.
Terry McGovern is getting ready to graduate this year. He served 20 years in the U.S.
Air Force and chose the USF DBA program because the degree is from an
AACSB-accredited college. When he applied, McGovern already was working as an associate professor at a small private college, so he was familiar with the academic culture. That USF was named the “most military friendly university” in the nation by Military Times contributed to his decision to come here. His commute is more than most. He lives in Iowa and flies to Tampa to attend class each month.
“As a vet, this was important and I can say with no uncertainty that USF more than lives up to its ratings,” he says. “I have a deep gratitude for the way USF looks out for its vets.”
What he takes away from the program most is the “innovative approach toward traditional dissertation projects,” he says. “I’ve already completed a traditional dissertation, so based on that experience I can attest that USF’s approach is spot-on for 21st century education.”
McGovern’s two-decade career in the military included stints as a research division speech writer for the chief of staff and security of the U.S. Air Force, as well as the U.S. Air Force Strategic Command’s director of Global Operations. In 2011, he retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Having military leaders adds so much to the classroom discussions, he says. “Reflecting on our professional experiences in course discussions, not just military but our colleagues from the corporate and non-profit sectors as well, has helped ground the learning to real world situations. That is usable knowledge, valuable for creating better business professionals.”
His advice to colleagues considering the program is this:
“Be prepared. Being an adult student takes a lot of self-discipline,” he says. “Know what you are getting into and be prepared to change your life for three years if you want to finish the DBA program at USF. I would also tell them it is worth it. The personal and professional learning and contacts are outstanding.”
- Keith Morelli ’78, Muma College of Business