Embrace the opportunities a cohort model presents. Lean on one another; take a shoulder when it is offered and lean on it when it is needed.
By BeLynn Hollers, BA ’21
People describe Misty Sabol as persistent. She began a demanding career working as a stock analyst for pharmaceutical companies and later oil and gas, but a desire to strike a better work/life balance led her to begin teaching at Lone Star College in Houston. After some time, she decided to seek out a doctoral program in business administration that would complement her family and career life and found UD’s DBA program offered through the Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business. After completing the program during the pandemic while she taught, parented and studied, her persistence has paid off; she is now a professor at the University of South Alabama. This is her DBA story.
I just wanted a real change. I had my master’s, so I started teaching at a community college. And once I figured out that was something I'd like to continue doing and wanted to do at a higher level, I decided to pursue getting my doctorate. UD was appealing for a number of reasons, including the format and the curriculum, which was really exciting to me.
The cohort model provided me with a support structure while I went through the program. I liked that the curriculum was delivered in a hybrid format over three semesters per year instead of two semesters. Also, I was teaching statistics at the time and saw that we had multiple methods-based courses within the curriculum, so all of those things just really aligned with what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.
It was intense at times, but also pretty rewarding. We had a fairly small cohort – there were nine of us by year two. So we all just really developed a close bond. We remained in constant communication with each other almost daily, which was great. And we spent the weekends together. There was someone to commiserate with and bounce ideas off of. It adds another level to courses that you're taking mostly online – you spend two entire days together, with your teachers and your fellow students.
Our classes were split – half had a consultant focus, and half had an academic researcher focus. So I had some consultants in my cohort, and also some people who were teaching full time, so it was interesting for those of us who have never done consulting to take the consulting classes and hear the experiences of our classmates who were currently working as consultants, and on the flip side, for our consultant classmates who had never taught to hear from those of us on the academic research and teaching side.
Our faculty sharing their research with us and spending a lot of time with us making sure we were writing and conducting analyses at the levels we needed to, and being very generous with their time and their feedback, all helped me to build a resume that made me competitive for a tenure-track job and diversity.
Our faculty made themselves available to us. They would help us with our resumes or our teaching philosophy. When I went to an interview for the job I eventually ended up getting, the hiring committee asked me a question, and I felt like I didn't do a good job answering it. So I emailed Dr. Brian Murray, who's our research methods teacher, and told him, “Hey, they asked this question. I don't feel like I did a good job answering it. How could I have answered it better?” He got back with me right away. I sent an email to the hiring committee and said, “Hey, I don't think I do a good job answering this question. Here is a better response.” And it was received well, and I eventually got the job. So making themselves available to help us with all of the pieces of the process was really beneficial.
When I was putting together my letter of application for the program, one of the things we had to do was write an essay about ourselves and why they should allow us in. So I went on social media and posted to my friends on Facebook and colleagues on LinkedIn and said, “Friends, I need your help. I've got to write an essay describing myself, but I'm struggling with adjectives to use in this essay. Can you please be brutally honest and share some adjectives that you think most describe me?” Sadly, no one said I was smart or funny – I always kind of thought I was a little bit funny. But they did say over and over again, “You are persistent, you are determined,” and that's how I made it through the program. I said, this is what I want to do next, and I'm going to get it done.
I was raised by a single mom who had a ninth-grade education. When we were young, we were very poor, lived in a trailer, and had food stamps. And my mom decided that that wasn't how we were going to live our lives, and she put herself through nursing school while raising the two of us all by herself. She grew up until she built a better life for us. So I just had that example that if you work hard enough, you can get that goal that you set for yourself. So this example and that shared experience is why I have that level of determination and persistence.
I'm particularly interested in what makes people behave innovatively. My research looks at things such as their personal characteristics that contribute to innovative behavior, specifically things like creative personality, social capital, emotion. I write a lot with one of my cohort peers.
I have two sons – they're 10 and 13. And a part of innovation research is tied to entrepreneurship research. Entrepreneurs have to innovate, and I can see in one of my sons the characteristics of an entrepreneur. My research has helped me to understand ways to cultivate and help him grow those characteristics. So it's kind of cool that a piece of my research is informing and helping my family life; I think he probably will be an entrepreneur.
Embrace the opportunities a cohort model presents. Lean on one another; take a shoulder when it is offered and lean on it when it is needed. You also have a built-in pool of potential coauthors with your cohort, so take advantage of it!