This June, Dr. Sheri McKillop, Dean of the University of Fredericton, was formally awarded her Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) from Northcentral University.
Dr. McKillop’s journey to earn a doctorate degree began eight years ago when she noticed that the terminal degree would be critical for her advancement in the field of post-secondary education. While Dr. McKillop initially considered a range of doctorates, a DBA stood out as being the most natural choice for her:
“I’ve always had a love for learning, but I quickly realized that my heart and soul was in business,” said Dr. McKillop, “I was really drawn to the idea of furthering the field of post-secondary and doing so in a way that was further-reaching than just the field of Education. There is business in everything, no matter what job you have, and combining elements of leadership, human resources, finance, and other business disciplines to an academic institution was very interesting to me.”
The search for a suitable doctorate program began for Dr. McKillop shortly after the completion of her MBA degree). However, she didn’t formally pursue her program of choice until beginning with the University of Fredericton in 2014, where she was already a graduate of the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. Her positive experience led her to not only pursue an online DBA program, but also to use her dissertation to focus on the unique benefits to employability that online education has.
“I had worked and studied in an online environment, so I had a unique understanding of the benefits it provides; however, I also understood that negative attitudes towards online learning, though diminishing, still exist. When I took a look at the potential impact of negative perceptions and how they can affect the online graduates job opportunities, I noticed there was a big gap in the literature for this subject area.”
Dr. McKillop’s research surrounded how online graduates can increase their hiring opportunities by highlighting skill development that occurs through online learning. Through research with real employers, she was able to ascertain that in Canada, the perception that employers view online graduates negatively was significantly less than in the US; in fact, though she initially intended to discuss possibilities for overcoming negative attitudes in Canada, the negativity she anticipated didn’t actually exist.
“It was a pleasant surprise to learn that online education is largely positively received in Canada. The research and studies that you often hear about related to negative perceptions are usually related to US employers” Dr. McKillop observed. The surprising findings of her dissertation, which was successfully defended on June 18, 2018, has resulted in plans for parallel research within the US. Dr. McKillop, along with her dissertation chair and faculty subject matter expert from Northcentral University, have plans to replicate the study in the coming year.
In addition to replicating the research produced within her dissertation, Dr. McKillop considers herself a lifelong learner, and anticipates that her doctorate will not be the end of her formalized learning. She looks forward to continuing to pursue research related to online studies, and will be focusing on some of the unanswered questions that came from her dissertation in the immediate future.