Name: Dr. Lisa Rutner/Grand Canyon University
Introduction: In 2007 I relinquished all of advanced designations in financial planning and retired so I could foster a career change and follow my original dream of becoming a teacher. In 2009 I graduated with my bachelor’s in education. I earned my master’s degree in special education in 2013 and in 2018 I earned my Ed. D. in special education. I am one of the ones who actually completed my entire program in just under 3 ½ years. Currently, I am a middle school inclusion teacher, serve on 18 dissertation committees as a content expert, and am in the process of becoming a chair.
Do you currently have a doctoral degree? Yes, in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Special Education
What line of work/business are you in currently? Education
Our listeners are probably curious to know how they can best finance their schooling. What can you tell us about how you financed your doctoral program? Student loans
How prepared were you financially for this pursuit? I knew I was going to have to finance my education by receiving student loans.
How did you decide to pursue a doctoral degree? In all honesty I just woke up one day and decided I wanted my doctorate degree. I love learning and taking classes, so I knew it was the right decision.
Has it always been something you’ve been passionate about pursing? No. While earning my master’s degree one of my professors suggested I earn my doctorate. She then told me I had the tenacity to do it so I should.
How about inspiration? People don’t typically wake up and say, “I’m enrolling in a doctoral program today!”, so how did it work for you? Was there someone or something that inspired you? In all honesty, I just woke up and said, I am going to enroll in a doctoral program.
How did you select your field of study?
I have a passion for teaching students with disabilities, so it was an easy choice for me.
Family/Study balance, do you have a family? How’s that balance working out for you?
At the time, my son, his wife, and their daughter lived with me. She was 3 when I started my program. Since she was and still is my side kick, it was harder on her because I had to balance my time with her with my course work time. As a result, I edged out special one-on-one time with her.
Were you ever unsure about or did you ever question what you’d gotten yourself into? Yes. During my very first class I did not understand the directions of the very first assignment; I ended up with an “F”. I was on the ledge, ready to jump but I dissertation friend calmly talked me down, redirected me, and encouraged me to reach out to my professor, which I did. He was very helpful, and I was able to run from there.
Did you ever second guess your field of study of choice? No.
What other degrees have you earned along the way? I have a bachelor’s, master’s, and since 2018 an Ed. D.
What do you enjoy most about your program? Interacting with my classmates.
What did you study in your undergrad and grad school programs?
Undergrad: education, Grad: special education.
What was the biggest difference between being a Doctoral Student and a Doctoral Candidate? Knowing I was almost at the end of my journey.
Can you think back to a stressful time during your program? What made it stressful?
I was most stressed when I was writing chapter 4. It is the most challenging. I would rather write another literature review then write chapter 4. The amount of specific details was overwhelming. Learning to hand code and then create tables and then write my findings was a challenge.
What is your fondest memory of your program? My chair. She was the best.
In a couple of sentences, share what was your dissertation defense was like.
It was not too difficult. I created my PowerPoint slide presentation and showed it during my defense. I read off each slide and provided additional comments. I responded to all questions without difficulties. Since it was my study, it was not too difficult to do.
What words of wisdom or encouragement would you give to someone who’s considering earning a doctoral degree?
Every day the learner should identify existing literature that could support his or her study. The learner should ensure his or her document is properly aligned and there are ample studies to demonstrate that his or her study is warranted. The learner should also have several individuals that could act as his or her sounding board.
How did you choose your dissertation topic? Were you passionate about this topic? If so, why? If not, why not? If you have already chosen a topic (or will at some future point) why would you say that “passion” about the dissertation topic is important?
I was very passionate about my topic and I knew there was a need to add value to existing literature.
How long did it take to complete the course work for the doctoral degree? How long afterward did it take to complete the Doctoral Dissertation?
I entered the program in March of 2015 with my first class and defended my dissertation in Aug. of 2018. I am one of the ones who was able to complete my degree in just under 3 ½ years.
At any point, did you ever feel like discontinuing your program?
As I mentioned before, I felt discouraged once, during my very first class in March of 2015. Once I spoke with my dissertation friend and professor, I got on track and took off from there.
Would you like to comment on the phrase, “I have a Doctorate, “ABD” (All But Dissertation)?
In my opinion, if an individual is a doctorate but an ABD, he or she does NOT have a doctorate. He or she cannot call him/herself Dr. so and so.
Tell me about the significant contribution to your field that you made as part of the Doctoral Dissertation process.
The significant contribution I have made since earning my degree is not within my field, but it is my work with other learners who are pursuing their degree. Being a mentor to others is so rewarding.
Please share two things about yourself (that you haven’t already shared above) that you’d like listeners to know.
The first thing I would like to share is that I have learning disabilities (processing and reading) and completing a degree is one of the best things I have ever done. As a learner you will face challenges and many frustrating moments, just stay focused, ask questions, find resources, and push through, you will be able to finish your degree. The second thing that I would like to share is that every learner should have a great editor working with him or her.