Lance Robert, DPA, needed a degree to distinguish himself.
A former high school teacher turned college instructor, he wanted to obtain a full-time job at a community college in the Los Angeles area. But he knew that competition for such jobs was fierce—and degrees made a difference. So when a colleague commented that “what had served him best in his career was his doctorate from Capella,” Robert took notice.
In spring 2015, Robert accepted a tenure-track position in political science at Los Angeles Southwest College (LASC). More than 100 people applied for the position. The interview process was rigorous—it even involved an on-the-spot writing component.
Looking back, Robert says he assumes it was a combination of his experience, personality, and expertise that ultimately got him the job. It probably also helped that he had served as an adjunct instructor at LASC for a few years.
But it was the doctoral degree he earned in January that permitted the hiring committee to consider him—a requirement for the position. “Thank God I had a doctorate from Capella, because it made a difference,” he says. “It gave me a chance to sit at that table.”
Going back to school certainly proved to be the right move. But at the start, the decision was daunting. A lifelong educator who had taught high school, worked in educational publishing, and juggled several adjunct posts at community college, Robert couldn’t just drop everything and enroll in a doctoral program. He had a mortgage to pay and a family to support.
Online education held particular appeal, he says, because “I wasn’t going to sit in a classroom. The only format that was going to work for me was the Capella format.”
Robert credits his Capella doctorate in public administration for helping strengthen his knowledge of political science (the two fields are intertwined). Furthermore, it honed his skills as a teacher: “Everything I did at Capella was amazing in terms of content, and it also made me a better teacher in terms of technique,” Robert says.
The courses gave him insights into ways he could build his future students’ abilities in writing, research, and critique. “These academic skills can be applied across the board, whether the students decide to go into English or psychology or political science,” Robert says.
Part of Robert’s new job at LASC is to keep students motivated and reaching for their dreams. That too is something he saw modeled among his instructors at Capella. “It’s really about putting students first,” he says. You have to build coursework around a community, and Capella is very good at that.”
Learn more about Capella’s Doctor of Public Administration degree program.