Kentaya Beeler photo

Kentaya Beeler PhD in Accounting

Working towards a PhD is a huge challenge on its own.

But pursuing a PhD while recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor? Almost impossible to imagine. This was Capella University student Kentaya Beeler’s reality—and she did not let surgery or a lengthy recovery stop her.

Accounting, Auditing, Teaching

Beeler started in the accounting field after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 1999. She began working as a cash accountant, transferred into auditing banks and credit unions, and then moved from New York to Orlando for a job as internal auditor for a national construction company. The position required her to travel extensively auditing job sites across the country.

The travel eventually took a toll, and Beeler decided to take a position in tax accounting at a CPA firm. She earned her master’s degree in taxation and began teaching as part-time adjunct faculty in Orlando, Florida in 2007. The role of instructor suited her more than she’d expected. “I have a passion for accounting, and teaching gives me the chance to still use my skills but also share my knowledge with others,” she says. When she became interested in seeking full-time academic teaching roles, she realized she would need a PhD to make that progression.

A Life-Changing Diagnosis

While moving through several phases of her career and education, Beeler began to be plagued by debilitating headaches, starting in 2002. For six years, she returned to doctors again and again to find a cause, undergoing CAT scans that found nothing and cortisone shots in the base of her skull that didn’t help alleviate the pain. “The doctors just kept trying different medications, and nothing worked,” she says. “They didn’t really think anything was wrong.”

Beeler eventually learned that an MRI would be a better diagnostic test than a CAT scan and asked her doctor to perform one in 2009. “The doctor said, ‘If it makes you feel better,’” Beeler recalls. “He didn’t think they’d find anything.”

In fact, the MRI did reveal something significant—a large tumor in her brain that needed immediate medical attention. Fortunately, it proved to be benign, but the aftermath of the surgery left her lightheaded and struggling with balance problems for 18 months, a situation that again stumped her physicians.

Never Wasting a Moment

Beeler was essentially housebound during her long recovery. She returned to the idea of a PhD so that, if her health permitted, she could pursue full-time teaching. It proved to be a wise choice on many fronts. “[Working on my PhD] made me have a positive mindset,” she says. “I wasn’t just sitting at home, trying to figure out why I wasn’t getting better faster.” She chose Capella’s online PhD in Business Management, Accounting program in large part because it gave her much-needed flexibility. “The program allowed me to stay in my house,” she explains. “If I had a bad day, I could always make up for it. That’s not so easy to do in traditional programs.”

The physical weakness began to subside as Beeler worked on her PhD. She’s now in the final stages of dissertation approval and has begun looking for work. She feels cautiously optimistic. “There’s such a demand for accountants today, and they need people to teach them,” she says. “I’ve had employers tell me, ‘Let me know as soon as you have that PhD.’”

Her advice to anyone going through the PhD process? “I’d encourage others not to give up. Keep going. You can do it. Capella gives you the flexibility to work your real life around your education. It’s not easy, but you can do it.”


Learn more about Capella’s online doctoral business programs.

See graduation rates, median student debt, and other information at Capella Results.