Name: Wendy McGrane

Hometown: Joplin, Mo.

Profession: Interim Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Missouri Southern State University

Degree Earned from Capella University: PhD in Leadership for Higher Education


Q. What sparked your interest in pursuing a PhD?

A. I’ve always enjoyed learning and kept continuing my education in the back of my mind. One time I applied for a job that didn’t require a PhD, but preferred it, and I didn’t get the job. I don’t know that my lack of a PhD at that point was the deciding factor, but it increased my interest in working towards one.


Q. How did your career path lead you to the PhD?

A. I started college as a political science major with the idea of attending law school. But working part-time at a library inspired me to pursue a master of library science (MLS) instead. I worked my way up to become the library director at the university and then started to think about academic affairs. I enjoyed working closely with academics and liked the nuts and bolts of the accreditation process and the broad exposure to higher education. I wanted a new aspect to my career and decided the PhD was the way to go.


Q. What was the online PhD process like for you?

A. I was terrified after my first class! But the Capella experience was fantastic. I loved how organized it is. There’s certain predictability to the process, and expectations are crystal clear. Everyone at Capella was wonderfully supportive throughout.


Q. What was the best part of getting a PhD?

A. The Capella experience was fantastic. I can’t say enough about it. Everyone was so wonderful throughout. My dissertation mentor was wonderful, really a terrific advocate for me, really involved in my idea.


Q. What was the hardest part of getting a PhD?

A. Learning APA style again! [Laughs.] For me, the hardest part was understanding the caliber of the work that was expected of me, and believing I could do it.


Q. How has the PhD changed your career?

A. It has opened doors for me and allowed me to apply for positions I couldn’t before. It also gives me credibility with faculty as I pursue moving up in administration. Having the PhD tells them that I’m not just talking the talk, I’m walking the walk. They’ve got PhDs, they know what’s involved, and they see me differently. It also makes me very mobile. Not that I want to go anywhere right now, but when I want to, I can.


Q. What advice do you have for future and current PhD students?

A. Stick with it. Look at it as a full-time job. And remember, if you have a family, that you’re doing this not just for yourself, but for them. Involve your family. Let them know what kind of commitment it takes. I had the biggest entourage at my graduation! My kids are terribly proud of me.


Read more stories like Wendy’s in “Their Journey to the PhD: Stories of Personal Perseverance and Academic Achievement,” edited by fellow Capella University graduate Amina Abdullah-Winstead, PhD.

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