David Wells PhD in Leadership, Strategy, Management, and Organization

Name: David Wells

Hometown: Stafford, Texas

Profession: Administrator, Strayer University

Degree Earned from Capella University: PhD in Leadership, Strategy, Management, and Organization [this degree is no longer available; a comparable degree is Capella’s PhD in Leadership]

My life’s dream was to become a professor. I started out in the service industry, but because the pay was low and the opportunities were limited, I eventually moved into commodities trading and sales and ultimately decided to pursue an online PhD from Capella University to advance my career. From the start, I felt I was hard-wired to succeed, but education was vital to achieving my dreams.

On graduation day, I was leaving for the ceremony when I received a phone call inviting me to interview for an adjunct teaching position at a university. Over the phone I was given the details of the interview and what to expect. Graduation day felt twice as great, knowing that I was getting a chance to break into the field of teaching earlier than I anticipated. A few weeks later, I interviewed, conducted a teaching demonstration, and got the job.

After I completed my new-hire paperwork, my supervisor inquired if I would be interested in becoming a dean at some point. In fact, the idea had never crossed my mind, but I did not want to upset my new supervisor so I said, “Sure, I would love to some day.” I figured she was just asking and that opportunity might become reality 10 years or so down the road. To my surprise, however, she began mentoring me. She saw what other supervisors overlooked: someone who could rise to the occasion and wanted desperately to do so. I recently completed my first year as a dean.

My PhD opened doors for me that I never expected. It allowed me to position myself for successful opportunities and confirmed my belief that I had what it took to succeed. Once the options presented themselves, I focused on them like a laser beam. I locked in on uncovering success factors and exceeding objectives. Sometimes it takes elevating your mind to get you to your goals.

Here are my six steps to success:

  1. What’s possible? Dream big.
  2. Paint a picture! Document your goals, talk about them, refine them.
  3. Chart your course. Map out the steps it will take to achieve your various goals.
  4. Anticipate challenges. What are the biggest obstacles ahead? How will you deal with setbacks?
  5. Do the work. Be disciplined and review your goals every single day.
  6. Celebrate the wins! Applaud yourself as you make progress step by step.


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