Name: Barbara Lauridsen
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Profession: Adjunct faculty, National University
Degree Earned from Capella University: PhD in Information Technology Education
Don’t let age—or perceptions of age—stop you when it comes to education. Barbara Lauridsen didn’t, and she completed her PhD from Capella University in 2013 at the age of 72. She now enjoys a third career as an adjunct faculty member at National University. Here, she talks about her career and experience in IT, and her pursuit of the PhD.
Q. Why did you end up pursuing a PhD?
A. I’d been in IT for 38 years, and what I loved most were roles that involved educating clients—transferring skills and knowledge. I’m a practitioner at heart, but with an academic nuance. My dad was a high school teacher, and my mom was a college professor. I learned how to learn from them.
I got my MBA in August 2006 at the same time my daughter did! By the time I transitioned to teaching with the MBA, I realized that I’d need the theory and discipline of a PhD to really pursue my third career in academia.
Q. How did you choose Capella?
A. I was living on Maui at the time, so I needed to find an online university. Capella fit my needs. I started the program while I was working, but 10 weeks after I started, my company laid off several people, including me. I realized I was close enough to Social Security that I could relax about needing a road-warrior type of tech career while in school, so I tripled my coursework. I was trying to figure out what my limits were and what I could handle. I graduated with my PhD in just less than four years with a 4.0 GPA.
Q. What has completing your PhD allowed you to do?
A. It strengthened me as a rapid learner, and allowed me to stay coherent in solving problems in business, technology, and networking. Now I’m originating and teaching courses that focus on the balance between tech and business—how to speak both languages.
I’m currently working at National University with my daughter, who got her PhD a year after I did. I’m not chasing full professorship. I love what I do. I pace myself during the teaching, and I work out at the Y, I garden, I go for walks when the granddogs visit. I’m no longer a traveling businessperson. I don’t have to go to the airport and park in long-term parking anymore.
Q. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
A. I like mysteries and unknowns. I want to have better discipline in terms of putting more hours into research. When I wrote papers for my PhD, I wrote them with an eye to publication. But now that I have the PhD, I can do original thinking for my own research. I’m learning what makes IT people employable, and that makes me stronger in influencing the curriculum.
Q. What advice do you have for others considering a PhD?
A. Learn how to balance “learning” time with “doing” time or family time. Many of the students I work with are juggling jobs, kids, and aging parents. I’ve had many students who are in the military. They need to figure out a plan to balance all those needs and make it work.
Because I took up my doctoral studies later in my career, I had a different approach. My kids were grown, and I had fewer conflicts, especially when the layoffs occurred. Having that happen just as I was able to access Social Security gave me a lot of flexibility. That was a blessing, but not necessarily a situation most PhD students would encounter.
Capella University offers PhD and professional doctorate degree programs ranging from business to education and health to technology. Learn more about Capella’s doctoral programs.