Deborah Stroman, PhD Capella University graduate
No matter what field you’re in, pursuing a doctoral program is a major commitment. As the different aspects of that commitment become clear—the time, the intensity, and the cost—it’s easy to question whether it’s really worth it. What’s the return on investment for a doctoral degree?
As the different aspects of that commitment become clear—the time, the intensity, and the cost—it’s easy to question whether it’s really worth it. What’s the return on investment for a doctoral degree?
Dr. Deborah Stroman, who graduated from Capella University with a PhD in Business Management in 2007, shares how that degree has made an impact on her career in the subsequent years.
Stroman describes herself as a lifelong learner who always assumed she’d go for a PhD. “I got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees and knew that the next step was the doctorate,” she says.
However, by the time she was ready to start a doctoral program, she was working full-time and had co-founded a golf event planning company to encourage women and minorities to get involved with the sport. Even as busy as she was with her dual roles, Stroman had an itch to go back to school that was too powerful to ignore. “Originally, I wanted to attend a brick-and-mortar university as I’d done for my previous degrees,” she explains. “But as a working adult, I had neither the time nor energy to manage that.”
A friend referred her to Capella, and she liked what she saw. “I firmly believe in institutions that allow learners to learn and also show appreciation for human capacity,” she says. “Capella gave me the flexibility I needed as a working adult to keep moving forward.”
Her focus during her educational years changed over time as she pursued various passions. She received a bachelor’s in history and social studies education with an eye towards law school. But as a former college athlete, she found herself drawn to the sports world instead, and rather than going to law school, she enrolled in a master’s in sports administration program. “Graduate school helped me to realize and accept my nature as a sales and marketing type of person,” she says. “I started selling insurance and investments
“Graduate school helped me to realize and accept my nature as a sales and marketing type of person,” she says. “I started selling insurance and investments afterward and loved it. The bulk of my 17-year career was spent working in the field and corporate offices at Prudential and GE Capital.”
After the completion of her doctorate—and with her career in financial services and small business ownership going successfully—a visit to a professor from her master’s program opened a new door. The professor suggested she consider teaching, and Stroman became a visiting professor for two years. The location was the University of North Carolina, and she found that she fell in love again with the area. “North Carolina has great food, beaches, mountains, and Southern hospitality,” she says. “I knew this was where I wanted to stay.”
When asked what the Return on Investment (ROI) is of her PhD, Stroman didn’t hesitate: “The ROI for me is 150%. First of all, a PhD means something. It provides instant credibility,” she says. “Second, it creates interest. People find out you have a PhD and they want to know more. ‘What’s your field of study?’ ‘What do you research?’ Now I teach, advise, and engage at all levels, including doctoral.”
Stroman’s PhD has opened doors beyond teaching as well. She was able to combine all her passions—athletics, teaching, and sales and marketing—to create and direct the Center of Sport Business at UNC’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise. The Center integrates Sport Business into curriculum, research, and program activities. She also developed and teaches a Sport Entrepreneurship course for the university’s Entrepreneurship Minor.
Her current research is focused on the measurement of the social and economic impact of sports on the entire state of North Carolina. This analysis is showcased at her nationally-recognized SPEIA Basketball Analytics Summit, which offers students, faculty, and practitioners research and best practices of both athlete performance and the business aspects of the sport at the collegiate and professional levels.
Advice for Potential PhD Candidates
Stroman is a firm believer in the value of a PhD, but that doesn’t mean she thought it was an easy journey to achieve the degree. Asked for advice for future doctoral students, she had three specific points:
- Be focused and know there’s a reason that not many people have earned a PhD. Don’t think it’s going to be easy, or something you can just touch the surface of.
- Prepare the people in your life for the fact that you’re going to be a very different person while you’re working on this achievement. You won’t always be present and available.
- Always remember, it’s a hard race to run, but it’s so worth it. If you want to make an impact, this is a great way to do so.
Learn more about Capella’s doctoral degree programs.