When Adam Goldman began researching various academic programs in early 2019, he had no idea what a Doctor of Business Administration was. After spending most of her career in human resources, she was interested in leaning into consulting and teaching and eventually came across the DBA program. The University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“Human resources people generally have a poor reputation for making data-driven decisions or being good at analyzing things,” he said. “I started looking into it and saw that DBAs were something that existed, and then I saw that the programs had different levels of accreditation. Being an AACSB-accredited program, UMSL has narrowed the pool to a very small group of programs. I looked at UMSL and several other universities and ultimately chose UMSL based on the accreditation and the faculty and staff here.”
Goldman, who graduated this May, flew in from Dallas last week to meet 13 members of the program’s newest cohort during a welcome dinner and orientation. The three-year cohort-based program, which began in 2017, is Missouri’s first and only AACSB-accredited DBA program to offer research concentrations in all areas of business administration. He is also a member of the Executive DBA Council, an international organization for executive-format doctoral degrees, of which Ekin Pellegrini, founding director of UMSL’s DBA program, was recently elected president.
UMSL’s DBA program offers a flexible format with two weekend visits to campus for face-to-face interaction with faculty and fellow students. During its first few years, it welcomed students from all over the country, including Alaska, Arkansas, California, Montana and Tennessee.
Mark Franz, who worked at Anheuser-Busch for 22 years before joining the trade association and also earned a master’s degree in information management from Washington University in St. Louis, said he looked at many DBA programs before choosing UMSL. He was drawn to the program to focus on certain subject areas, such as AACSB accreditation and information systems, which fit well with his background.
Ananda Jayaraman, who has worked in various roles in the IT industry for the past 15-plus years, began to feel stagnant in his current position as a project manager. Like the resulting empty nest, he had extra time on his hands. After sharing her situation with some good friends who were members of UMSL’s 2024 DBA cohort, she felt the program could give her a leg up, especially when it comes to leadership.
“They talked about this program that I was interested in, so here I am now,” he said. “My personal road map for my career development in the next five years is to become a C-level manager, so I hope to do that after I graduate in three years. I am so excited to network and go back to school. It’s been 21 years for me, so it’s been a long time and academics aren’t what they used to be.”
Jeffrey Promnitz, CEO of Zeffert & Associates Inc., also returns to school after a long hiatus as a member of the newest DBA cohort. Promnitz, who teaches as an adjunct faculty member in UMSL’s Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship, said her colleagues in the College of Business Administration inspired her to pull the trigger on enrolling in the DBA program.
“The previous meet and greet and orientation here is absolutely refreshing,” he said. “The staff and faculty really make you feel welcome and energized, and I think those are really big things that motivate people. You don’t feel like a stranger. For me, it’s about getting rich and knowing that I can take what I want to think I’m already good at to a higher level. In business we always talk about how you are compared to the target? How are you doing compared to the last time you did it? What matters most to me is how are you compared to what you can do? And that’s really what I know here: I know I’ve messed up on these two, but I know I can still do more. That hunger, that thirst – that’s what excites me.”
Francesca Ferrari, administrative director of the DBA program, said many students often feel a little overwhelmed when they first arrive on campus. Orientation is designed to inspire and motivate them.
“For orientation, we give our students all the tools they need to succeed, and we have a group of alumni who welcome them to encourage them.” “Generally speaking, students are kind of like, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?’ And then we have graduates who say, ‘Yes, it can be done. We are the product. We survived.” In addition to staff and faculty, DBA students are happy to jump in and support them. This is a doctoral program; It takes a village to do that.”
On Friday, the new DBA cohort heard from Goldman, as well as DBA alumni Scott Morris and Honey Zimmerman.
Recently named director of UMSL’s newly established Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Morris retired from corporate life in January 2022 and started a DBA to begin a second career as a college professor. He looked at many different DBA programs and chose UMSL after a heart-to-heart with his wife and Pellegrini, whom he learned lived next door, about the program’s requirements.
“Before I joined the cohort, I got to know the faculty more, I just felt a sense of community, and that was something I really wanted to be a part of,” she said. “What attracted me was this sense of community, the fact that they were so accessible and that I wouldn’t be out of place at 50. Then, as soon as he entered the program, he absolutely fell in love with the place. Everyone is very loyal and committed. It’s just a community. They pour into the students like they pour into everything they do. I just fell in love with the whole UMSL environment. I went to Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business for an MBA and would combine graduate programs with the best of the best in the country. It was just fantastic.”
Zimmerman, an associate professor of supply chain management at Western Illinois University, graduated in 2021 as part of the second cohort to go through the program. As a mother of four young children with a full-time job, she felt the DBA program was more realistic for her than a PhD program, and she appreciated its focus on practice-oriented research as opposed to theoretical research. Zimmerman also enjoyed the network the program provided and continues to stay in touch with faculty, including her dissertation chair, and meet members of her cohort in person.
“Beyond the publication, a lot of it is just the lasting relationships you make,” he said. “I graduated two years ago, but I still talk to my classmates. Another great thing is that the program is accredited by AACSB. I teach supply chain at an AACSB school, so I wanted to make sure I had the resources. Although I haven’t taken many supply chain courses, I knew there was supply chain faculty here that I could use as a resource if needed. Before I made the decision, I went down and met with all the faculty and they were just down to earth and easy to talk to and I knew it was a good fit.