Online Program is Worth the Wait for Texas Tech Doctoral Student

by ABBY TOMLINSON

July 27, 2011

Rhonda Stanton knows what it's like to make a difficult choice. Years ago, Stanton was accepted to an ideal doctoral program at Oklahoma State University. The program had everything she wanted except it required her to be in residence at the university for the first two consecutive semesters of coursework and her family, job and life are in Missouri.

She was torn between her dream of pursuing a Ph.D. and the family she cherished. Enrolling in the doctoral program would require her to be away from home most of the week and leave her husband with the bulk of the responsibilities. Stanton said that ultimately, there was only one choice, and even though she was accepted, she did not go.

"God saved my family from the very bad decision I was about to make," Stanton reflected. "I wanted it so badly, but I just could not do the two consecutive semesters residency requirement."

Years later, Stanton's dream of pursuing a doctoral degree became reality when she was accepted to Texas Tech University's online Ph.D. in Technical Communication, offered by the College of Arts and Sciences. Through the online program, Stanton is able to pursue her degree on her own time, from Missouri, and she only has to say goodbye to her family for two weeks each year.

She admits it is not easy to juggle her education, professional responsibilities as a member of the human resources team at a software company, the needs of her pre-teen and teenage daughters, the care of her father, who is a stroke victim, and the events and activities at her church, but she makes it work.

"It is difficult. It's only my second year at May seminar. But my husband handles everything very well. Other people always offer help while I'm away, but he does it all. I have a very supportive family, so that's how I make it happen," Stanton said.

As a mother to a 15-year-old girl and a 10-year-old girl as well as wife of 21 years to the quality team manager at a software company, support from her family is a vital part of the equation of her success. She said that her husband encouraged her to go back to school by pointing out that she was happiest when she was teaching. Completion of her doctoral degree will provide the possibility for her to join the faculty at a university at which she can begin to teach again.

"I started a master's program and went on faculty at Missouri State as soon as I finished it. I found out that I loved being in a college classroom," Stanton said. "Because I want to teach at the university level, having a Ph.D. will offer more opportunities than if I don't have one."

With the knowledge that she wanted a Ph.D. and she could get it from Texas Tech online, Stanton got the support of her employer and began the technical communication doctoral program one course at a time. Joyce Carter, Ph.D., a leading researcher in the technical communications field and a professor at Texas Tech, coordinates the program for online students and helps to ensure that they succeed in it.

"Dr. Carter has really been an advocate for the program to ensure that three hours equals full time if you're an online Ph.D.," Stanton said. "The whole idea is that it's for people who are in the business world and teaching and doing other things. This is a way to make that available when it wasn't before."

Since the program became available to working professionals, there are more interested applicants than the program can handle. The result is high rejection rates and a feeling of pride for those who are accepted.

"It's a tough program, and it's hard to get into. Our rejection rates are right at 80% so it's competitive. But it's the only way for me to get what I wanted," Stanton said.

The ability to get what she wants without leaving home is worth the other sacrifices to Stanton, who uses half her vacation time each year to spend two weeks in residence at Texas Tech's Lubbock campus. Luckily her life is not all work and no play; her family plans to take a few long weekends this summer to enjoy their boat on the lake.

"My mentor at Missouri State knew about the program and knew some of the faculty. It is a well-respected program and worth looking into," Stanton recalled. "It turned out to be the only way I could get what I wanted."


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