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Doctor of Business Administration

Mike Thome

International Offset Manager, Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

"All the professors have niches that they specialize in and they incorporate personal experiences in class. They get published, speak at conferences and present papers. Their excitement for their field rubs off on you and makes class interesting."

How to succeed

"Everyone in the program is so supportive. At orientation professors and current students (like me) share our experiences with new DBA students. We remind them that they can make it. If they made it through the selection process, they have the ability to succeed. Now they just have to put in the work."

One of Mike's beliefs is that "learning is a lifelong process." Having earned his bachelor's in business and a master's in business administrative sciences from Iowa State University, a DBA seemed like the next logical progression for his education. As the international offset manager at Rockwell Collins, Mike organizes international material purchases, international work placement and offset credit trading. Because travel is a major component of his job–he oversees projects in Canada, India and Saudi Arabia–the ability to earn his degree as a part-time student was one of the main reasons he chose Ambrose.

"My end goal is not solely job advancement or teaching credentials. I'm in the program because I enjoy the classroom interaction. The teachers are my mentors and there's no competition for grades. Everyone works as a team, and we're all there to learn."

Mike isn't the only one in his family attending Ambrose. This fall, his daughter began undergraduate courses at the university.

In his own words

Have you been able to apply what you've learned so far?

Before I moved to my current position, I took a class on cultural differences and how they affect the business decision-making process in various parts of the world. I did a group project on India and one of the things I learned is that in the United States, we're hierarchical-there's usually one decision maker. In India, the process is different. Six months later, I traveled to India for my job. The class prepared me for what to expect.

What are classes like?

The curriculum blends theory and practice so you can apply what you learn to your career. Group discussions are a major part of class, and because we're all experienced professionals we teach each other. Even though we're reading the same material, we pick out different aspects we think are important.

The professors do more than lecture. They lead you through the material and facilitate our discussions to keep them on track. Yes, they assign tests and papers, but I never feel that they're only testing us; they're guiding us. If you hand in a paper, and miss the mark, they give it back to you, offer advice and ask you to think again and rewrite.

Which class made an impact?

David O'Connell taught my very first class and at the time, he was helping a student finish his dissertation on high-performance parishes. He'd give us an update on the research for that study during every class. It demonstrated the level of dedication necessary to complete that type of work. I made a special trip to campus to see the student defend his dissertation. I felt like I was almost involved in it.

What new skills are you gaining in the program?

I have a better understanding of the academic world. When you earn your MBA, you look for answers to questions, whether they're financial solutions or marketing plans. There are solid answers. But in the DBA you're looking for the questions to ask. It's a whole new way to learn. The key is to find the right question and then research. This summer I'm taking a class about teams. My question going into the class is: What are the different ways people can work as a team?

I've also become comfortable with writing. I never considered myself a strong writer. But we write a major paper for every class. Now I can crank out a 30-page paper confidently.

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