Dr. Gabe Venturi and the internet go way back.
After getting in on the ground floor during the internet boom in the late 1990s, the Bologna, Italy, native worked his way up to co-founding a software services company.
So, it's fitting that Dr. Venturi married his experience and education by graduating from the online Doctor of Education in Leadership and Innovation program at St. Thomas University in May 2020.
"After I earned a master's degree, I had an incomplete feeling," he said. "For many years I was reluctant to stop my career and life to go to a university for five years and get a doctorate."
The ability to earn a doctoral degree on his own schedule from a reputable program, with enough rigor to make it legit, sold him on pursuing it.
Dr. Venturi co-founded Network Capacity Solutions, Inc. in Arlington, Virginia in 2012. He serves as the company's chief operating officer.
"After years of working for different companies, we saw a need to create software that better managed inventory," he said. "So, we started the company, which has been growing and growing. I never lost that desire to finish, but I couldn't stop working to go to school.
"I could have done it five years earlier, but I wasn't satisfied with the choice of doctoral programs online. St. Thomas helped pushed me over the line."
Dr. Venturi admits that he was a bit skeptical about enrolling in a fully online doctoral program, but he soon knew he had made the right connection.
"The technology works and is easy to use," he said. "It was a better experience than I would have thought going in. I never had a formal online course, but I work in the internet industry and live in that world. It wasn't novel to me, but the program was well-executed.
"The faculty is strong. STU tries to bring a mix of experience and background. There were 12 core courses, and I had 12 different professors, which is by design. In the end, that's good. You get much more breadth and depth with the experience."
Dr. Venturi moved to the United States from Italy at a very young age. He has spent most of his life in Virginia.
To get a jump on the job market, he finished his bachelor's degree in economics in 3.5 years from the University of Mary Washington in 1998. He then added a master's degree in telecommunications from George Washington University.
"I was going to get an MBA, but they actually offered a degree in the internet," he said. "I thought I would specialize, so that's what I did with the telecommunications program."
When Dr. Venturi was set to return to higher education 18 years later, he had to choose what type of doctoral degree to pursue.
"The Doctor of Education degree is a slightly more practical doctorate than a Ph.D., which is more theoretical" he said. "We studied topics that are more applicable to the real world, on top of the curriculum in a typical Ph.D., meaning a dissertation."
Dr. Venturi was keen on attending an established university if he was going to make the commitment to earning a doctoral degree.
"St. Thomas is a brick-and-mortar school," he said. That is not to say Dr. Venturi did not value all-online schools; he just knew that a brick-and-mortar school like St. Thomas would have the kind of history and legacy an all-online school might not.
"I wanted to avoid any connotation that the degree wasn't rigorous. The strong organization of the St. Thomas program drew me there."
He could immediately apply the knowledge he gained in the program to his position of running the operations of his company.
"At first, I thought I would be surrounded by teachers and the program would all be education," he said. "The educators probably had to catch up a little more than I did, because something like strategic global management is a new concept to some of them.
"The curriculum was a good mix for a practical doctorate you can apply to your field."
Although the online Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation – Administration program requires a sizeable time commitment, the flexibility of the online format helped Dr. Venturi strike the right balance between school, work and personal life.
"There was some concern that it would overtake my life," he said. "That was part of the reason I set out to see how expeditiously I could move through this program. I had an idea of what I wanted to do for my dissertation. I was ready to go. I put my foot on the gas and didn't stop.
"I was fortunate to have great advisers and an encouraging support team that let me move at my own pace. If you stop or take a break, the wheels come off the wagon. You have to keep your head down and focus. I am glad that I did."
Writing the dissertation was Dr. Venturi's favorite element of the program.
"To write a dissertation, a published document like a book, is the most challenging and rewarding experience that anyone will have in their academic career," he said. "That's a universal statement, and you are going to get that experience at St. Thomas.
"A dissertation is the benchmark of earning a doctorate. You have to prepare for it. The satisfaction you get when you cross that finish line is probably a top-three event in your life. It's huge."
For Dr. Venturi, earning the Ed.D. gave him a sense of completion.
"Even if you have been out of school for a while, you can make it happen," he said. "If you don't think you have the time, find the moment when you have time and commit to it.
"If you stay on track, you'll finish in three years or less. You can make it happen. You will cherish that milestone when you achieve it."Learn more about STU's online Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation – Administration program.
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