Education is never far from Dr. Linda McKenna's mind. Two-and-a-half years ago, she earned a promotion to director of learning and development at Comcast in the greater Philadelphia area.
"The learning spot came up and I applied because it's something I have always liked doing — coaching, mentoring and teaching people," she said. "When I had the opportunity to get back into a learning and development role, I did."
At the time, Dr. McKenna was also enrolled in the online Doctor of Education in Leadership and Innovation – Administration program at St. Thomas University. She completed the program in August 2020 to bring her higher education career full circle.
"I was looking for something to do that was a little bit different than what I had done before," she said. "I started an online organizational development program at Colorado State University. I wanted to see if I could do it online.
"Prior to that, all of my degrees had been earned on campus. I decided that I wanted to do something more general than organizational development."
Dr. McKenna worked as a program director for almost five years at her company before transitioning back into the learning realm with Comcast Labs Connect, which focuses on emerging technologies.
"I worked in training earlier in my career, then transitioned into project management for some of the other companies where I worked," she said. "I have jumped back and forth between technology and operations throughout my career. I worked in operations at Educational Testing Services prior to Comcast."
Dr. McKenna chose St. Thomas University after researching online doctoral programs once she decided to make the switch from Colorado State.
"I specifically wanted to stay online," she said. "The thought of going to school at night wasn't very appealing. St. Thomas popped up in my research. It was also small and private. I liked the idea of the diversity and the ability to meet other students."
A New School
After growing up in Lincoln Park, New Jersey, Dr. McKenna earned a pair of associate degrees in business and accounting before graduating with a bachelor's degree in finance from Upsala College in 1989.
Seven years later, she added a Master of Arts in English from William Paterson University. She graduated cum laude in both and is a first-generation college student in her family.
"The reason I went for my doctorate is to learn more about research, which interests me," she said. "I'd like to do the research piece, as well as my full-time job running the Comcast Labs Connect program."
The asynchronous aspect of the online format helped Dr. McKenna earn a degree while meeting the challenge of taking on a new role in her career without missing a beat.
"Online was so easy to navigate," she said. "The coursework was challenging enough. The flexibility was great. Most of the professors were fantastic and responsive any time I had a question."
Although Dr. McKenna especially enjoyed ELI 817: Managing Social Media in Organizations because it was the most relevant to her current role, all the courses in the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Innovation program curriculum were helpful.
"I was able to use everything that I learned," she said. "There were a few topics, in business particularly, that were most helpful. I have been in technology for a number of years, so the information that I learned in the program was all very applicable."
Becoming a Title Holder
From the time that Dr. McKenna enrolled in the online Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation in Administration program in 2016, she has had plenty of support from her friends and family, including her four children — Adam Sellitto (47), Derek Sherin (46), Kate Duncan (25) and Jesse Duncan (23) — and three grandchildren.
"My youngest kids were glad I was going to school and they weren't," she said. "My two oldest kids have already been through college. They were excited for me and asked me if I was going to stop since I now have five degrees."
Dr. McKenna plans to walk at STU's commencement ceremony in May 2021 to celebrate her big accomplishment.
Until then, she'll have more hours in her day for hiking, reading and spending time with her family while still feeding her passion for teaching and learning.
She is happy that she completed the next chapter of her higher education career at St. Thomas University and believes the online Ed.D. program is manageable for most anyone with the right mindset.
"As long as you have the discipline to do the work, you will be fine in this program," she said. "When you get into the dissertation, take it one day at a time. If you look too far in advance, it's daunting. The dissertation seems like it was a piece of cake now. I got good value out of the program and enjoyed it."Learn more about STU's online Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation – Administration program.
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