CTU’s Doctoral Symposia Energize Students, Faculty Alike

By David Leasure, Ph.D.

Faculty of CTU’s doctoral programs held their symposia in July – one for Doctor of Management (DM) and one for Doctor of Computer Science (DCS) students. If you’re unfamiliar with what a symposium is, defines it as "a meeting or conference for the discussion of some subject, especially a meeting at which several speakers talk on or discuss a topic before an audience."

At CTU, we define the symposia as a treasured meeting of doctoral students and faculty who travel to Colorado Springs to hear renowned speakers, share and defend their individual research, and make lasting connections with their fellow students and faculty. The close mentor relationships established during symposia helps foster intellectual achievement and promote the pursuit of personal goals.

“The symposia have sessions introducing new students to the general program, as well as the research and writing component of the program. There are a variety of shorter workshops and a common activity on the last half day,” describes Dr. Bo Sandén, a Doctoral professor in Colorado Springs who helped lead the DCS symposium.

CTU Faculty Dr. Connie JohnsonAt the July symposia, we introduced the new President of Doctoral Programs, Robert "Bob" Lally, who is also an accomplished naval aviator, military and homeland security planner, and civic leader. We teamed up with Bob and Dr. Connie Johnson, our Provost and Chief Academic Officer, to welcome 40 new and 97 returning students in the Doctor of Management program, and the 27 new and 50 returning students in the Doctor of Computer Science program. About half the students in each program attend the symposium each quarter, alternating each time they are held to meet the requirement of two each calendar year.

“The symposia have been a vital part of the DCS program since its start,” reflected Dr. Sandén. “I have attended the vast majority of them and always find it quite energizing. Especially for new students, meeting instructors and classmates face-to-face is critically important.”

Doctoral programs began at Colorado Technical University in October 1995 with the philosophy of serving experienced professionals for advanced education in their fields and supporting their research interests. In our programs, we challenge the students to become thought leaders in their fields. We know they bring years of experience and amazing drive and energy to their programs, and need the faculty mentors who support their dreams. The programs typically are completed by students in three to four years, and are remarkable because students start their research courses from the beginning of the program.

The symposia are as energizing for the faculty as they are for the students. Especially for new students, the opportunity to meet instructors and classmates face-to-face is critically important. Most of the time at each symposium is devoted to the courses the students are taking. After we all leave and the course continues online, it feels like the discussions simply keep on going. “Students leave with increased confidence and a much better feel for class requirements and our instructors’ approach to teaching,” adds Dr. Sandén.

See photos from July symposia.

One of the most popular features is the faculty office hours segment. By tradition, every Friday morning at the symposium, students get to sign up for 15-minute slots with various faculty members, who consequently get to see up to 12 students in one long sitting. These are short time slots, but they are incredibly effective. Proposed research topics can be validated or narrowed down, or faculty members can be proposed as mentors or readers. If the students are lucky, they can still get their 15-minute slots with those prospective committee members the same morning.

I attended a session in the DCS symposium where the students were meeting one-on-one and in small groups with faculty from across the country. Though these meetings were going on simultaneously in a big room, students and faculty were so absorbed in their discussions that no amount of distraction could pull their attention away. It was exciting to see these future leaders so deeply engaged.

Doctoral graduates report having used their degrees professionally, and some extraordinary experiences include graduates who have gone on to publish work, patent ideas, and start new businesses*. One such alumnus, Doctor of Management in Organizational Development (2009), is Emad Rahim, DM, PMP. Words simply cannot describe his story, so I’ll leave you with his personal video and a promise to profile more stories like this in the future.

*Each person's experience is unique and individual, and the experiences of these persons may not be the same for you.

Photo credit: @DrConnieJohnson delivers opening remarks at the DM symposia, twitpic via @ctuniversity