First Doctor of Business Administration cohort brings diverse group of leaders

Mar 09, 2022
The first cohort of the Doctor of Business Administration program at Newman met for dinner at Scotch and Sirloin.

What do a supply chain manager, adjunct professor and social worker all have in common? Each has chosen to pursue the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program at Newman University.

In late January, individuals of Newman’s first-ever DBA cohort met for orientation classes on campus. 

For three days, the group of nine adult learners attended daytime sessions with Associate Professor Larry Straub, DBA; Interim Director of the School of Business Angie McCoy; and Interim Dean for the School of Business Teresa Wilkerson. The history-making DBA cohort was also recognized with an honorary dinner at Scotch and Sirloin with President Kathleen Jagger, Ph.D., MPH, as well as Newman faculty and community members.

With flexible research tracks and a various focus areas for dissertations, candidates of the Newman DBA program are trained to not only build upon the knowledge and skills they’ve already established but also learn to excel in environments that will continuously change.

A supportive next step

For Melissa Kent, earning her DBA is “the next stepping stone to a better future.”

Kent earned her undergraduate degree from Central Christian College, her master’s in business administration (MBA) from Friends University and a second MBA in supply chain management from Pittsburg State University.

Kent looked into DBA programs in surrounding states, but when Newman announced its first program, she knew it was the best fit.

Melissa Kent
Melissa Kent

The supportive faculty and “family-oriented feel of the program” are two factors that resonated with Kent, and her decision was solidified during her three days in class on campus.

“The faculty want to help guide you and be there for you,” she said. “These three days have been wonderful. It’s been really exciting and an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

With her toolbelt equipped by the DBA program, she hopes to one day pursue a teaching position or a role in upper management for a nonprofit organization.

“I want to build a better and brighter future for myself, for my family,” Kent said. “Maybe I can make somebody’s day, month or future better. I could contribute to somebody’s wellbeing, to the city, to the state, my current company. … I could bring new innovations, new ideas or something that changes a person’s life for the better.”

Refusing to settle for less

The driving force for Judy Bell, a Ponca City, Oklahoma, native, was when she found herself in a position where she “just couldn’t sit here and settle.”

Bell earned a degree in accounting from Oklahoma State, followed by an MBA from Newman University. While working at Wichita State University as an adjunct professor, she felt as if she was missing out on opportunities that a DBA could help secure in the future. 

She realized her calling was to be a professor.

Judy Bell
Judy Bell

“You know, everybody has fears about the unknown and change, especially the older you get,” Bell said. “Why at my age? I thought, well, I gotta try. The only way things are going to change is if I choose to do something about it.”

Bell considers education a key to the next phase, and earning her DBA will allow her to give back to her students in a way that gives her life an even greater meaning. 

“Regardless of where you’re at in life — young, old, middle — you have to look at this as your commitment to open up a different realm for your future,” Bell said. “With Newman, the opportunity is here and I think anyone interested should take the chance because you’ll never know until you try.”

Bell believes the mix of online and in-person learning is a spot-on combination for applying the knowledge and skills into real-world work.

Associate Professor of Business Larry Straub, DBA, worked with students of the DBA program on campus in late January.
Associate Professor of Business Larry Straub, DBA, right, worked with students of the DBA program on campus in late January.

“The DBA program is not a mountain, it’s just some hills,” Bell said. “The majority of us are older, but the professors make it easy and take that fear factor out of the equation. I think that’s a selling point for the program: there’s no fear. If you come here and try, you’re going to get it and be happy with it.”

Bell is determined to put in the necessary work to make it through the program along with fellow members of the cohort over the next few years.

A mission that resonates

Teresa Lovelady, a Newman graduate of the MBA and master’s in social work programs, said that the opportunity to return for the DBA is “simply phenomenal.”

“It’s a blessing and a dream come true,” she said. 

Lovelady serves as the CEO of HealthCore Clinic in Wichita, a role she’s held for 11 years.

“Being out in the field and working in a not-for-profit world and in the health care sector, I’ve just experienced so many different things,” Lovelady continued. “For me and for the sector that I work in, the opportunity to gain and glean additional education and information was something that really attracted me to the program.”

Teresa Lovelady
Teresa Lovelady

Lovelady jumped at the opportunity to be part of Newman’s first DBA cohort because the core of the program, “empowering students to transform society,” speaks to her personal mission.

“We’re going to work together as a team for three to four years, and then come out on the other end as transformed individuals ready to transform society,” Lovelady said. “It’s incredible and I strongly encourage anyone that’s interested to look at the new DBA program.”

Whether a student is pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree, Lovelady recommends “Newman as a place to come to school, period.”

“Newman’s just a special place to begin with,” she said. “Now that Newman has a DBA program, I think no matter what your background is, it’s an incredible opportunity to come into a program that’s looking at it from a practitioner approach where you can work and learn and still continue your day job work.”

We’re going to work together as a team for three to four years, then come out on the other end as transformed individuals ready to transform society.”

Teresa Lovelady

Listening to God’s call

Dave Lechleitner started his career in education as a high school business teacher. The plan was to teach, gain more work experience, earn a master’s and eventually become a professor. 

“God had other plans,” Lechleitner said. 

What started out as two years transformed into 30 years of working in manufacturing and technology — an industry Lechleitner loved. He was working with small business owners with “grease under the nails, living paycheck to paycheck, wondering how they’re going to make it to payroll” and loved being a part of such a hardworking environment of individuals.

Dave Lechleitner
Dave Lechleitner

Then, three years ago, he received the call that the company had to downsize.

“I was left with the question, ‘what do I do?’ I applied at Kettering University in Michigan, was accepted, started my own business and landed a $30,000 consulting engagement. I went through my education at Kettering, had a wonderful experience of my first time back at school for probably 30 years. And it was a big change.”

Halfway through the program, a professor asked Lechleitner what the next chapter in life looked like for him. 

“He told me ‘you need to become a professor,’” Lechleitner said. “He said, ‘You need to go on and get your terminal degree. You’re already at that level, you’re writing at that level. You just don’t have those initials at the end of your name.’ That really planted the seed.”

Lechleitner discovered the DBA program at Newman and was struck by the claim that Newman helps its students “to transform society.” 

“One of the things that was sort of really driving me was, ‘Dave, when you’re dead and gone, what is the legacy that you’re going to leave?’ So there was something about Newman that really touched me.”

He filled out the application, spoke on the phone with Straub and knew he wanted to be part of the program’s first cohort. 

“My wish from the very beginning was to give back,” Lechleitner said. “I’ve been so blessed. And being here on campus, I’ve had no less than six instances where the Lord God has given me indicators that this is the right place at the right time for me.”

He added, “We talk a lot in the DBA program about being on a journey. It’s taken me 58 years to journey back home to where I need to be — Newman.”

Responding to the call with a DBA

For 22 years of her adult life, Anna Perkins has traveled the world with her husband as he’s served on active military duty.

Perkins earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of Kansas, followed by her master’s in management and leadership from Webster University. Her work with substance abuse and mental health therapy in social work ultimately led her to consider teaching.

“I had grown up with teachers supporting me, but teaching was never an interest for me, until now,” Perkins said. 

Anna Perkins
Anna Perkins

She mentored students through internship programs and witnessed them develop as professionals. These experiences made Perkins notice the passion within herself that she hadn’t picked up on before.

“I’ve decided to come back and get my DBA so I can open doors, teach people and truly make a difference,” Perkins said.

Even in the span of a few simple days on the Wichita campus, Perkins said she knows she is in the right place for her DBA program.

“One of the things we talked about is how much of a family we’ve become,” she said. “Even with the faculty, they’re in this journey with us. So it’s very connected.”

Earn Your DBA Degree at Newman

The Newman DBA degree program provides experienced professionals and academics with advanced skills and credentials in business beyond the MBA.