Inaugural class will graduate Dec. 12
from Ph.D. in Business for Executives program

by Terry Tush 
(November 26, 2014 at 10:40 am)

PhD in Business for ExecutivesOklahoma State University’s creation three years ago of an innovative program targeting executive leadership is now paying dividends for a number of professionals across the United States. The inaugural class of the Ph.D. in Business for Executives will graduate Dec. 12 during OSU Graduate College commencement exercises.

The Class of 2014 from the Ph.D. in Business for Executives program includes:

  • David Altounian, Austin, Texas
  • Scott Anderson, Guymon, Oklahoma
  • Tom Bennett Jr., Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Fred Cleveland, Calgary, Canada
  • Durand Crosby, Oklahoma City
  • Warren Dyer, Edmonton, Canada
  • Toby Joplin, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
  • Patti Jordan, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Philip McMahan, Edmond, Oklahoma
  • Dessie Nash, Dallas, Texas
  • Tom Totten, Indianapolis, Indiana

The first graduates from the innovative program will participate in commencement exercises at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 inside Gallagher-Iba Arena on the Stillwater campus.

“The program has brought our research faculty and senior executives together to study real business problems and develop research models to address the issues,” said Ramesh Sharda, director of the program and Vice Dean for the Watson Graduate School of Management. “Our program has had international participation from the very beginning. Indeed, two of the graduates in the very first group are from Canada.

“I am also proud of the fact that the research produced by these Ph.D. students is of high quality. For example, one student has already coauthored a paper that has appeared in Journal of Applied Psychology, a top tier journal in management,” Sharda said.

The first graduating class is a highlight for many who have been involved with the program since its inception.

“Five years ago, the Spears School’s leadership team had a vision to create the next big thing in business education. After two years of carefully planning with department heads, associate deans, faculty, alumni, and all other Spears school stakeholders, we were able to launch the premier Ph.D. in Business for Executives in 2012,” said Craig Wallace, research director of the program and William S. Spears Chair in Business Administration. “The program is very strong and we owe a great deal of thanks to those visionaries.

“Words cannot express how awesome it is to graduate our first class. Congratulations to our graduates and a heart-felt thanks you to all the participating stakeholders in this program,” Wallace said.

Tom Bennett Jr. and Fred Cleveland are two of the 11 who will graduate next month.

“Participating in the inaugural class of OSU’s Ph.D. in Business for Executives has enabled me to achieve the important lifetime goal of completing a Ph.D.,” said Bennett Jr., chairman and co-CEO of First Oklahoma Bank. “This program has helped make me a better banker and will enable me to help my colleagues create a better bank.

“When I receive my degree I will be 64 years old. This process has made me feel like I am in my 40s again and ready to take on the brave new world with the latest in executive skills. It has also enabled me to be a role model for my children and grandchildren in demonstrating that learning is a lifelong adventure. You’re never too old to pursue your dreams,” he said.

The goal of the program is to narrow the gap between academia and business. Students help the faculty learn about the problems that their businesses face, so they can work together and develop research that will have practical applications.

“OSU was founded under a pioneering spirit, and our first cohort were also pioneers of how to leverage our practical experience while learning real science and theory to drive lasting solutions in the business market. We are pracademics now,” said Cleveland, executive vice-president, operations for WestJet.

One of the things that differentiates OSU’s program from many others around the country is its strong emphasis on research. “This program provides an opportunity with this new genre of executive education to blend academic research with organizational experiences at a new level and prepare executives to apply as well as contribute to business research,” said Sharda.

The Watson Graduate School of Management is hosting a reception in honor of the 11 graduates from 4:30-6 p.m. on Dec. 12.