College of Business and Economics

DBA Spotlight: Stephen Gray

April 04, 2017

Written by Dana Krems | Photos by Craig Schreiner

Stephen Gray has always been passionate about education. That is why, when he was invited to teach a finance class at Western Illinois University, he immediately agreed. That one class soon became three, and his teaching career steadily grew to the point that he set aside his other professional pursuits.

Steve had received his MBA from Western but did not have a doctorate. He quickly realized that his pay and advancement were limited by his non-tenure status. After some soul searching, he found there was no reason he should not get a terminal degree.

“Time passes anyway,” Steve related. “And after the passing of three years, I would have regretted not using that time to earn my DBA.”

While the decision to pursue a terminal degree was straightforward, his path to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater DBA program was winding. When he finally discovered the program, its format appealed to him and he immediately connected with the DBA faculty. Whitewater was also a reasonable distance from his home in Illinois. But most importantly, the college was AACSB-accredited.

Making an absolute commitment to the program, Steve sold a business he owned to pay for his tuition and other costs. He explained, “I was investing in myself through the DBA program. I literally put my money where my mouth is.”

His confidence was tested as the coursework began, however. He shared, “I’ve always generated very good grades, but it’s not because I’m someone who can look at something once and retain it. I’ve had to work hard. I’m also a perfectionist, and I wouldn’t accept anything less than an A for myself.”

Because of the effort and dedication required, Steve cautioned that prospective DBA students should have a defined goal when considering the endeavor. He stressed, “Go in knowing what you want the end to look like. Don’t undertake the program just because you think it might be interesting. If you’re not completely serious, you’ll become a statistic.”

“I basically treated this as a full-time job,” he elaborated. “It required 100 percent focus and consumed my life. But if I had been half-hearted, I would never have lasted.”

Steve also emphasized the importance of a strong support network. In particular, his wife and his department chair at Western Illinois University were both tremendous sources of help and encouragement. He related, “If I had not had a supportive wife, a supportive department chair and a supportive family, I could not have done this.”

Though it has been a road of trials, he had absolutely no regrets about investing in himself. As a result of the program, he feels well-equipped for a tenure-track career.

Steve concluded, “Based on the education that I received from the professors at Whitewater and the dissertation phase, I can go on and conduct independent research and be successful in obtaining tenure.”

UW-Whitewater’s AACSB-accredited Doctorate of Business Administration program is a professional doctorate that enables students to develop in-depth expertise in a specific business area. The DBA is a 60-credit program offered using a cohort model where students attend classes one weekend each month for two years, followed by a year of dissertation work.