ISM insight: Life as an ISM student

The ISM Student Blog provides insight into life at ISM. Bloggers are current students and recent alumni who are excited about sharing their diverse learning experiences in ISM’s programs. Explore this blog to learn more about life at ISM, and how the program benefits students in the long run. You may also want to follow ISM on Facebook or join the conversation on Twitter.

Throughout the two years of coursework, doctoral students are continually honing their research and writing skills in preparation for the final stage: writing the dissertation. But before doctoral candidates begin to write a dissertation, they must first submit a dissertation proposal. Fortunately, preparing for this phase of the doctoral process begins on day one of the courses. 

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ISM’s doctorate business programs provide diverse course offerings, enriched by an environment of students who may be entering the program as subject matter experts in various fields, such as medicine or law.  Further, as a discipline, business itself has a vast array of facets, with some subject matter experts such as accountants or HR professionals, desiring to deepen or broaden their area of expertise. These past professional experiences help to enrich classroom discussions, weaving together a diverse tapestry of perspectives in the discussion.

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As a DBA student based in the United States, I chose ISM due to the diverse student body comprised of working professionals from a variety of backgrounds.  For me, the face-to-face courses were a critical factor in my decision to attend ISM, as they would allow me to greatly expand my professional network and enable me to engage in more hands-on learning.  

In addition to face-to-face courses, online courses are also available, and I found them to be much more difficult and time consuming.  For a three-credit online course, there were typically three assignments completely driven by your own schedule.  For these classes, professors were always readily available via Skype or email, if a question arose, but the value of being able to learn from classmates in a more traditional setting was sometimes a tradeoff for the convenience of an independent schedule.

Due to the variety of variables, finding face-to-face courses that align with your work and personal schedule becomes a very reasonable option.  During my studies, I attended classes in New York and Paris.  Courses are typically held once a year in New York during the summer, one additional location such as São Paulo or Cape Town in the late fall, and throughout the year in Paris.  When you travel for face-to-face courses, attending at least two back to back (5-6 days) is a great option that makes the expense associated with travel, a great return on your investment.  As I get ready for my third and final trip to Paris, I thought I would share some insight to my preparation for face-to-face courses, including the intensity associated with the timing of this process.

Usually, 4-6 weeks before your face-to-face course(s) are scheduled to begin, the syllabus is posted and you may begin your preparation.  Typically, this involves ordering a few books, downloading articles, and reading through the syllabus.  Within the syllabus, a pre-course assignment is typically outlined which is due prior to the first day.  The assignment is typically a very basic introduction exercise, PowerPoint, or writing assignment that outlines your background in the subject, your interest, or first impressions.  Preparing for a course can become quite intense if you are working on assignments for any other classes at the same time and/or are also preparing to take time off from work.  I would suggest ensuring that your other class assignments are completed four weeks before the face-to-face course begins, to lighten your workload.

Once in Paris, or one of the other face-to-face locations, each course typically lasts three days from 9am-6pm.  Two breaks and a one-hour lunch help to give your brain a reprieve from the engaging dialogue and group discussions, presentations, or work underway.  After the class concludes, a major assignment, typically an original research topic in the course, is due within 4-6 weeks.  Since the professors encourage each student to approach the final assignment from the lens of their professional and academic interests, the course topic truly enhances your professional development and growth.  Personally, I often find myself sharing the knowledge I gained from the course work and studies with my work colleagues and staff to enhance our own understandings, processes, procedures, and tools.

As I begin to stare down the dissertation, as it is the next phase of my journey to achieve a DBA, the courses have helped to set me up for success.  Not just because of the content and academic rigor, but due to the vast network of fellow students I can reach out to across the globe; all of whom are on the same shared journey of professional and personal growth. 

For nearly the last two decades, I have been a full-time student for the majority of my professional career. I have had a family for the length of that period as well.  I share this as a means of offering support and encouragement to others considering pursuing a doctorate of business administration (DBA) from ISM.  With a support network plus the right school and curriculum, anything is possible.

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As a doctoral student, you are required to write two additional research papers outside of your traditional course assignments. The first paper, referred to as Case Analysis I, is assigned approximately one month before you begin the program; you have exactly three months to complete it. The second paper, referred to as Case Analysis II, is sent when you have completed approximately 75% of your course studies and also has a three-month deadline. Totaling 1.5 credits each, the first assignment is staged to serve as a baseline from which to measure your research and academic writing growth during the program.

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When pursuing a doctorate degree, no matter your circumstance, you will inevitably receive the question, “How do you do it?” Admittedly, the schedule and deadlines are daunting but with a plan, a support system, and a desire to remain part of this elite and impressive group of students and alumni, it can be done.

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I think one of the most unique aspects of ISM is the flexibility of the programs, particularly for their fully employed students. I run a full-time real estate business in the United States, and, despite this, I am able to finish my coursework.  

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Courtney Rottman

I am not a morning person, but I recently eagerly woke up at 3:45 a.m. to attend a class discussion with my DBA and PhD classmates. Under the direction of Dr. César Baena, I recently completed the Dynamic Strategic Management course which explores the challenges and analyses required for businesses to remain competitive and responsive in their ever-changing environments.

As part of our coursework, my classmates and I were able to come together as a group to ask questions and discuss the course materials and our research. Although unusual for an online course, attending an early morning wake-up call was a welcome interaction to spend time with my classmates in time zones across the globe due to the rich and diverse perspectives they bring to the course materials.

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