Stephen Kilgore

In order for the rest of this blog to make sense and to put my PhD studies into context for you, the reader, it’s probably necessary to give a bit of background information. Like everyone, my decisions and my current path through life have been informed by the situations I’ve found myself in. Without that key bit of context, the rest of this blog would lack structure. How can you learn from my experience if you don’t know where I’ve been?

I started my educational journey at a local community college, getting general education credits out of the way before deciding what I wanted to do with my life. At 18, like most, I was still unsure. To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with my community college experience. It felt more like a continuation of the status quo that went along from high school. Few were interested in the true pursuit of knowledge and many where there simply because they didn’t know what else to do. Still, I carried on.

After finishing my general education requirements, I chose to attend Georgia Southern University to undertake a B.A in modern languages with a major in Spanish and a minor in French. I had always been fascinated by foreign languages and wished to study them on a deeper level. It was in this program that I began to meet like-minded friends who were just as curious about languages, literature, and the world as I had been. It was at GSU that I started to come into my own. My studies at GSU also allowed me my first chance to study abroad, spending six months in Cuernavaca, Morelos in central Mexico. Mexico spurred my love for international travel and I put my education on hold to pursue the opportunity to teach English in the North of France.

Upon returning from France, my outlook on things had changed. Abroad, I met a lot of young professionals in careers such as business, IT, and law. I began to realize that I didn’t really have any hard skills. Sure, I could speak Spanish and French pretty well, but so could lots of others. All I had were soft skills. I have always loved knowledge for the sake of it and consider the pursuit of higher learning and self betterment to be one of the most noble things one can do with one’s time. Pragmatically, though, I was scared. I knew what it was to come from a family that struggled financially – I didn’t want the same for my future. When I came back from France, all I was qualified for were dead-end jobs in a call center.

It was this point that I first discovered distance education by enrolling into the bachelor’s degree in software development from Western Governors University. Through WGU, I began to earn the hard skills that I had previously lacked. I also met my wife and relocated to Texas. Arriving in Texas, I was still only able to land call center jobs and pushed myself to put all of my focus and energy into WGU. With the support of my wife and many sleepless nights, I finally earned my BS. Afterward, I enrolled in the MBA.

After finishing my B.S and during the first part of my MBA, I began to apply to as many junior developer jobs as I could. Finally, after what seemed like forever, I was hired into my first role as an engineer for a local startup in DFW. This job allowed me to turn two passions into one career. As an ERP systems engineer, I not only get to explore my passion for technology, coding, and systems design, but I also get to solve tangible financial and operational business problems that deliver real value to my organization. After that first chance at that first start up, my career began to sky rocket. I accepted positions with increasing amounts of responsibility and pay. Now, I earn a comfortable salary at six figures.

As a proverbial walking billboard for Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I am now able to provide a comfortable and financially stable life to my family. Yet, I find my intellectual curiosity and love for knowledge unfulfilled. My time as an English instructor in France was one of the most intellectually fulfilling times of my life. Although not every student cared to learn , passing knowledge on to those who desired it was immensely satisfying.

This became the overall driver for my wanting to pursue a PhD. Such a pursuit, in my mind, would allow me to achieve three goals:

  1. I would be able to satiate my quest for further knowledge and learn valuable research skills that would allow me to help push my field forward by conducting and hopefully publishing original research.
  2. I would be able to share my knowledge and passion for learning with others through the ability to teach in a post-secondary capacity.
  3. I would gain the intrinsic value that the pursuit of and attainment of a terminal degree brings.

Stay tuned for the next post on how I chose on University of the Cumberlands as the institution where I would pursue my doctoral aspirations.

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