Amidst hundreds of proud FIU Business graduates this summer, there were nearly two dozen who made history. The inaugural class of Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) students donned their robes and hoods, crossed the stage and received their degrees in early August.
“It really feels surreal,” said Maribel Diz (DBA ’21, MSHRM ’07), senior vice president and head of human resources for Visa Latin America and the Caribbean. “We have been preparing for this moment for the past three years, and now that it’s here, I just can’t believe it. I’m very proud to be part of this pioneering cohort.”
Like Diz, the DBA graduates of the Class of 2021 are already successful business leaders, with many holding C-suite jobs. They entered the program three years ago, seeking what an advanced understanding of research methods and data analytics could bring to their work.
The DBA program is an executive-style experience that mimics traditional business PhD programs, but with a few key differences. A combination of weeknight remote classes and one weekend per month of in-person work allows full-time corporate leaders to stay in their jobs while completing the work to earn the degree. It also allowed a number of international students to join the cohort, as they are only required to be in Miami for in-person classes one weekend a month. With a requirement of 10 years’ experience as well as managerial and budgetary responsibilities in addition to the required master’s degree, candidates are well-versed in real-world leadership.
While offering the same rigorous research and coursework as the traditional PhD program, the DBA program focuses on applied rather than theoretical research, presenting students with the unique opportunity to solve practical problems as part of their dissertation projects. The students study how to put together a research question and distinguish theory from hypothesis. The goal is to add an extra layer of knowledge to professional practice.
In spite of the challenges, the program’s popularity has grown. For the first time, two full cohorts of 25 students each have started the program this fall, indicating the demand is there, said George Marakas (PhD ’95), professor of information systems and business analytics and director of the college’s doctoral programs. Without the full-time commitment of traditional doctoral programs, “we learned that there are a ton of qualified people out there that desire a terminal degree in business.”
Commencement was a family affair, with spouses, children and friends all there to cheer on the brand new DBAs. It was also a reunion for many of the students after the long year of pandemic distancing.
“This feels great,” said Jesus Arias, business continuity service manager at FIU, who received his degree with his wife, children and friends in attendance, and has already published an article based on his doctoral research. “It’s not just achieving the accomplishment, but also, how can I apply the degree to something meaningful in my career?”