Jennifer Smith

The biggest benefit of pre-recorded video lectures is that I can schedule my schoolwork around my full-time job and spending time with my children.


Walden University


Master of Business Administration, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (2006); Graduate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Pennsylvania State University (2004); Bachelor of Science in Accounting, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (2001)


PhD in Business Administration




Why did you decide to attend Walden University to get your doctorate in business administration?

I decided to attend Walden University to get my doctorate in business administration because it was 1 of only a few doctoral programs with full accreditation at the time I began my program. My ultimate goal is to teach at a traditional university in my area, which makes the credentialing of my degrees particularly critical.

I chose Walden University over the other accredited online programs because it had flexible residencies. I am self-employed with a 3-year-old son, so residencies needed to be relatively inexpensive and convenient. Walden had 2 required residencies, but they offered locations all over the country where I could go to complete them, including 1 that is just 5 hours away from my home.

What are your school’s biggest strengths?

The biggest strength of Walden University is its focus on students. The program director for my doctorate in business administration program frequently contacts the students to see how we are doing or to let us know about webinars and conference calls. I get the sense that Walden genuinely wants its students to be successful in their studies.

However, one of the weaknesses of Walden University has been its financial aid department. I had capped out my federal student loan assistance, but Walden did not notice or contact me about it until very late in the process.

Do you view Walden University as a community?

Yes, I view Walden as a community, because all of the faculty and staff reach out to students and make everyone feel welcome. Lately, I have also been involved more with my classmates because our projects have required tons of group participation. In my experience, residencies also help to foster community because they bring faculty and students face-to-face with each other.

However, I would not say that I feel a great deal of school spirit or pride for Walden. I think that I have so much more reason to feel proud of my undergraduate institution, which was traditional. At the end of the day, there is an element of disconnection in an online program that makes warm feelings hard to come by.

Does Walden University have brick-and-mortar campuses?

To the best of my knowledge, Walden University does not have any physical campus locations where students can earn an entire degree in on-campus classes. However, my transcript will not indicate that I completed my degree online.


How are you paying for college?

I am paying for college with student loans. Tuition at Walden University is more than $25,000 a year, but my doctorate in business administration program is shorter than most doctoral programs, which helps to limit the costs. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any scholarships or grants available to doctoral business administration students that might help to offset these costs.

However, many of the other expenses for doctoral programs, such as books and research access fees, are included in my tuition. Even the residency fees are included, although travel and lodging costs are not.

The process for obtaining the financial aid has been difficult. I had maxed out my federally funded student loans and had to fill out several additional forms to get a special type of loan called a PLUS loan.

How helpful was your school in assisting your financial aid process?

Walden University was not very helpful in assisting me. Although the financial aid department gave me some general pointers, it did not tell me how exactly I needed to proceed to get my funding. Only after I called them several times did I learn that I would need to pursue alternative funding options.

Do you feel like your overall cost of education is more or less than the cost of a degree at a traditional institution?

My overall cost of education at Walden University is probably higher than it would be at traditional institutions, or even at other online schools. I paid substantially less for my undergraduate degree at a traditional university than I have for this doctorate in business administration.

Admissions Requirements

Can you describe the admissions process from start to finish?

Yes, my admissions process was fairly smooth. I expressed my interest in Walden’s program on its website, and then someone spoke with me over the phone and answered my questions. Once I had made up my mind, I submitted my transcripts, a personal statement and letters of recommendation. I heard back from Walden within a few weeks.

What did you write about in your personal statement?

My personal statement included a list of my goals and how I intended to achieve them through my program at Walden University. The statement was somewhere between 1 and 3 pages in length.

How many letters of recommendation did you submit in your application?

I submitted several letters of recommendation from professional contacts rather than faculty members. My online programs had not given me the opportunity to connect very much with the faculty, so it made more sense for me to use the professional colleagues who knew more about me.

Do you have any insight on how Walden University weighs the different parts of an admissions application?

Yes, I know that Walden University weighs professional experience and personal philosophies of social service very heavily. They want people who can show how they will use their education to benefit society.

During the admissions process, did you interact with an admissions advisor?

Yes, I interacted with an admissions advisor throughout my admissions process. The advisor helped me fill out an application and finish my first course, which in my experience is unusual for online programs.

Classroom Experience

How is class material presented?

Class material is text-based with a few pre-recorded video lectures, although none of the video lectures were given by professors who were actually teaching the courses. While doing my coursework, I ended up doing the majority of my assignments on the weekends, although I do admit to skipping over lectures entirely now and then.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of this style of presentation?

The biggest benefit of pre-recorded video lectures is that I can schedule my schoolwork around my full-time job and spending time with my children. I would not do well in a program that required me to log in at certain times.

I also appreciated that Walden used real textbooks as opposed to digital textbooks. I am the sort of person who needs to have a book in her hand. I even print out and read the digital research articles that my professor assigns to me each week.

However, I often struggled to connect with some of what I was learning, which I think is natural for an online program. I have a life outside of school that distracts me, and sometimes working within an online interface is not enough to immerse me in the topic.

Are you able to stay engaged in your online coursework?

Sometimes I can stay engaged and at other times I struggle, although I do think that I end up learning just as much in my online program as I would in an offline program. The reality is that a traditional classroom would force me to show up every day, and I would have a hard time cutting corners.

Do your professors encourage class participation?

Yes, professors encourage class participation by making it a requirement for a good grade. Even in my dissertation phase, I must enter an online classroom environment and engage with the other students whom my advisor is mentoring or I will not get his approval to graduate.

What method of communication do you use to keep in touch with your professors?

The method of communication that I use most to keep in touch with my professors is e-mail, although I can also call them if necessary. I also frequently post in my online classroom. My professors try to be available for students, but many do not post consistent office hours.

Can you rate the faculty on a scale of Excellent, Good, Average, Poor, Extremely Poor, in terms of:

Criteria Rating Reasons
Overall  Excellent Professors are always supportive and always state expectations explicitly.
Qualifications Excellent Professors have strong backgrounds in relevant professional and academic fields.
Knowledgeable Excellent Professors are always able to answer questions related to class material.
Lectures 1) Content: Excellent

2) Clarity: Excellent

Professors always explain their topics and expectations for those topics clearly.
Assignments 1)Relevance: Excellent

2)Reasonable: Excellent

3)Clarity: Excellent

4)Assistance Provided: Excellent

5)Feedback Given: Excellent

Professors consistently provide assignments that advance knowledge of a subject area, as well as fair and relevant feedback.
Grading Excellent Professors grade in a fair and consistent manner.
Responsiveness Excellent Professors always respond to queries within 1 to 2 days.
Reliability Excellent Professors are always active and make their appointment times.
Interest taken in class as a whole Excellent Professors demonstrate a genuine interest in the success of their classes.
Interest taken in student as an individual Good Professors maintain a professional relationship with students that sometimes limits their interest in students as individuals.

What resources does Walden University provide to help you succeed in the classroom?

The most important resource that Walden University offers to help me succeed in my program is its library. The library includes librarians that students can contact during most hours of the day, as well as support for using the library and locating resources within it. The research center in the library has also helped me to plan and structure my dissertation.

What advice would you give to students to help them succeed in an online classroom?

I would advise students who want to succeed to stay very active in their classrooms. I think that students should try to get as much as they possibly can out of their classes, and that means interacting with all of the material, their classmates and their professors.


Why did you choose to enroll in your business administration program?

I chose to enroll in my business administration program because I have always had an interest in business. I knew that pursuing this field would make it easier for me to find a job. I also have a special interest in small business operations and management, and this graduate education has helped me to explore it further.

Does your program include a dissertation component?

Yes, my program includes a dissertation component that most students in my program complete in about a year. First, we submit topic proposals for approval, then we conduct and record our research. At the end, we give oral defenses of our dissertations. If we succeed, we graduate and receive our degrees.

Are you given an advisor to assist you through the dissertation process?

Yes, I was able to choose an advisor to help me through my dissertation process, but I ended up having a new advisor assigned to me partway through my program. The new advisor and I ended up getting along well, so I ultimately decided to keep him.

The role of my advisor is to approve my topic and dissertation before I defend it before a committee. To that end, he gives me plenty of feedback and direction. We are in contact at least once a week by e-mail or phone to discuss expectations and research.

In some ways having a remote advisor has made working on my dissertation more difficult. I feel that if I could go to an office and have face-to-face encouragement, I would have the motivation to finish more quickly.

Does your program have a residency requirement?

Yes, my program in business administration requires students to complete at least 2 residencies. Residencies last 4 to 5 days and cover topics related to our dissertations and general research methodologies. The biggest benefit of the residency requirement so far has been that it helped me to clarify my topic and find the resources that I needed to complete it. However, it is difficult to find time to get away from my responsibilities and pay for 4 to 5 days at a hotel.

What are your program’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?

The biggest strength of my business administration program has been its focus on social change. I like that it is producing many forward-thinking people who will change the world for the better.

One of the weaknesses of Walden University has been the organization of the doctorate program in business administration, which is very new. Some disorganization among the staff when I first started resulted in me needing to take additional credits to meet my degree requirements. Those additional credits have delayed my graduation by a year. However, many of the new students do not seem to have this problem, so perhaps the university has already corrected the issue.

If you were to do it again, would you sign up for Walden University’s doctorate program in business administration?

Yes, if I were to do it again, I would still sign up for Walden University’s doctorate in business administration program. Ultimately, I feel that this degree will help me to accomplish my goals and move forward in my career.


What general advice would you give to a student who is considering a doctorate in business administration at Walden University?

My advice for students who are considering a doctorate in business administration is to make sure that they have the drive necessary to do it. This program is fast-paced and professors expect a great deal out of us over a short period of time. A student will have to be motivated to meet their class, residency and dissertation requirements in just 2 years.

I also think that students should take into account Walden’s emphasis on social change. I do not think that Walden would reject applicants solely on their lack of interest in social activism, but I do think that students who are unwilling to make it a part of their educational process may struggle to fit in.