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Interview with Dr. Angela Isom: Harvard Educated Author who Earned PhD Online

Once a low-income single mom, Dr. Angela Isom is now a Harvard-educated author with a doctorate degree. She made the transformation happen in just eight years. Dr. Isom has written several powerful books including Quitters Never Win & Winners Never Quit. Her other projects include the National Domestic Violence Newsletter, which she founded and currently edits, and providing consultancy services for school districts and as a child custody mediator. In addition to creating win-win solutions for others through her professional work and writing, Dr. Isom home schools her 12-year-old son. Find out how Dr. Isom manages her busy life and how earning her doctorate degree made it possible. This is part one of a two-part series.

Q: Which online degree did you earn and when did you earn it?

A: I earned a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership in 2005.

Q: Why did you decide to return to school and get your degree? Was this degree always part of your plan?

I decided to return to school because I wanted to earn a higher salary. I also changed my mind about pursuing a career in business. Teaching became my passion. This degree was not always part of my plan! I didn’t plan on working in education or earning a doctorate. I was working in business, but I fell in love with training others more than I enjoyed doing my job, so I changed fields. Teaching with a master’s degree didn’t pay as much as I wanted, so I went back for a doctorate.

Q: With so many online schools available, how did you choose?

A: One of my greatest concerns was finding a school where I could begin immediately. I didn’t want to postpone my career or my education. I also didn’t want to take anymore standardized tests such as the GRE. Lastly, it was a bonus that the school was located in Florida so my occasional visits to the campus were beautiful and welcomed!

Q: What were the advantages and disadvantages you experienced by getting your degree online?

A: I gained several advantages by obtaining my degree through an online graduate school. I created my own schedule; I wasn’t penalized for attendance; I didn’t have to use gas/drive; and I could work in my sweat clothes and sit at the computer for days at a time. The disadvantages were not having access to research materials, being charged for long distance phone calls, and having to wait for people to call me back because I couldn’t go to their offices in person. I guess another disadvantage was the cost of travel from Ohio to Florida and the cost of hotels.

Q: What are some of the challenges you faced with respect to your degree coursework?

A: Gaining access to scholarly research materials was a big challenge. Most colleges and research libraries want you to be a member or want you to attend a local school. I lived in Ohio and my college was in Florida. I’m not sure what I would’ve done if I weren’t a professor at Cleveland State University. This was how I gained access to most research materials.

Q: Tell me about your favorite class.

A: This is a hard question! I had to choose between two classes. My favorite class was qualitative research. I was allowed to pick my own research topic. Then, I was allowed to work with the population of my choice. I was allowed to determine the length of my research too. I treasured this course because I spent an unlimited amount of time learning something that I enjoyed and also writing (which I love!).

Q: What sorts of expectations did you have before you started your online degree program? How did your experience compare to those expectations and did you experience anything that surprised you?

I expected to zoom through my classes quickly and to graduate in record time. I had done extremely well in my master’s degree program so I thought my doctorate degree would be just as easy. I was shocked when I had 2 Cs at midterm time. I had to really stretch to live up to the expectations of my instructors.

Dr. Isom has more to say about how her online doctorate degree is directly relevant to the career she has today.

Check in next week for second half of this two-part series.


JoVon Sotak is a writer, community journalist, and photographer who enjoys living in the middle of nowhere, Nevada. Her articles have appeared in online and print publications in Nevada and throughout the United States.

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