What could a career U.S. Army officer -- the former deputy commanding general of Multi-National Division Baghdad and current chief of staff of the U.S. Strategic Command --
possibly have to learn about leadership? Plenty, according to Major General William F. Grimsley, graduate student in Creighton University’s Interdisciplinary Ed.D. Program in
Grimsley, who holds an undergraduate degree in history from Davidson College and two master’s degrees from the Army School of Advanced Military Studies, is one of 209
students enrolled in the online program.
The Creighton program explores leadership practice, theory, research and policy. Students dialogue in an interdisciplinary environment designed to increase understanding of
how to work with, develop and motivate organizations and people in a changing world.
“I have spent my entire life since college in leadership positions and have had the opportunity to try many different approaches,” Grimsley says. “It has been a great experience.
But eventually, I will leave the military – everyone does. By interacting with others in the program, I have the opportunity to contemplate how leadership is critical in many fields. It makes
you step out of your own experience and examine issues from the perspective of others, mindful of their own institutional processes. The interdisciplinary aspect of it, coupled with
Creighton’s reputation, and in concert with my own experience, is going to yield tremendous results for me, I believe.”
Kristin Winford, chief operating officer of a financial consulting firm in New York City, agrees. Like Grimsley, Winford holds a demanding position that does not afford her the time
to pursue traditional doctoral programs. And like Grimsley, she thrives on a feeling of community.
“What I especially like is that I don’t have to conform to a standard, set schedule of classes. When I have the time – which is often when the workday is done and the kids are in bed
– I work on it.
“The program is highly interactive. I met many of the participants on campus last summer and many have since become wonderful friends. I returned to campus this summer for a
dissertation writing class. Because our cohort is in lock-step, we have many shared experiences and our associations have become even more meaningful over time, as we are
exposed to each other’s opinions and perspectives.”
Program director Isabelle Cherney, Ph.D., associate dean of Creighton’s Graduate School, says the program has international appeal. Enrollment represents 40 states and nine
“About 50 percent of students come from education – a mixture of deans, provosts, coaches, counselors and teachers. Twenty-five percent come from business, including one
former NFL player turned business executive; and 12 percent are government employees. Among those are several military. An additional seven percent are in health-related
positions. The remainder come from law, religion and engineering. We almost had an astronaut in the program. She was unable to start, however, due to funding cuts at NASA.”
Winford, who holds an undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University and a master’s degree in business from Arizona State University, describes the program as “just
phenomenal” and says she applies what she is learning every day in her company of 1,200.
“I stumbled upon it as I was looking for master’s programs for my husband. As I dug deeper, I was blown away to have found a terminal degree program in leadership that had so
many interwoven, interdisciplinary components. The overarching focus of the program is clearly based on the Jesuit tradition, especially the principle of social justice, which is very
meaningful to me.
“As an officer in a global consulting firm, leadership, change management and effective communication are the bread and butter of what I do. Basically, I have a lab that I go to
every day – my job.”
Cherney says the program capitalizes on three strengths of Creighton’s: the diversity of its nine schools and colleges, its strong academic reputation, and its Jesuit
“I would say that students are drawn to the program because it is based on Jesuit intellectual traditions and themes of service, social justice and academic excellence. These
students are examining big issues from the perspective of ‘How can I use leadership to contribute to the greater good?’ The interdisciplinary nature is appealing, too. Students find it
refreshing to work with others who are different from themselves.
“The program successfully brings together a network of accomplished leaders and offers them the flexibility to meet the demands of their families and jobs, while also completing a
doctoral degree, which is something they have always wanted to do,” Cherney says.
Seven months into the program, Grimsley is anticipating finishing his core courses and moving onto electives by February of next year and completing a dissertation by late
“I am still debating the topic,” he says. “I may do something on the aspect of holistic approaches to corporate wellness and the idea of resiliency in individuals. We are already
delving into wellness in the Army and how to sustain resiliency over time. I think I would like to incorporate the Jesuit tenet of working with the whole person to achieve that—mind, body
“It is important for our nation to have interdisciplinary programs like this. I would describe this program as intellectually stimulating and personally rewarding.”
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