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Dynamic Duo Masters Higher Education: Couple Earns Master’s and PhD Degrees Together

Carrie Carbajal doesn’t let obstacles stand in her way.

In fact, when facing a barrier, she takes matters into her own hands.

That’s exactly why she enrolled in Bellevue University’s Human Capital Management doctoral program.

Carrie previously earned a Master of Business Administration from the University in 2013, followed by a Master of Science in Acquisition and Contract Management in 2017. During this period, she also worked for the government and faced having her accommodations taken away.

“I am deaf, but I don’t see myself as deaf as I don’t know sign language and use my voice to speak,” she explained. “I have a cochlear implant and a hearing aid, allowing me to hear sounds and communicate with others. However, the workplace can be challenging for those with disabilities, such as hearing loss. After working for a federal agency, having my accommodations taken away after five years, and then going to another government agency to sit at a desk for seven months with no training and no accommodations, I decided a change was needed.”

This decision was reaffirmed when Carrie heard Dr. Rebecca Murdock, Dean of the College of Business, speak at the 2017 Bellevue University commencement ceremony.

“She said, ‘No matter where we go, we are all unique, and the opportunities are endless. If we want to change the world, to make it better, then it is up to us as individuals to make the greatest change to humanity,’” Carrie recalled. “This struck a chord within me so deeply that I decided it was up to me to change how society sees people with disabilities, especially hearing loss.”

Carrie determined that to do so, she needed to either become a lawyer or get her doctorate. She looked into Bellevue University’s Human Capital Management doctoral program and realized it would be the perfect fit for her, as it focuses on how employers can use practices such as optimizing employee engagement and productivity through managing and producing needed skillsets in the workforce.

In March 2018, she was accepted into the program.

“The rigorous challenges of the program later enabled me to produce my best work successfully,” Carrie said.

In December 2022, she defended her dissertation, titled “Why Are You Not Asking for Workplace Accommodations? Exploring the Attitudes and Behaviors of Individuals with Hearing Loss Requesting Workplace Accommodations: A Phenomenological Study.”

Carrie was then set to graduate in January 2023 alongside her husband, Daniel, who earned a master’s degree in data science.

“I was very excited for both of us,” Carrie said. “However, Daniel had to have back surgery right before graduation due to a car accident. Therefore, we had to cancel all of our plans and put our focus on Daniel’s recovery and rehabilitation. We both needed him to be able to walk, and thus, we focused on graduating on June 2 (doctoral hooding) and June 3, respectively.”

Carrie Carbajal, PhD, Bellevue University alumnae

I now choose to lead, and thus Bellevue University has had a profound impact on how I see myself in the world today.

Carrie Carbajal, PhD, Bellevue University alumnae

Today, the couple lives in Fairfield, California. Daniel is employed by a company that works on lunar technology on behalf of NASA and other classified projects. His Master of Science Degree in Data Science from Bellevue University directly impacts that work and boosts his skillset as a digital signal processing engineer.

“As a DSP engineer, having a data science background is essential because technology is advancing and turning into machine learning and adaptive systems, primarily related to data science,” he explained. “Nowadays, organizations are collecting large data sets, and knowing how to use this data is beneficial in many engineering applications.”

Daniel added that he’s currently enrolled in Bellevue University’s cybersecurity master’s program.

“Before attending Bellevue University, my future goal was to go into business with my wife, as she has over 10 years of government contracting experience,” he said. “We would make a great team with her skill set. I realized I needed government-related skills since we would be working with the government. A cybersecurity degree will allow me to achieve that goal.”

Carrie’s plans for herself include writing a book about hearing loss and accommodations in the workplace, as well as advancing some of the research she found in her dissertation.

As for the company the couple hopes to establish, Daniel feels it will combine the best of their skills.

“From engineering, data science and cybersecurity to federal contracting and human capital management, we can provide services that best optimize our talents and what we have learned from Bellevue University,” he said.

Carrie shared that attending college alongside her husband was both a surreal and fun experience.

“I never expected Daniel to want or find a program that he wanted to take at Bellevue University, but he knew that my experience since getting my two master’s degrees was nothing but positive,” she said. “I am so lucky we have this journey of great memories to reflect on and share in each other’s accomplishments more personally. Of course, we couldn’t have done it without the support of Bellevue University’s faculty and staff.”

Carrie also shared a quote from Professor of Leadership Stephen Linenberger, who was part of her dissertation committee, that she carries with her today.

“He would say, ‘Leadership can be an innate skill, and it is a learned skill. Life experiences shape who we are, and sometimes these experiences can create a desire to lead,’” she said. “I now choose to lead, and thus Bellevue University has had a profound impact on how I see myself in the world today.”

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