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One Year In: DBA Student is Hungry to Learn, Seek Solutions


Note: This article first published in July 2020. In honor of National Online Learning Day (Sept. 15), we are sharing it again with readers. Bellevue University has offered online education options since the early 90s. Currently, 93% of the students are fully online. 

“Maybe I’m supposed to do something different?” 

It’s a question Ashley Hampton, now 29, pondered after her initial career plan didn’t pan out. As an eager undergraduate, Hampton applied herself but was waitlisted for law school. 

What many would see as a setback, she used as fuel to forge a new path. “I still wanted to impact people,” says Hampton, a native of Bellevue, Nebraska. 

After earning her bachelor’s in finance, Hampton worked for a few years in the banking and investment world. A competitor to her core, she wasn’t content just coasting. “I knew I was capable of more,” she says. “I had so many talents I wasn’t getting to use.” 

That’s when Hampton started her graduate school journey at Bellevue University, first earning an MBA, followed by an MA in Business and Professional Communication. Soon after, she says, “everything started opening up.”

One of those open doors was at the global analytics firm Gallup. Hampton currently works at the Riverfront Campus in Omaha as an implementation analyst.

She spends her workdays navigating spreadsheets, collaborating with clients, leading team meetings, and writing process documentation -- plus (her favorite part) burning off steam on Gallup’s basketball team. 

“The office has so many great opportunities and people,” she says. “It’s really engaging.”

Whether playing on the court or working at her computer, Hampton has high energy and natural leadership ability. “I want to be a leader within my organization,” she says.

Hampton’s insatiable appetite to learn and lead have led her to pursue yet another graduate degree at Bellevue University -- this time a Doctorate of Business Administration, launched in 2019.

For Hampton, this program is tailor-made for her busy lifestyle and professional aspirations, especially its straightforward structure and applied doctoral project that’s integrated throughout her coursework, all online, over three years.

Instead of a traditional doctoral dissertation, students enrolled in BU’s DBA program choose a business challenge they’re passionate about. Then, through in-depth research, they seek a solution, emerging as a thought leader in their interest area.

This degree is especially close to Hampton’s heart, in part because she cares deeply about the project. “My topic is the pay gap between black and white college graduates,” she says.

After an initial survey of the research, Hampton has noted an apparent widening of the salary gap particularly among women of different races. She says she’s eager to explore the current data further and build on the work that’s already there, adding her own suggestions, proposing new questions, and pinpointing solutions.

Ultimately, Hampton hungers to make a difference and disrupt common mindsets that could be contributing to these economic disparities. “I want to be an advocate for people and to help people who don’t have a voice,” she says.

Her interest in advocacy also stems from her personal experiences as a Black woman, she says, and she sees this doctoral degree as another tool to position herself to be part of the solution for a better, brighter future -- especially for her children.

Together with her husband (who’s working toward a business degree), Hampton is raising two sons, ages 6 and 4, and a 1-year-old daughter. “I hope to show my daughter that you can do anything you want,” she says, envisioning a diverse and equitable world with a myriad of role models.

As a working mom, Hampton is thankful for the flexibility built into her doctoral program. “I love the set up,” she says. Each term includes one or two classes, followed by a two-week break, helping Hampton refresh and recharge.

One way she powers through her classes while juggling her job and family responsibilities: extra strong coffee. “I should bottle it and sell it,” she says of her special recipe.

Hampton admits she’s living through a hectic season right now, working from home and fitting in her homework early in the morning and late at night. 

“I have a really strong support system,” she says, giving a thankful nod to her husband and her parents, both retired military members who live two minutes up the street. At the end of the day, and even when she’s sleep-deprived, she knows what she’s working toward is worth it.

Several years into her career, Hampton is able to look back without regrets, realizing she’s followed a perfect path for her personality. By now, law school is a faded memory. 

She’s found clarity and isn’t hesitating to chase after her dreams, which include writing a book and giving a TED talk. But first: finishing her DBA degree.