13:57 PM

Ph.D. Helps Kelley Break Down Barriers

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

On the outside looking in -- Cheryl Kelley, aimed to offer insight into what this experience felt like through her dissertation “Divergent Leader-Member Exchange Views and Experiencing Unwanted Out-Group Designations.” Kelley’s scholarship was one of the final steps of her journey toward her Ph.D. in Human Capital Management at Bellevue University.

She earned her doctorate in March 2017 walking across the stage in the Spring 2017 Commencement Ceremony.

“I interviewed individuals who perceived that they should be part of a manager’s in-group but they felt that the manager did not see them in that light,” Kelley said. “I interviewed them to better understand what the overall experience was like in order to bring new understanding of what it's like to be associated or feel like that you're an outcast by your manager.”

Kelley was concerned that people might be hesitant to share that kind of experience, but within three days of putting out the survey she had enough participants to launch her study.

“That was really powerful because it speaks to the fact that it is an experience many have had, but it isn't something that's necessarily researched,” Kelley said. “I was able to bring new knowledge to both research and practice.”

Making it to the dissertation was not always a given for Kelley as she worked her way through the rigorous program. Some assistance from the program’s engaged faculty, especially Dr. Carolyn Youssef-Morgan and Dr. Stephen Linenberger, helped pull her through.

“I felt very overwhelmed. It was to the point where I wasn’t sure I could continue,” Kelley said. “Dr. Youssef actually gave me a phone call and she shared some words of wisdom that just provided the confidence in myself to continue. I'll never forget that. She took that extra time to just affirm that I had what it would take to complete the degree. I use that as I move forward in working with students today. They're not just a transaction.”   Dr. Linenberger provided similar guidance as she worked through her dissertation.  He continues to offer her words of wisdom even after graduation.

While Kelley needed the convenience and flexibility of an online program, it was Bellevue University’s brick and mortar campus that helped her choose to pursue her Ph.D. at the suburban Omaha school.

“What differentiated Bellevue was the fact that it was non-profit, that we still maintain some level of connection with our professors through the residency programs, but more importantly, it has the brick-and-mortar. That was really important.”

Kelley has taken the knowledge and experience that she gained in her Ph.D. program and applied it to her business, Hire and Inspire, LLC. The primary focus of the business is to align people around strategy. Hire and Inspire, LLC consultants partner with executive leadership teams to find high impact ways to unleash the potential of their human capital. She opened the business in 2009.

“I felt comfortable and confident that I had the necessary skills in order to start my business. I had forged many powerful relationships over the years and I knew that I had a strong sales background and so based on that, I decided to open Hire and Inspire, LLC,” she said. “It was the best choice that I ever made and it came to the point where I also knew that in order to be a good consultant I also needed to couple that with continuing forward in my education.”

Kelley’s commitment to higher education goes beyond her Ph.D. She’s been an adjunct professor since 2009 working at several Minnesota schools including the College of St. Benedict, North Hennepin Community College, and The College of St. Scholastica. On the heels of her Ph.D., she has landed a tenure-track faculty position at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota.  She is the Program Chair for the under-graduate Human Resource Management and Marketing Management degrees.  She had earned her Master’s degree in Organizational Management from Concordia, St. Paul in 2008 and has worked there since 2014.

“I'm really looking forward in the future,” Kelley said. “I’ll be focusing more on my research. I’ll be able to contribute not only to research, but through Hire and Inspire, LLC as well by identifying ways that managers and leaders in general can be more effective when working with their employees.”

Kelley has been able to open doors through the commitment to her own education as well as the education of others. Through that commitment she hopes to help people, both managers and employees, overcome that feeling of being on the outside looking in. She’s broken down barriers herself and is ready to hold the door open for others.