STILLWATER — It probably was 1987 when Tom Bennett Jr. last stayed up every evening reading until midnight.
But now that he's back in school at age 61, the chairman and co-CEO of First Oklahoma Bank is learning again what it means to learn.
Bennett is one of 19 participants from seven states pursuing a degree through a new three-year Ph.D. in Business for Executives program that was launched last month by Oklahoma State University's Spears School of Business and offered at the OSU-Tulsa campus.
The participants, who represent 10 industries, meet monthly for three days — Thursday, Friday and Saturday — and in between connect with professors through conferencing technologies and online platforms.
The official name of the degree program is Ph.D. in Business Administration: Executive Research
Ramesh Sharda, a program director along with Craig Wallace, said he hopes participants ultimately will walk away with the knowledge of a lot of current research in business, and the ability to conduct and contribute to that research in the future.
“We will make them smarter consumers of research, and we will also enable them to contribute to such research,” Sharda said.
The program started out of two needs, he said. One, as more baby boomer faculty members retire, there will be a shortage of qualified faculty in business schools. The program will permit some of the senior executives to consider a second career and contribute to educating the next generation of business professionals, Sharda said.
Secondly, the program creates a new genre of executive education.
Nearly 20 years have passed since Patti Jordan, vice president of Webco Industries Inc., was in school. She had always considered getting her Ph.D. but didn't want to have to quit her job.
“The first couple of weeks were very overwhelming,” Jordan said.
“You forget how to write. You really forget how much reading and homework is involved. It's really taught me to balance my life a little bit more.”
Now, a few weeks into the program, Jordan said she's getting into the groove and has enjoyed reconnecting with other business people.
“When you work for a company for many years you don't always see what other companies are doing,” she said.
In a short time of meeting the other program participants and reading research articles, she's learned about their businesses — how they're run and what the managers face.
The most challenging thing is the workload, said David Altounian, founder and chairman of Motion Computing in Austin, Texas.
Altounian was looking for an accredited doctorate program that would help him pursue more teaching as a university professor and increase his level of participation on company boards.
He travels to Tulsa monthly for the program.
“It's a lot of reading. It's a lot of material to absorb in a very short time while you're still trying to run a business,” said Altounian, who also works as an adjunct professor at St.
The benefit is spending time and trading ideas with classmates, and immediately applying information learned through academic articles to his job, Altounian said, noting that he's already shared information with his human resources personnel.
Although the program is difficult, Bennett said he's having a good time, making friends and learning a lot that will be helpful.
“I think everybody should go back to school from time to time — it's something that everyone should put on their bucket list,” he said. “Until the Lord calls me home, I'm going to keep going back to school for something.”
If you go
Informational session on OSU's Ph.D. in Business Administration: Executive Research Option