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From Online Student to Professor

From Online Student to Professor

A Colorado Mom’s Path to an Online Ph.D.

In May 2023, Jennifer Watson walked across the stage at Hilton Coliseum to receive her Ph.D. in Hospitality Management from Iowa State University, on her way to embarking on a new chapter as a tenure track professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Watson completed her doctor of philosophy online in hospitality management. For Watson, the appeal of online education was clear from the start. With a family to care for in Colorado, relocating for a traditional program wasn’t feasible. “Iowa State really presented the best opportunity for me,” Watson said. Iowa State offered not only the flexibility she needed but also a curriculum that resonated with the current trends in the hospitality and food and beverage industries.

Watson balanced her studies while raising three children thanks to the flexibility of her program and coursework. “Online learning meant that I could learn whenever worked best for me. I have three kids at home, so I studied on Saturdays, weekends, and the kids’ school breaks.” She integrated her studies into her everyday life, seizing moments on the train during her work commute and using headphones and a tablet to stay focused.

What she learned in class was immediately applicable to her work as a lecturer and now as a professor, especially in areas like marketing trends and plant-based food trends. “Everything I was learning was very relevant and timely,” Watson said. “I knew I would have outstanding professors at Iowa State, and I was working at a teaching university, so I wanted to apply their teaching methods, methodologies and pedagogy in my classroom. I was happy for the opportunity to learn that way.”

The support Watson received from her instructors was instrumental in her success. Despite the challenges of coordinating across time zones, her professors were always accommodating, understanding the demands of her busy life. “They were always willing to meet with me at weird hours,” Watson shared. “My professors were very prompt and responsive, understanding of my other commitments as a distance student and always willing to work with me on deadlines, even when there was confusion over time changes for Zoom meetings.” In particular, Professor Susan Arendt stood out as a mentor who believed in Jennifer’s potential and supported her throughout her academic journey.

“Jennifer Watson exemplifies the resilience our Ph.D. program supports,” said Arendt. “With our flexible course scheduling, she balanced a demanding career and family while excelling academically. This adaptability ensures that students can tailor their course load to their unique life circumstances. Jennifer’s success is a testament to this approach, and we couldn’t be more proud of her achievements.”

Watson’s story illustrates how online education allows individuals to navigate the complexities of life while pursuing their academic ambitions. By leveraging the flexibility and accessibility of an online program, she seamlessly integrated her studies into her busy schedule, managing her career and personal commitments alongside her educational pursuits. This dynamic approach enabled Watson to achieve her academic goals and provided the flexibility necessary to accommodate her diverse responsibilities. As she steps into her role as a professor, Watson is poised to inspire the next generation of hospitality professionals, carrying forward the lessons she learned as both a student and a teacher.

Jennifer Watson

“Online learning meant that I could learn whenever worked best for me.”

— Jennifer Watson

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