Gaining Insights
into Academia

Written by Alexis Castorina

For NCU doctoral candidate, Robert “Bob” Lee, life-long learning has always been a value he has felt strongly about.

“We should all be life-long learners,” Lee explained. “It’s an exercise in perseverance and has been a great part of me growing personally and professionally.”

Robert Lee (Ph.D., Business Administration / Advanced Accounting, candidate)

At 50 years old, Lee began pursuing a Ph.D. in Business Administration with a specialization in Advanced Accounting after serving 10 years as Treasurer for Allen County in Indiana, which is an elected, term-limited position. After serving the maximum two-year term as county treasurer, he wanted to start a new career.

“I studied finance and risk management in insurance as an undergraduate, and I had a professor who stressed the importance of life-long learning. There are lots of certifications you can get. For instance, CLU is a certification you can get for life insurance, accountants get CPAs, but he [my professor] stressed the importance of being a self-learner, and that has played well [for me] at 50,” noted Lee. “My doctoral studies have given me some insight into the world of academics.”

With a background in treasury management, finance, insurance and risk management, Lee was interested in exploring options in higher education and wanted to find an adjunct teaching position. In 2008, he became an adjunct professor in the School of Business at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind. The University of Saint Francis, founded in 1890 as a comprehensive university in the Catholic Franciscan tradition, offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs through the School of Health Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership, and School of Creative Arts.

When a full-time assistant professor position became available the next year, he knew it was a great match for him as the university was looking for someone to teach accounting and finance, but one of the caveats was that he would get a doctoral degree. A few years later, his life-long learning mantra landed him a position as Dean of the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Saint Francis.

“In 2011, I became director of undergraduate studies in the School of Business. Then in 2012, the dean of the School of Business retired, and I took over as interim dean. Following that, I was appointed dean in January 2014,” he said.

With a busy schedule and new responsibilities as dean, Lee had to change his routine to fit in time for pursuing his doctorate. He advises anyone who takes on the challenge of a doctoral degree to hone their time management skills.

“You need to get into a routine. I now know that certain nights of the week I’ll spend preparing my coursework. I gave up a lot of television time!” he joked. “But I got in the routine of spending that time focused on my coursework and now dissertation.”

“You need to get into a routine. I now know that certain nights of the week I’ll spend preparing my coursework. I gave up a lot of television time! But I got in the routine of spending that time focused on my coursework and now dissertation.”

Robert Lee

Lee’s dissertation is on Adherence to Accounting Best Practices in Small Community Not-for-Profit Organizations. He is examining how in small non-profits accounting best practices “can begin to fall off” and is exploring what some of the dynamics are that are potentially leading into it.

“One of my deciding factors of going to NCU was the ACBSP accreditation for the business programs. It gave me a lot of reassurance that it was a quality program, and it helped that I had also known some colleagues that went to NCU,” he said. “I think the world of NCU. I’ve had a great experience all the way through comps, and now even in the dissertation phase of my journey.”

Having a solid support system is important through the doctoral journey. Lee credits his wife and a colleague with helping him stay focused.

“I have great support from my wife in terms of helping me stay focused and motivated,” he said. “I also had another colleague who was also going to NCU. We were about six months apart in terms of when we started, so we were able to bounce things off each other and keep each other motivated.”

Outside of his work at the University of Saint Francis and doctoral studies, Lee is active at Blackhawk Ministries in Fort Wayne and has served on several governmental and community boards, including Community Action of Northeast Indiana, Retired and Senior Volunteer program and Fire Police City-County Federal Credit Union. He is treasurer of the Allen County Republican Party and past president of the Indiana County Treasurers Association.