it takes a community
To Finish a PH.D.

Written by Marissa Poulson

Community is everything in the military.

"A soldier cannot operate, much less survive, alone," notes Colonel Vince Lindenmeyer (Ph.D., 2013), senior Army strategist and joint operational planner at the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) in Omaha, Neb. "It takes a 'battle buddy,' a squad and leadership for just one soldier to survive in harsh conditions."

Colonel Vince Lindenmeyer (Ph.D., Education / Training & Development Leadership, 2013)

With more than 23 years of commissioned service in the Infantry, Logistics and Strategist career fields at the platoon leader and combatant command levels, Lindenmeyer is no stranger to harsh conditions. His military training, badges and awards include the Expert Infantryman's Badge, Ranger Tab, Senior Parachutist Badge, and the Bronze Star. He has also been deployed multiple times throughout his military career, including twice while completing his Ph.D. in Education from Northcentral University.

"In hindsight, I am very thankful for the no residency requirement," says Lindenmeyer, who was adamant about finding a regionally accredited university with this unique feature.

"The greatest challenge for me in my doctoral journey was acknowledging that I had to put my doctoral work on the back burner (taking two Military Leaves of Absence) for my career," he continues. "I couldn't help but think of my late father, Professor Carl R. Lindenmeyer, who was all-but-dissertation in his field because his teaching career took off and he was too busy to reach the finish line."

It was then that Lindenmeyer realized how important community is for doctoral students as well.

"All doctoral candidates need a ‘battle buddy’ or colleague who is also negotiating a program of instruction, a support network similar to a squad, and a mentor to help guide us to the finish line," he explains.

"Thankfully, I had peers in other doctoral programs for encouragement, including my wife, Reverend Dr. Cynthia Lindenmeyer, a recent graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program."

In fact, building a supportive community is Lindenmeyer's first piece of advice to current doctoral students.

“You can't be afraid to build 'community' around you while you are negotiating your doctoral journey," he encourages. "Reach out to subject matter experts and ask questions of others. You will be surprised at how many international scholars answer your emails. Practice your doctoral ‘elevator speech’ on anyone that will listen. It works; I must have practiced my ‘elevator speech’ hundreds of times while refining it along the way," he laughs.

“All doctoral candidates need a ‘battle buddy’ or colleague who is also negotiating a program of instruction, a support network similar to a squad, and a mentor to help guide us to the finish line.”

Lindenmeyer's dissertation research examined relationships among organizational commitment, career intent and retention behavior in a closed personnel systems (U.S. Army Captains) using the Theory of Planned Behavior.

"The retention of highly talented initial-entry and mid-career managers has become a focal point for both corporate and government agencies," he explains. "While [completing] my Northcentral course work and serving in the United States Army Human Resources Command from 2007 to 2009, I recognized a lack of understanding regarding the relationships between organizational commitment and retention behavior among U.S. Army Captains. [I] wanted to explore the possibility of extending the Theory of Planned Behavior to closed personnel systems to illuminate further insights on retention incentive offerings."

"Ultimately, I learned that the United States Army must continue to retain junior officers through engaged leadership, meaningful deployments and training opportunities to remain a ready and resilient force for our Nation’s next national security challenges," he adds.

Today, Lindenmeyer is able to combine his educational experiences with his significant government and military experience to build community as a leader in his field. In his current role as a lead operational planner with USSTRATCOM, he leads teams of subject matter experts to frame problems and develop solutions for complex crises and global situations that arise.

"In the military, community means more than just work. It means living, eating and rowing together as a team," he says. "As a leader, I am not afraid to demonstrate a strong personal work ethic in getting the job done while showing respect for others' intellectual contributions towards the final product."

It's like the saying goes, "We're all in this together." Whether in life, work, or even in educational pursuits like a challenging doctoral journey, we are always part of a larger community.

"The community that you build will keep you sane along the journey," concludes Lindenmeyer. "Most importantly, community will get you to the finish line."