Simply Saturday and Another New Doctor in the House!

Introducing: Dr. Jennifer!


        Dr. Jennifer North Koel!

On this “Simply Saturday,” I’m excited to share a wonderful account of a fellow doctoral graduate’s journey!

Jenn and I are both now alumni of Northcentral University. I successfully defended my dissertation back on June 26th; Jenn just defended hers on November 27th.

She shared this wonderful account of her own journey in a note on Facebook and gave me permission to share it here.  I can relate to so many of her own points, including losing loved ones along the journey. My Mom passed away in 2011; then my hubby lost both of his paternal grandparents within a year of each other, in 2013 and 2014; and most tragically, he lost his younger brother to suicide last June.

Pursuing a doctoral degree requires commitment, rigor, patience, persistence, and perseverance – in spite of such personal setbacks, and in spite of the frequent urge to quit when you feel overwhelmed. This is probably why only about 2% of the population endeavor to invest several years of their time and effort (not to mention finances) into earning a doctoral degree. It is an elite club of sorts!

So, here is one the newest doctors in the house! I present to you Dr. Jennifer North Koel and her account of her own journey that began in 2010!


“She’s ALMOST a Doctor!!”



“This doctoral journey has been the biggest undertaking of my life. Completion of each course was achieved one course at a time all while teaching college students, being a mom, wife and friend. It certainly was a lot to juggle!


When I set foot on this path in October of 2010 (Yes, that date is correct) the ride was fairly smooth. I completed each of my Early Childhood Education courses without a lot of stress–ECE is my passion! However, when I entered the research courses it was unchartered territory! The world of academic research can be like a foreign language.

Qualitative Inquiry, Empathic Neutrality, Context Sensitivity, Reflexivity, Pragmatism, Triangulation, Phenomenology, Heuristic Inquiry, Hermeneutics, Grounded Theory, Methodology, Data Analysis, Implications…..I think you see what I mean! The research courses were challenging for me, but I made it through them… course at a time!



Then came the COMPS Exam! Talk about STRESS! I truly now know the definition of “Going Crazy”. I thought I was going to lose my mind! I only lost a few brain cells and I passed the COMPS Exam. Now I was ABD! All But Dissertation. Some people stop there. I wonder what the percentage is? I know it is high. And I can see why!


Here’s where the fun began! A dissertation is insanely wildly crazy! Just choosing a topic can take weeks! Writing the Statement of the Problem can take months. It takes a lot of patience and drive and determination to plow forwards through the feedback, the backward turns, the wild rides and the starting over moments. Sometimes I think I rewrote sections a million different times! Tears were shed, feet were stomped and often times I felt like giving up.


During this process my Dad (one of my biggest supporters) was diagnosed with cancer. Within 1.5 years my dad was gone. A month later, I lost my grandfather. There were some really tough days. Throughout it all I kept moving forward. I didn’t often take big steps, some were teeny tiny, but they were steps. In my eyes, each step mattered. Sometimes, though, I got on a roll and took giant leaps! Each step, regardless of size, was a celebration for me. I knew my Dad would not want me to stop.


This morning I successfully defended my Dissertation: Self-Efficacy Perspectives of Children Ages 7 to 10: A Phenomenological Exploration. The Oral Defense, today, was one of the greatest highlights of my life! There were times that I didn’t think I would see this day arrive. But the day came and I gave it my all–I did it!

There is no way I could have done this myself. I have a lot of people I want to thank.

First and foremost, I want to thank God for giving me the Strength to “press on toward the goal.” [Philippians 3:14]. For without my Faith in God, I don’t believe this dissertation would have been possible.

To my Dissertation Chair, Dr. Sharon Kimmel, who has given me amazing feedback and guidance throughout the entire dissertation process. Thank you for sticking by my side during the months that I could barely compose a paragraph. You are so patient, kind and compassionate. Thank you for your encouraging words and for building my confidence.

To my husband, Dan, you have seen me in my worst of times and the best of times. Your love for me has remained steady regardless of the obstacles and challenges placed in front of me. The Sunday night dinners, as I frantically wrote, warmed my heart and kept me focused. You are one rockstar chef! You’ve done more sweet things for me than I can count. I love you more than I could ever express in words. You are my greatest blessing

To my children, Jocelyn, Jimmy and Jayson, you have supported me through the entire process, cheering me along the way. Your words and acts of kindness kept me going. Thank you for being so understanding when I had to write, instead of play. It’s my hope that we can spend the rest of our Sunday nights playing and laughing. I am so lucky to have you as my children.You are my inspiration, my pride and my joy. You make me smile.

To my students, past and present, you have been strong supporters of my work throughout the years. I enjoyed being students together. You always listened to my setbacks and celebrated my achievements!

To my relatives, colleagues and friends, thanks for asking me how things were going. I know you loved my responses…. “still working on it” …. “almost done” ….. “not yet”….. Each inquiry meant a lot to me. Thank you.

To my dog, Pepper Jack, you have been by my side from the first word to the last. I love having you as my Best Furry Friend. It’s with you that I share this degree.


                   “Dr” Pepper Jack!


To my parents, for giving me the best childhood I could have ever asked for and for supporting me on my educational journey.

And most importantly, To my Dad, a fellow educator, who, shortly before he passed away, pointed and said, “She’s almost a Doctor”.

Well, Dad, I AM a Doctor!

Dr. Koel
Dr. Jenn
Dr. Jennifer Koel
Jennifer Koel, PhD”



Congrats again, Dr. Jenn!  It’s a great feeling to FINALLY finish the journey!


Me, Dr. Karen Lee Banks, with my NCU Doctor of Education (EdD) diploma


So What About YOU?


Have you ever had any interest in going back to school and pursuing an advanced degree?


Have you, or anyone you know, recently achieved a major accomplishment? (Feel free to share in a comment!)








10 thoughts on “Simply Saturday and Another New Doctor in the House!”
  1. Congratulations – what an achievement. It is a testament to your strength that you kept on going. A small step is indeed still a step!

  2. Wow! what an ispiring story. Life has sometimes different purpose, it gives us happiness, pain, sorrow, and often times uncontentment. But I’m sure your dad is so proud of your efforts and hard works. Congratulations to this new chapter of your life Doctor. As the quote said life doesn’t go according to plan, I really hope I could have the same courage as you to pursue something in life.

  3. That is SO precious. Congratulations on such a great accomplishment, but more importantly, on honoring your dad in this way 🙂 So great that you had a wonderful childhood and can relate such memories with your parents now.

  4. Aw what a great story. I know a lot of people who consider going back to grad school without a purpose other than just to get un “stuck”. Wonderful that your family seems to have a legacy! haha

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