Skip Navigation

UMGC Global Media Center
Janine Smith Completes Doctorate and Realizes Decades-long Dream

Liz Connolly-Bauman
By Liz Connolly-Bauman
  • Commencement |
  • News
Janine Smith

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a series of profiles of Spring 2024 graduates.

For more than a decade, Janine Smith dreamed of completing her doctorate degree. Among other things, she knew additional education would help her stand out among other senior managers in the field of government contracting, but she could never find time to commit to school.

When COVID-19 shut the world down in 2020, Smith decided it was time to turn her longstanding dream into reality. She enrolled in University of Maryland Global Campus’s (UMGC) doctoral program in business administration (DBA).

"After entering the management ranks, I searched for certifications or degrees that could differentiate me from other managers,” Smith explained. “One such program was UMGC's DBA program.”

This May, with classmates by her side, Smith was officially hooded and awarded her degree—the first first in her family to earn a doctorate.

Smith had previously earned bachelor’s degrees in math and physics from Fisk University. She continued her studies with a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and was the first U.S. citizen to obtain a master’s degree in physics from Fisk.

Today, she is a senior-level program manager in government contracting, overseeing profit and loss for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She has more than 35 years of professional experience.

Her areas of responsibility include NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System, which provides global observations that serve as the backbone of both short- and long-term weather forecasts. “Additionally, I manage a team supporting the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES),” Smith said. “The team has supported three launches and are prepping for the fourth and final launch of GOES-U this summer.”

Smith also supervises employees supporting the Hubble Space Telescope which launched into orbit in 1990.

Studying while juggling a demanding day job was no easy feat, and Smith said time management and a close cohort of classmates helped her complete her DBA. Although the doctoral program was online, the group of 13 students working toward the degree met every Saturday to study together. Members of the cohort completed their degree requirements in December 2023, but participated in a special hooding ceremony that was part of the university’s Spring 2024 Grad Walk.

“My cohort was very supportive of those who finished assignments early. They would always reach back and help pull those on who…were not struggling but may need someone to review their work,” Smith said. “So that's been a very positive experience for me.”

Smith said the most challenging of her course requirements was Designing Evidence-Based Management Solutions (DBA 840). Ultimately, through the course, Smith learned the Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) skills needed to methodically go through the process of defining a problem. Those skills included learning how to prepare the elements of an academic research paper, including the problem statement, background, methodology, findings and implications for management. The course, which also put her at the forefront of the dissertation process, was taught by Adrian Wolfberg, PhD, adjunct professor of business administration.

“The process was very rewarding but intense,” said Smith, whose course paper on Generation Y will be published later this year in the Engaged Management ReView, a peer-review journal featuring problem-driven management scholarship.

Wolfberg saw consistent progress as Smith completed the program. “I was very pleased to see Janine’s intellectual and academic development from the time I taught her in the introduction to research course, DBA 820, Evidence-Based Research Methods, through DBA 840, and then finally to her success in publishing her research in a peer-reviewed journal,” Wolfberg said.

“Janine is one of the few DBA graduates I have had the pleasure to work with who have excelled in the persistence and commitment necessary to not only complete the doctorate degree but also publish their research,” he added.

Smith has already integrated skills she learned in the doctoral program with her day-to-day duties with the government. She looks to the future with retirement on the horizon.

“My family was very supportive of me,” Smith said of her decision to return to school. “I’m hopeful that I’ve set an example and many more will pursue an advanced degree.”