Find Your Program


trojan watermark.jpg


trojan watermark.jpg

Center for Leadership and Organizations

Ph.D. program ‘checked every box’ for Stapleton

When Dr. Kimberly Singleton was looking to advance professionally, she found that the Ph.D. in Leadership from Anderson University had everything she needed. Dr.  Stapleton enjoys helping students realize their dreams of attaining college degrees. Every day she helps students navigate financial aid processes and overcome financial barriers to realizing their academic goals. From young students entering college for the first time to military-affiliated students, Dr. Stapleton wants to empower others to build on a foundation for lifelong success.  

How did you find out about Anderson’s Ph.D. in Leadership program? 

I felt like it just kind of landed in my lap. I had been seriously looking for a Ph.D. program for about two years. One morning I was randomly doing a Google search and Anderson popped up.  

I originally applied to Anderson as an undergraduate student but decided to choose a different school, so I had a little bit of knowledge about Anderson—the school and the background and things of that nature—so when it popped up that there was a Ph.D. program, I decided to learn more from the website and then I reached out to the Admission Office to get even more information. It literally checked every box that I was looking for in a Ph.D. program and I was like “okay, now or never” and immediately applied and got started. 

Once you got into your doctoral program, are there things that stood out? 

I think a big part of it is the fact that Anderson is a Christian university, and so having that woven into the curriculum gives you a different perspective on what you’re learning, but also allows you to relate to your peers and your professors, your administrators, in just a little bit of a different way, so the community aspect of it was really important… It was helpful and it made for a really good experience at Anderson.  

How did you become involved in a higher education career? 

I spent about 10 years in retail and finally got to the point where I realized this is not for me, this is not where I can have a future. I started thinking about what that pivot might look like and decided I wanted to get into higher education. I happened to have an old coworker who moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and they were opening a new branch of a cosmetology school. She called me up and said “Kim, we would love to have you on board,” and so I went down to figure it all out. We were doing a lot of recruitment. We were looking for students, but also just trying to build up that name in that community. 

And now you’re working in the financial aid sector of higher education.  

I dipped my toe in the admissions side a little bit, but mostly I’ve been in financial aid helping students figure out how do we pay for college—what does that look like? 

It’s interesting working in it and with it, but then also being a student, so you kind of understand all facets of financial aid and how important it is. I find that people just need to know where to look and what’s available to them. 

What parts of your job do you find the most rewarding? 

What I find the most rewarding is when you can make it work for a student. You encounter all different kinds of students who have a myriad of different backgrounds, challenges and all kinds of things. The one thing that’s the most rewarding is when the student who thought that this wasn’t an option, this becomes a viable option, whether that’s because they’re going to get accepted to the school or they didn’t think they were going to have enough funding to make it a possibility.  

When you can do what you need to do to put things in place and to show that student, “these are all of the resources that we have available to you, these will help you get where you need to be,” that’s the best feeling in the world. 

Are there things about your job you’re particularly passionate about? 

I think that the education piece for students in any part of higher education is introducing them to the possibilities. The first step is getting in—what does that look like? How can you conquer that challenge? What makes you stand out from all of the other students? And then we want to talk about “Now you’re in. How do you pay for it?” We get that piece out of the way and then—further still—how do you thrive when you’re in this environment? It’s quite different from when you’re in high school and at home with your mom and dad. You come into a different environment and we’ve gotten over the big hurdles about access. We’ve gotten you here, and now it’s about getting you through. 

That’s the interesting thing in financial aid, because it’s not just that first year. We are with you the entire time, so we get you in and then we get you through to graduation, so knowing the experience the student’s going to get while they’re here in terms of education and just the life experience, but seeing them through those four years—waking up in the morning and thinking about what I’m doing today, the impact that I’m making. I hope that is the impact I’m making—seeing people through their four years, because I know what an impact my college education has had on me and I want that for everybody. 

What advice would you give somebody considering a Ph.D. and why would they consider Anderson University? 

The best advice I can give is to make sure you find the program that works for you. In that sense, I would wholeheartedly recommend Anderson University because it really did check every single box that I was looking for in a program, and that was just on the surface.  

Once I dug deeper and got immersed in the program, I realized Anderson was offering things I didn’t know I needed, and reflecting on that experience makes it even better. The program itself is structured in a way that’s perfect for working adults and those of us with the mindset “Hey, I’m doing this for professional development and things of that nature,” but also personally the enrichment in the program because you work so hard and you produce something so monumental, like your research, your dissertation—you reflect on that, and then you look at everything that helped you get there. The big part of that was the faculty and the staff—everybody that makes the program run. It was an amazing experience, and for all of that, I would recommend Anderson. 

What was your dissertation about?
My dissertation was a followership study on millennials in relation to advancement in higher education.  

What were some of the discoveries you made coming out of your research? 

One of the things we talked about are the different influences that millennials take into account when they’re thinking about their career development and what kind of jobs they consider and why. Some of the characteristics they mentioned and the things that came out of that were very interesting as far as much of it was personal. They’re thinking about the impact that deciding on this particular career or taking this job has on their family, whether that be their immediate family for those with spouses and children or just maybe elderly parents if they’re caregivers and things of that nature. The personal aspects of what they take into consideration, whether they’re thinking about career development versus professional, was very interesting.  

I’m a millennial in higher education and so to hear some of the things that they were saying that resonated with me was almost like there was some community-building. You get to a point where you realize you’re not alone, and that was really nice. 

With your new doctoral degree, what’s next? 

I’m hoping to expound on my research. I’ve learned a lot about what millennials expect of their leadership, which is very interesting. Millennials are currently the largest generation in the workforce, so for those that are looking to attract and maintain talent, they are really pulling from a largely millennial source, so I’m interested in educating our current leaders about what that looks like currently in their workforce and also as they plan for succession, so I would love to be able to share this, whether that’s presentations or sessions, speeches at conferences—things of that nature—but also maybe just a little more here at Elon, use that to help educate our leaders but also expand some of the initiatives that we already have going, and just dig deeper. There are some really good professional development initiatives that we started, and I want to contribute to those in a deeper way and also continue to think about what expansion looks like because it was also uncovering that millennials are really into professional development—that’s a great retention strategy and so that’s something I’d love to really develop more.  

Outside of Elon, what are you involved in? 

I do a podcast that talks about relationship building. It’s called “Beauty, Brains and a Big Mouth.” And I’m trying to become more active and involved in my church, Definition Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.  

Dr. Kimberly Stapleton
Kimberly M. Stapleton, PhD, CFEI®
Graduated from Anderson University: 2024
Degree: Ph.D. in Leadership
Title: Assistant Director of Financial Aid for University Engagement and Partnerships at Elon University, Elon, North Carolina