Ed.D. Leadership Student Spotlight: Tony Dixon

Tony Dixon Picture Leadership

By Dr. Arron Grow, Associate Program Director School of Applied Leadership

Recently you received some exciting news. Please tell me about this.

Recently, I accepted a position working in training and development for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA). It is very exciting for me since I’ve been applying for training and development positions for some time.  The NTUA is the first place to give me an opportunity. I will be relocating from San Diego to live along the Arizona and New Mexico border.

In the role, I will help improve the quality of training and development for NTUA’s over 700 employees. Currently, employees have no development plans and training is primarily a reaction to health and safety incidences.

One of the biggest concerns NTUA had in selecting the right candidate, was the ability to adapt to their lifestyle. NTUA serves the Navajo Nation, a very community oriented group with issues of poverty, high-unemployment and low educational attainment. The area is also very rural. Being able to speak about culture and diverse societies was key because it allowed me to confront the underlying issues head-on and abate their concerns. Also, the fact that my girlfriend and I have military experience and have each been deployed gave them confidence we could adjust.

What is it you do now?

I’ve been doing personal training for 24 Hour Fitness. It has been great because the excitement and satisfaction of working with people helping them reach fitness goals is very rewarding. Previously, I taught Kung Fu and Tai Chi for ten years and have studied these arts for nearly 20. I used to lead physical fitness training while in the Army Reserve, so I’ve developed a strong interest and passion in fitness and training.

What is your biggest motivator to keep you going during your leadership studies?

In many ways, I am here against the odds. When I was born, I nearly died due to issues in the womb. In fact, the doctors told my father not to get too attached. Neither of my parents finished high school and I became a first generation college graduate thanks to the military’s G.I. Bill.  While deployed to Iraq, one of my duties was to assist with soldiers killed in action (KIAs) in the mortuary. When I came home, I struggled with how to make sense of the children who lost a parent, the parents who lost a child, wife who lost a husband, the unit who lost one of their own.

This experience led me to realize that the life lost could have easily been my own. It helped me to know just how precious my life and freedoms were. I’ve chosen to channel that into studying leadership and helping study, grow, and develop leadership in others. My education in leadership is deeply personal for many reasons and I feel it makes me a better academic.

Though it may be a ways off, what work positions do you see yourself in after completing your doctorate? 

Ideally, I would love to work in leadership development or teach leadership at the university level. Helping grow and develop leaders has become a personal mission regardless of the setting. The world would be a much better place if we had more and better leaders.

Please share thoughts about your doctoral journey so far.

The doctoral program has been great so far. It has certainly proved challenging at times, but I learned a while ago that even if a class or an assignment doesn’t make sense, now, to simply trust the process the bigger picture will come through.

What advice would you give to others as they work through their doctoral journey?

There are often several ways to solve a problem or reach a destination. How one gets there is more important than the destination. Completing assignments merely to get grades and move through the program is uninspiring. The cost is the same whether you are just passing the class or working to get the most from it. It is up to us, as students, to know the value that can be had from the program. Ask about publishing, question fundamental concepts, follow the rabbit hole of your own interests. Those who complete the program all end up at the same place, but the story of how each of us gets there will be far more interesting.

Published April 19, 2016



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