Dale Monnin stands on stage with four others holding drums during a group presentation in a large ballroom.
Dale Monnin '88 '23, far left, merged his corporate success with his love for music with the Drum Cafe, whose work using group drumming to create positive organizational change was his research focus at BGSU. (Contributed photo)

In Their Words: DODC graduate blends music and research to create cohesion and connectivity within workplaces

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Dale Monnin earned his Doctorate in Organization Development and Change at BGSU, a doctoral program that added to an already successful career. In his words, hear how he turned anecdotal experiences into formal research at BGSU.  

Thirty-five years after he first graduated from Bowling Green State University, Dale Monnin ’88 ’23 walked across the stage a second time with a doctorate in Organization Development and Change from the Schmidthorst College of Business

Monnin, who spent the first half of his career in software sales, became a founding member of the Drum Cafe in the U.S., which uses the power of interactive group drumming to create cohesion and connectivity within workplaces.

As a doctoral student at BGSU, Monnin turned his work into formal research, studying how music could be an antecedent to positive outcomes within organizations.

The three-year professional degree program, which is designed for working professionals, applies an evidence-based, behavioral science curriculum to changing and revitalizing communities and organizations. DODC serves three broad populations: leaders, consultants and educators – all of whom are actively engaged in making a positive difference in their companies and communities. The development they achieve through the DODC program at BGSU further enhances their ability to step into their roles as transformational leaders. 

The BGSU Graduate College comprises 24 doctoral and 109 master’s degree programs, along with 45 certificate programs. Graduate students are engaged in professionally oriented programs that prepare them for successful careers or highly academic programs that lead to a life of research, scholarship and creative endeavors in and outside of higher education. In addition to full-time education, the Graduate College also offers flexible and varied learning experiences that fit into students’ current professional lifestyles through part-time, weekend/evening, and online/blended programs.  

BGSU Online provides students with a variety of fully supported, highly ranked online graduate and certificate programs designed for busy working adults. The same degrees are delivered by the same world-class faculty as the University’s in-person programs, ensuring that all students - regardless of their location - can experience the quality education and comprehensive programs that BGSU provides.

The DODC executive program suits wide ranges of disciplines and professions, making it an appealing option for already accomplished professionals looking to further advance their goals. The flexible program also has small class sizes and is delivered in a convenient and accelerated executive format, which means the courses are blended – some online work along with in-person weekend residencies a few times a year. 

Here, Monnin shares what he learned after going through the DODC program and how he’s implementing the lessons learned at BGSU: 

I wanted to vet and validate that the work I did qualified for a doctoral emphasis. Was it apples and oranges? I wasn’t sure at first. [Program director] Steve Cady and [assistant director] Tom Daniels described to me that you can come in from any angle or any aspect of your work experience and find value in it. Those conversations were important.

The nature of my work at the Drum Cafe is all in person, so in 2020, I thought I was going to be on the bench for who knows how long while COVID ran its course. You just can’t do it virtually. I thought, ‘This might be my time to take what I had seen be successful anecdotally and do some formal research to support the efficacy of the work I do.’ That’s how I applied, got accepted and got started.

The BGSU faculty, staff and advisors really helped with what my research question should be. If you come in with a passion — and that’s non-negotiable in my mind — you can apply it to research and support that passion with scholarship. To me, that’s how you get through it — especially if you do it three decades after your last formal schooling. 

I was a management information systems major at Bowling Green during my undergrad, and then I got my MBA in international business from the University of Dayton. I was traveling the globe, selling software and leading sales teams. One of those gigs landed me in Johannesburg, South Africa, shortly after the fall of apartheid. That was where the Drum Cafe brand had started.

By the time I saw the Drum Cafe again, I had resigned from my job doing software sales just to take a timeout. I was playing in a band, making music and taking a breather. 

When I paid a little more attention to the Drum Cafe, I saw what they were doing was relating making music to organizational effectiveness — how people work and play nicely together. I thought, ‘Shoot, this is perfect!’ I was in a band, I was making music and I was also a corporate guy who knew how to grow teams, lead and manage talent. I knew that modality was heaven-sent.

I went to the Drum Cafe brand owner, Warren Lieberman, and said, ‘We’ve got to bring this to America.’ It took a little bit of time, but he eventually said yes and it got going.

Santa Claus brought me a drum set when I was 3, but it didn’t really take. The passion never left me, but the practicality of getting it off the ground wasn't' until I got to South Africa and I was a grown-up who had time to invest, and that’s what I did. 

It wasn’t until I was 31 years old in South Africa that I picked up the drums again in earnest. That’s what led me away from corporate work — I knew that if I was going to do this and gain any proficiency at all, I had to go for it while I was still fairly young. 

In lots of ways, I jettisoned my life as a sales guy. Of course, now that it’s my own business, I’m selling all the time, so that experience certainly factored in. But it was a very natural fit: My skills as a drummer and addressing professional audiences.

I was making it up as I went along because I didn’t have any empirical support for it — how group drumming affected emotions or effectiveness. I had a lot of anecdotal observations and experiences, but the doctorate is what allowed me to evaluate the work empirically. 

Research became very natural. My tagline of relating music to organizational effectiveness meant breaking down organizational effectiveness to simple, granular building blocks of how organizations get the desired outcomes they are looking for, and whether music can serve as an antecedent for getting those outcomes. 

The research findings legitimized even further who I am and what I say from the stage and inside programs. It gave me a platform to develop programming and products — books, keynotes, trainings — to be a thought leader and share that thought leadership with professionals, from educators to corporate leaders or anyone. 

In a given day, I might be in front of hundreds of executives from a Big Four firm like Deloitte to hundreds of educators from a school district in Texas. Those are gigantic opportunities to showcase and to further my brand and thought leadership, so this is where I’m checking in to use the products I have developed using my doctoral degree and my research. This is really just the beginning. 

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349

Updated: 02/15/2024 08:02AM