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Already a successful professional, three-time BGSU alumnae Jen Traxler '90 '99 '22 used the DODC program to create a new pathway doing what she loved most.

In Their Words: BGSU graduate turns career-long passion into ‘exclamation point’ through DODC program

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A graduate of the first DODC cohort, Jen Traxler pursues joy of molding young professionals with BGSU doctoral degree.

Already a highly successful professional, Jen Traxler ’90 ’99 ’22 found herself at a career crossroads. Traxler had what she considered a dream job working for Marathon Petroleum, but she was still looking for more from her professional life.

So, on a long drive, she asked her husband: What if she pursued a Doctorate in Organization Development and Change at Bowling Green State University? 

The answer was, “Go for it,” and Traxler did just that, turning a career-long love of molding young professionals into her career “exclamation point” through the DDOC program, which is housed within the Schmidthorst College of Business.

The three-year professional degree program, 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 itself 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 all students – regardless of their location – 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. 

Now the director of the Robert D. Walter Center for Strategic Leadership at Ohio University, Traxler shares what she learned after going through the DODC program and how she’s implementing the lessons learned at BGSU:

I say that I was free-falling into my doctorate. I was looking around at what I wanted to do next in my professional career. I wasn’t really seeing anything else I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like I had an exclamation point for my professional life. My personal life was outstanding, but my professional life had me saying, ‘What am I doing?’

For me, as someone who loves change – I got my master’s degree from BGSU in organization development – I always wanted more. I just loved the program. I knew [DODC program director] Steve Cady because he had done some consulting work with us at Marathon, and years prior we had some conversations with him about starting the program.

I was driving to Penn State to visit my daughter for Parents’ Weekend, and I turned to my husband and said, ‘What would happen if I go for my doctorate?’ He said, ‘Do what will make you happy. Go for it.’ I stumbled upon the BGSU program, and lo and behold, there was Steve’s face on the website.

I set up a meeting with Steve, and it took about all of a minute to convince me. It was totally brand new and I loved being a trailblazer, and it was something that could fill the desire for something more. I knew at that point that I didn’t want to be a [chief human resources officer], an HR generalist or a business partner. I wanted to develop and lead people – and that’s when I started my doctorate.

During undergrad, I worked at the placement office at BGSU, and Whirlpool came on site when I happened to be one of the hosts. Long story short, I got my job at Whirlpool at the plant in Clyde, Ohio, doing communications, which was the best job I could have ever wanted coming out of college. I learned so much about the business and about people. I wrote a daily newsletter, and from there, did a lot of the PR work in the community.

My last job at Whirlpool was probably my favorite. I went on college campuses and recruited high-potential students to come into rotational programs. I literally got to work with these young professionals through their rotations, and I also got to work with the C-Suite folks who were the sponsors. I was working on developing these high-potential leaders at an early age, so I loved the gamut of going into college campuses to recruit, bringing them into the company and putting them in roles that were meaningful. 

Years later, Marathon was looking for people to come into their organizational development group in Findlay. It took them about nine months – I thought I would retire at Whirlpool – to convince me to go to Marathon in an org development role. It was definitely the type of dream job I had always wanted.

Having the organizational development background, you can see the big picture of companies and organizations. I didn’t just utilize the tools and knowledge at my job, but I also used that with non-profits and helping them. They often don’t have the same type of resources, so any time I had the chance to connect with community leaders, that’s part of the gift I was given. 

To remain curious is something you aren’t taught, so I didn’t have a term for it, but in the field of OD, you’re always trying to look at what’s next or to learn a little bit more. Taking the road less traveled is a great place to be.

For me to be part of the initial cohort in the DODC program and to be a trailblazer was super intriguing because I never realized that there was a working doctorate program. I always thought about getting a doctorate, but it would mean that I had to leave my job and be on campus, and I couldn’t give that up as a single mom. This program gave you the chance to fill both buckets – professional joy and helping others – and you didn’t have to quit your job. I got to make an impact in the work I love to do, so absolutely, BGSU was the right place. 

A friend of mine who I met at my very first job, Tim Reynolds, had gone down to OU to start this strategic leadership center that was just endowed. Well, he called me after deciding to step back from the executive director role in 2022, and he and his wife thought of me. The rest is history. 

It's amazing to make such an impact on these young students and watch their growth and development. I’ll be really anxious to see what kind of impact the opportunities I helped lead had in their lives. That was the same kind of work I was doing at my last job at Whirlpool. I tell people that I’m on the pitcher’s mound now. I’m throwing my students to their amazing organizations and companies, whereas I used to be on campus trying to catch talent. 

I would have never thought about leaving corporate America because I didn’t know it was an option for me. My husband was a gracious supporter of my hopes and dreams and always has been. When I got the call to go OU, I said, ‘How is that actually going to work?’ But he said, ‘We can make anything work if it’s what you want to do.’ It was a dream I didn’t even know that I had. When I got to Athens, I knew it was absolutely the place I needed to be, and doing the work I always wanted to do.

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

Updated: 04/29/2024 08:25AM