Marvin Fontaine, Jr. wanted to show his children and grandchildren that it's never too late to earn a college degree, even a terminal one. This motivation drove him to earn a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) from Saint Leo University.
The 55-year-old native of Martinsville, VA, currently lives in Buford, GA north of Atlanta. He and his wife, Patricia, have three daughters and four grandsons. They also have a 'granddog,' Howard, named after Howard University where their middle daughter graduated from college.
Serving as a Navy Sailor
When he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, he spent five years on active duty and another five in the reserves.
"I mainly worked as a dental technician," he says. "I was stationed at a Navy hospital in Bethesda, MD. During the Reagan administration, I was actually the dental tech for vice president George Bush, Sr. I like to hold up my left and right index fingers and tell people that these fingers were actually in George Bush's mouth."
His Naval service took him all around the globe.
"At one point, I was stationed on this small island called Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I went to Italy, Greece, and the Philippines as well. It was fascinating seeing how people live differently and the different cultures. I learned so much about how to interact with such a variety of people, and I really could see how we are truly a global economy. Travel definitely opens your eyes to a whole lot of things."
After his military service, Fontaine earned a BA in Healthcare Administration with a Computer Science minor from Southern Illinois University. His Master of Project Management (MPM) degree is from DeVry University. He also holds several certifications in the information technology realm.
He previously worked at a healthcare company doing installations of healthcare software. He has also done software installations for financial institutions. He has traveled to Australia, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, China, and India through his work.
"I've gotten to travel the world doing my craft, and this career has led me down a path toward many great opportunities."
His current role has him identifying talent for a variety of roles in IT.
"I work in IT services," he explains. "We place contingent labor around the country. So, for example, we'd place a software developer from a pool of resources for contingent temporary labor to assist a certain company."
Choosing Saint Leo's Doctor of Business Administration Program
He explains why he chose to pursue a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) from Saint Leo University.
"I wanted to enhance my skills and hopefully attain some higher roles. I also would like to teach as an adjunct professor at some point. Finally, since I'm a lifelong learner, I wanted to show my kids and grandkids that you're never too old to go to school."
Fontaine had a lengthy checklist of requirements during his search for a doctoral program.
"Once I decided I was going to do it, I did a lot of research," he says. "I wanted either a fully online or hybrid doctoral program with a flexible course delivery format that would not interfere with my day job. I also wanted a 'real' school with an actual campus that supported undergraduate through doctoral students and one that had an affinity for the military and veterans. Saint Leo University kept popping up as it met all of these requirements. Seeing all of the awards the school has earned and how so many students and alumni were all over the world made it a very appealing choice. It was also more affordable and offered small class sizes."
He began the program in December of 2016 and had 37 total students in his cohort. He recalls a memorable activity he did early on in the program when he first came to University Campus for a few days.
"During my first colloquium in which the DBA students visit the campus, we did teambuilding activities on the soccer field," he explains. "There were 37 strangers who had never met each other before and were just getting to know each other's personalities and tendencies. That was a huge moment in the program because it immediately gave us that true sense of community."
Saint Leo DBA Instructors of Note
He says Drs. Andrew Gold, Russell Clayton, Timothy Wiseman, and Stephen Baglione stood out to him in the program.
"The faculty all sparked my interest in so many areas of learning," he explains. "They always made time to answer a question, no matter how odd, and always found a way to provide guidance and support."
His courses on research methods, data analytics, organizational behavior, and global management stood out to him. When asked about the most challenging course he took, an ethics class immediately comes to mind.
"I took that one with Dr. Pamela Lee. Even though it was the toughest one for me, Dr. Lee is demanding in a good way. She drove us to engage in self-reflection, determine what type of leader we were, and look at our own ethics and how we portray them to the world around us."
Through the lens of his career, he has already seen tremendous value in the curriculum.
"Taking advantage of their areas of expertise and applying what I've learned from them throughout the program has already contributed to my advancement in the IT Services industry."
In addition to his professors, the support of program director Dr. Dale Mancini and program coordinator Donna Shea was second-to-none.
"Dr. Mancini came on with the program toward my last year in it. He has been huge in paving the way for everyone to have a good experience in the program. He took the time to meet and talk with me and asked what he could do to improve the program for all of the students. To me, that speaks volumes about his character and Saint Leo University in general. Donna has also been a huge support to me."
Plus, the flexibility of the coursework made it a smooth process all the way through.
"The online class format made it easy for me to take courses when and where I needed them, feel connected, and stay engaged with my professors. The online class format and other resources also helped me to build and maintain relationships with others in my cohort."
The DBA Proposal and Dissertation Defense
A dissertation proposal and defense are two key requirements of this Doctor of Business Administration program. For Fontaine, he chose to look at how competence and the outcomes of various projects are intertwined.
"My question was looking at whether the more competent an employee is, is a person more likely to succeed at certain tasks or projects?"
The formal title of his paper was "Investigating Competence and Self-Efficacy as Predictors of Success Among Contingent Information Technology Project Managers."
"It was a pretty grueling but fun experience overall. I got some wonderful input and guidance from my committee."
His dissertation chair was Dr. Robert Pratt, while Dr. Keith Jones also served on his committee. He admits he was more comfortable doing the actual defense of his dissertation compared to presenting the proposal.
"Preparation makes the defense that much easier," he says. "Plus, my dissertation chair and committee had prepared me very well for it."
Strong Connections to Fellow Students
Fontaine can't say enough about the support of his fellow classmates in his cohort."The connections we made in the cohort and continue to make since completing the program are special," he says. "I could walk into one of the classrooms we used for one of our colloquium events and point to where each student was sitting and name each student. That's how close-knit our cohort was."
Plus, the cohort created a Facebook group, and its members text each other often with updates on their respective career achievements.
"We're sharing our successes even post-program. I consider these to be colleagues of mine for a lifetime."
Thanks to all of this support from everyone in the program, he wrapped up the doctoral degree in July of 2020.
Advice to Prospective Doctoral Students
Based on his journey through the DBA program, Fontaine offers up some advice to those who may be considering such a curriculum.
"It's almost cliché to say, but listen to those who have been there before. Be engaged in the community around you. Remember that the students in your cohort are going through the same challenges you're facing. Find others to bounce ideas off of and be a sounding board for others."
In terms of how challenged he felt compared to his initial anticipation, he adds that it was essentially everything he expected from a doctoral curriculum.
"Be prepared for the grind," he advises. "It's a very rigorous program and you're going to be busy. But if it were easy, everyone would do it. That's what makes it so unique to earn a doctorate."
Aside from his day job, Fontaine is big into music. When he was first in college, he was originally a music major. He now serves as the assistant executive director of a Georgia-based nonprofit called Atlanta CV Drum and Bugle Corps.
"It's a competitive performing arts organization with 128 members and 30 staff and volunteers. I am a founding member and helped get this going 23 years ago. Outside of the pandemic, we've traveled around the country and competed against other groups. We have actually been national champions."
Aside from his current position, he has served as a drum major, marching member, tour director, board member, and board chairman. (Check out this video of the group performing.)
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Dr. Marvin Fontaine and is used with permission.