The Berlin Wall was falling, and Nichole Castater was right there. An undergraduate studying German abroad for a semester, she had chosen Berlin, and found herself witnessing history unfolding. The excitement in the air was palpable that year, and it caught Dr. Castater, carrying her in a new career direction—one in which she would help privatized companies in the former Soviet bloc create business.
After several such engagements, she observed that Eastern European entrepreneurs seemed to reserve their deepest respect for any Western consultant whose name ended in “Ph.D.” Having long wanted to become a college professor one day, Dr. Castater fine-tuned her career plan—she would earn her doctorate in business, and add teaching and researching on newly-privatized businesses to her consulting work with them.
The plan unfolded as she had hoped—until, working on her dissertation, the cold, hard rigors of academic research methodology collided with the realities of freewheeling Eastern European businesses. Detailed data on the businesses she was analyzing simply did not exist—standard Western accounting practices not having fully taken hold in the former Iron Curtain economies—and her research was stymied.
Dr. Castater had to recast and restructure her dissertation plan. She devised another route, but the meter was running— eventually adding three years to her doctoral program. Three years of deferring the day when she would be entitled to earn the title and financial compensation of a professor. Three more years of living on a student budget.
“It was an incredible financial sacrifice,” she says, “but it will be well worth it in the end. I will have a great deal of autonomy, I will be doing what I love, and I hope to teach for as long as I can.”
Dr. Castater deployed a number of strategies to get her through the additional three years of investment. She went after them at full bore—having determined she needed to secure additional funding sources, she sought and won a Fulbright.
She also found other grants and never said no to any teaching or research opportunity that came her way. Student loans helped bridge the gap. Finally, while completing the dissertation, she set emotions aside and obtained a teaching position at another university because it offered higher compensation.
Dr. Castater’s advice for negotiating the years of financial investment as a doctoral student: “Look for grants within your university. Realize that student loans are not the big bad things people think they are—interest rates are low. Do not charge everything on your credit card—it becomes formidable.”
And, finally: “Make sure your dissertation and doctoral program take first priority. Make sure you get it done. When you do, more opportunities are open to you by far.”
Today, Dr. Castater, having followed her own advice, says, “I am now getting to the point where I want to be—doing what I want to do, on my own terms, at a place I love.”
The dream continues…
Now an Associate Professor of Finance at Barry University (Miami Shores, FL), Dr. Castater is also Associate Editor of the Journal of International Business Review and Practices. With her late husband, Dr. Robert Ware III, she authored and published an article on “Virtuality and Stock Price” in that publication. She has served as Secretary and Program Chair for the Academy of International Business—Midwest. She has researched and presented on the topic of transparency and corporate governance in the private military industry.