Meet the Faculty: Candis Best, Doctoral Faculty Chair
With a wealth of experiences as a lawyer, an entrepreneur, and a CEO within one of the nation’s largest public hospital systems, Candis Best, JD, MBA, MS, PhD, is one of Concordia University-Portland’s highly accomplished doctoral chairs. Whether you’re currently enrolled in our Doctorate of Education program or considering your options, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy learning about Best as we explore her fascinating work in higher education.
What led you to work in higher education for the past twenty years?
My first real job after graduating from law school was as an adjunct faculty member while I was trying to build my law practice. So my entry into teaching was accidental. But I quickly found that I enjoyed it. In fact, I can credit that experience with launching my healthcare career because it was actually one of my students who got me started. She was working as a secretary for the Executive Director of a Federally Qualified Health Center and she introduced us. Her boss asked me to do some consulting for the center and the rest was history.
You also created the GENIUS framework and the organization Learningateway. Can you tell us what that entails and what inspired you?
I started Learningateway to scratch a persistent itch I’ve always had for entrepreneurship. But I wanted to marry it with my passion for expanding educational opportunities for underrepresented communities. The GENIUS framework and the podcast are both extensions of that passion. The GENIUS framework came from my last book, Your GENIUS Mind: Why You Don’t Have to Be a College Graduate But You Do Need To Think Like One. It’s about the importance of seeing college, not as a place to prepare you to get a job, but rather as a place to find the unique GENIUS that each of us is on this planet to share with the world.
You’re also passionate about developing college completion solutions. How has CollegeQorps contributed to this?
CollegeQorps is still in its infancy but the basic premise is to create a professional network for students that develops career-ready skills through service and other forms of experiential learning. We’ve been working for a few years on the idea with a focus on undergraduates but, since I haven’t taught at that level for several years, I’ve decided to pivot the focus this year to the group of students I work with now: practitioner-focused doctoral students. I’ll be using the platform to launch a Practitioner Doctorate Network that supports non-traditional doctoral students and recent graduates of practitioner doctorate programs.
What do you enjoy most about your work as a dissertation committee faculty chair at Concordia University-Portland?
Supporting my students as they develop their ideas into well-thought-out research studies is absolutely the highlight of my work. I was a working professional when I completed my doctorate so I know what they’re going through. But at this point in my career, I estimate that I’ve worked with more than 500 doctoral students so I’m able to identify potential trouble spots much sooner. Beyond that, I learn so much from them and their experiences that it never gets old.
What are some interesting dissertation topics that you’ve seen?
I have a candidate now who is completing a phenomenological study on the experience of Native American students who have attended both tribal colleges and predominately white institutions. We’ve talked about her data recently and I’m really excited about her findings. I think it’s going to make an excellent contribution to the field.
I also have a recent graduate who studied the influence of virtual communities on academic outcomes. Since that’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart, we got to work really closely on her project. I think that allowed her to have an experience that mirrors what traditional PhD students have when they join a research lab. As an aside, one of my goals for the Practitioner Doctorate Network is to provide an environment for creating virtual research labs so that more non-traditional doctoral students can have that kind of experience.
What book do you think everyone in education should read?
Lately I’ve been reading more business and entrepreneurship books so I’ll recommend an older one that was recommended to me: Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant. It’s about carving new opportunities out of traditional environments. Considering the challenges we’re facing in higher education right now, I think it’s a timely read.
What do you think makes Concordia’s doctoral program unique?
Concordia’s doctoral program is at a pivotal stage. We’re growing, which brings its own challenges in terms of how to maintain a nurturing culture as you expand. Even though we are a remote program, I think we do a good job of fostering close relationships with our students. That’s something that sets this program apart.
In today’s world, what do you think it means to be a transformational leader?
Most of my publications are on leadership so this is an area I think about regularly. I developed a theory and competency model of holistic leadership that is closely aligned with transformational leadership. The key difference is that holistic leadership focuses on the collaborative development of every member of a leader’s community. So for me, that means today’s transformational leaders have to make investments (intellectual, capital, and spiritual) in the communities they lead that position their institutions and their members for continued growth and prosperity, even after the leaders have moved on.