MGA’s First Doctorate Attracts Aspiring Technology Leaders and Educators

Author: Sheron Smith
Posted: Thursday, May 27, 2021 12:00 AM
Categories: Students | Faculty/Staff | School of Computing | Pressroom

Warner Robins, Ga.

Jason Ellingson is one of about 30 students recently accepted into the Doctor of Science in IT's first cohort.

Jason Ellingson’s long career in information technology dates back to his Air Force service in the mid-1990s, where as a senior airman he served as a communications/computer systems operator.

“A good search on the internet and you can probably still find websites I made for units at Osan Air Force Base in South Korea,” said the 48-year-old Minnesota native who now lives in Warner Robins.

He later taught at KRS Computer and Business School in Bloomington, Minn., where one of his proudest achievements was helping a blind student earn his CompTIA A+ certification. Ellingson went on to build an impressive resume that includes serving as a software development manager for a company he helped land billion dollar contracts. Today he is a senior staff cyber software engineer for Lockheed Martin.

Ellingson said much of his technology skillset is self taught, and between that and his Air Force experience he was doing well in his career before earning any college degrees. But as more companies began requiring that applicants have degrees to be even considered for interviews, Ellingson started rapidly filling that gap on his resume. In less than four years, he completed two certificates and an associate’s degree from Central Georgia Technical College and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information technology from Middle Georgia State University (MGA).

Now Ellingson has his sights set on MGA’s Doctor of Science in IT, the University’s first doctorate. He has been teaching part-time at MGA and hopes a doctorate will, among other things, help him expand that phase of his career.

“I expect to step up my research skills, my writing skills, and my critical thinking skills on topics that are at the very edge of what we’ve discovered in the IT field,” he said. “I expect to learn new techniques in handling communication of information to others – the very foundation of being a professor.”

Ellingson is one of about 30 students recently accepted into the program’s first cohort. MGA began accepted applications after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges approved the degree and elevated MGA to a Level V institution. The University will launch the degree this summer.

"Applicants are industry managers, government employees, and academic leaders from across the country, said Dr. Kevin Cantwell, associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies. “The Department of IT and the Office of Graduate Studies is in the process of shaping the first class. We want the selection of students to represent the diverse profile of the contemporary leadership culture.”  

Dr. Alex Koohang, dean of the School of Computing, said the degree's course of study is designed to fit the lifestyles of working professionals. "This new terminal degree will continue to strengthen Middle Georgia State's reputation as a leader in the economic life of the region and as a center for IT innovation," he said.

Dr. Neil Rigole, associate professor and coordinator of the IT master’s degree and, now, the doctorate, said the program is built on a “unique and inter-disciplinary structure that will focus on blending innovation, strategy, and technology to empower graduates prepared to lead and manage information technology and systems within a variety of organizations.”

The program’s coursework is fully online but students may gather in person on a limited number of occasions for research development and project presentations.

MGA expects the degree to be among the most affordable in the nation. At current rates, the doctoral degree – the highest-level academic credential in most fields - will cost a student about $20,000, a worthwhile investment for careers with potential six-figure earnings.

Ellingson said he is honored to be part of the doctorate’s charter class.

“It is a rare opportunity to be in a position to both help mold and be molded by a program of this importance,” he said. 

Editor's Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the spring 2021 issue of MGA Today.