Doctoral Alumni Spotlight: Robyn Hawley

Students study in library setting on laptops

Get to know Robyn Hawley, alumna of Grand Canyon University’s College of Doctoral Studies. Robyn received her doctorate in leadership, and here she reflects on some of her experiences and the things she learned during her time as a doctoral learner at GCU.


  1. Tell us about yourself.

I have been working as a professional social worker since 1992. I received my doctorate in leadership from Grand Canyon University, master’s degree in social work from the University of Connecticut and bachelor’s degree in human development and family relations also from the University of Connecticut.

As the director of behavioral health at Catholic Charities, I lead and manage 10 outpatient behavioral health sites, serving 10,000 clients per year. In this role, I have developed and implemented high-quality programs designed to empower children, adults and families to achieve greater health and self-sufficiency.

I live in Plymouth, CT.

  1. What did you enjoy about being a doctoral learner at GCU?

I made some great connections at the residencies. Through those connections, I was able to give, and receive, support and encouragement during the program. One of the group members created a Facebook page, which was a great way to keep in touch easily!

  1. What is something you learned during your doctoral journey?

This journey taught me more about being self-directed and taking responsibility for my own progress. I learned to ask for what I needed and follow up regularly. In addition, I learned that the committee member who was most critical of my work was the one who made the most significant contribution to my learning. When it came to the questions I asked, he made me offer possible answers and explain why I thought they might be appropriate answers, which refined my thinking skills. Not only did I learn more, but my final product (the dissertation) was of substantially better quality.

  1. Tell us a bit about your dissertation experience.

GCU is particular about the quality of our dissertations, which is for our benefit as much as it is for the benefit of the school. Our excellence builds the school’s reputation, and the school’s reputation enhances the respect for our degrees. I have read many dissertations during the last four years, and GCU expects substantially more from us than what I saw in dissertations from some other schools. I am proud of my dissertation, as it is the culmination of a lot of hard work. I have the Lord, my committee, my family and the school to thank for that.

  1. How long did it take you to complete your doctorate in leadership program?

It took me exactly four years to complete the doctorate in leadership program. Considering that I took a few breaks, which totaled six months, it was really only 3.5 years. I used the breaks to continue to work on the dissertation (planning or preparing or collecting data), but at a more manageable pace. Those breaks helped me to maintain my sanity.

  1. What advice do you have for future doctoral learners?

As you face the frustration of changing templates and juggling all the things that are a part of life, such as family, work, school and your social life, remember that the Lord led you to this school and this program. Lean on Him and persevere, and you will be successful.

Remember Jer. 29:11, which says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’”

I look forward to seeing what the Lord has in mind for my future. I pray that each of you will hold on to that verse, and your other favorite verses, as you proceed on the doctoral journey!

And remember, God is blessing you! There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may feel like a long tunnel, but it does have an end. The destination is worth the journey. Try to enjoy both the doctoral journey as well as the destination!

Grand Canyon University’s College of Doctoral Studies creates a unique doctoral program experience, connecting faculty and learners in a vibrant learning community. To learn more about an education at GCU, contact us today!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.