Salwa Rahim-Dillard is US Cellular’s Senior Manager for Diversity & Inclusion Strategies and Planning. Below, she shares her thoughts on how earning her doctorate is helping her pursue what she is passionate about.
Why do a doctoral program?
I value education, and I value making a difference. For me, one of the biggest ways to impact the world is to be a subject matter expert about things that matter. To make the changes I want to make in the world, I knew I needed to earn a Ph.D. so I could learn more and have the credentials I needed. This program touches on so many things I care about: corporate social responsibility, leadership, authenticity, inclusion and diversity, organizational development. It was the perfect marriage of my passions and my professional aspiration.
Tell us about your cohort experience.
I love the cohort. There’s such a rich diversity of ideas, as the students come from different backgrounds and countries. But there’s also a lot of commonality as we share the desire to help others, to do business well, to be caring. It resonates differently for different people, but the similarity is there.
It’s also incredible to see growth in each other: I see it in myself, but I also see it in my fellow cohort members. We can see how we are learning, how we’re trying to stretch ourselves. You can grow and learn and become better people – I like that openness.
Does what you’re studying apply to your work?
I’m amazed at how many ways I can apply what I’m learning. As an example, early in the program I read a paper about what inclusion really is, and it included a 2×2 quadrant that outlined different degrees of the experience of diversity and inclusion. Since then, I’ve used the quadrant in different trainings, to draw a connection between the academic model and how those degrees of inclusion might appear in our company. As a result, I created a new inclusion model that may go into our performance management system.
How are you managing the balance of work, school, and family?
That is the biggest challenge for me. There are so many things going on and the program is very time consuming. But it also replenishes me. I know I cannot complain about the extra work, because for so many years I wanted this and now I’m here doing it. I’m invested in me in a way that in the past, I might not have done. It’s worth it.