Gordon Broadbent is studying how big companies adopt emerging technologies like artificial intelligence

Gordon Broadbent

Gordon Broadbent swore he wouldn’t go back to school again.

Not after getting his bachelor’s degree in systems engineering and management from the U.S. Air Force Academy. And definitely not after getting an MBA from Oklahoma State University.

The senior technical program manager and active-duty military officer was comfortably working in acquisitions in Washington D.C., for the Air Force. But he saw a need for the Air Force to develop more technical senior leaders who could enhance the Department of Defense’s technology adoption strategy and business processes. He was selected to pioneer a new program that encompasses a 3-year Microsoft Executive Development pipeline while completing a PhD.

“That’s where Daniels came in,” Broadbent said. “It was clear that [the Executive PhD] would be a good model, so that going back to the Air Force and the Department of Defense, we would have someone that would work at that strategic level, as well as inform how that gets implemented into how we do business.”

The Daniels College of Business Executive PhD program is designed for experienced, high-performing, intellectually curious professionals. Through a blend of remote classes and in-person immersions, students grow as leaders and conduct in-depth research on a topic of their choice.

For Broadbent, that topic is the integration of emerging technology, including artificial intelligence. Through his studies, he wants to gain a deeper understanding of how large companies (as well as the Air Force and DoD) adopt technology, and what might make them averse to doing so.

A PhD allows Broadbent to take a close look at the existing research and theory in his field, and then learn to think logically about the practical applications. Plus, it opens a path to academia in the long-term.

Daniels is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB); the University of Denver is recognized as an elite, R1 research institution. Both attracted Broadbent, offering proof that the Executive PhD was a program that took research seriously. He’s found that to be the case, aided by attentive faculty who are at the top of their fields.

Another appealing factor: Daniels Executive PhD students are part of a cohort that brings together individuals with similar career experiences but widely varying backgrounds, including tech, finance, real estate, renewable energy, health care and more. Broadbent is one of the program’s first active-duty students—a point of view that adds to a group already containing several veterans.

“Our doctoral program is proud to have multiple veterans in each of our six cohorts since the program started,” said Dan Baack, a marketing professor and director of the Executive PhD. “Their perspective is invaluable, and they are key to establishing the culture of support and respect needed to get through our challenging curriculum. Gordon has been integral to supporting his cohort, and I am excited to see how his research will impact both theory and practice.”

Broadbent says his perspective brings a fresh, current take on the tech landscape while also dispelling some ideas of what opportunities are or aren’t offered in the military.

“[The Air Force] values ongoing education and invest very heavily in that,” Broadbent said. “We allow people to go out and get their PhDs. We’re about continually learning—not just about things within the military, but also things that expand our minds to help us make decisions when protecting the nation.”

Earning an advanced degree while working in that full-time, active-duty capacity has meant juggling priorities and some late nights, but the program’s structure has helped Broadbent manage the load.

The rigor was expected, Broadbent said, and is appreciated. He feels he’s getting out what he’s putting in, and is ready to emerge in a couple years as a more skilled and confident executive, ready to uncover inventive, evidence-based solutions.

“You see an increase in how to critically think through problems but also create that knowledge base to do my own research,” he said. “Everything I said I wanted out of [the degree], I see happening.”

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The Executive PhD program at the Daniels College of Business builds more skilled and confident executives who can face their company’s challenges with high-quality research approaches.
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