As one of ACU Online’s best professionals, Dr. Katherine Yeager – or Kathy – is not only considered one of the top assistant professors, committee chairs within the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program but she’s also “just an avid learner at heart.” Known for her impressive teaching skills and grace both in and out of the classroom, Dr. Yeager has worked diligently to make her mark. Whether it be mentoring students or assisting in designing a new curriculum or course, Dr. Yeager believes, like many, that she was meant to be at ACU Online. Call it divine intervention or just by chance, but to Dr. Yeager, ACU Online is really the only university where she has felt truly at home; where she has truly been able to be herself.
From Corporate America to the Classroom
Dr. Yeager grew up like any other kid. With both of her parents working and trying to raise a family, Dr. Yeager remembers her parents mentioning that no matter what, she was going to go to college when she got older. To her, it almost came off as expected. And while she didn’t really know what she wanted to do when it was time for her to go to college, Dr. Yeager explored. Taking courses in math, english and science, she ended up majoring in accounting at Texas A&M University. It was there where she realized the up and coming aspects of the corporate world.
“Back in those days, I was very young,” Dr. Yeager said. “And you know, I was out of school so going into telecommunications was the latest type of work you could get into. So, I decided that while I maybe didn’t want to be an accountant, per say, I did want to be within that wheelhouse. So, I stayed and really made a small career out of the finance and business administration world.”
Growing with the company and learning the ins and outs of what it meant to work in a large organization, Dr. Yeager was seemingly enjoying working her typically 9-5 job. She made friends, worked well with her colleagues, and was even raising her own family. Still, she knew she wanted to learn more – she wanted to be more. Needless to say, she was not satisfied. And then, the unexpected happened – the company she worked for was changing and she was let go.
“The company was going through some changes, and I just remember they asked me what I wanted to do,” Dr. Yeager said. “I just remember thinking, ‘Well, I’ve always wanted to go back to school.”
And that’s just what she did. Taking her severance package, Dr. Yeager was surprised at how well she had taken the news. There she was – an out-of-work mom and wife, now needing to figure out her next step in life in her mid-forties. Pondering what she was supposed to do next, Dr. Yeager remembered that she always did enjoy the personal side of her job; being able to talk with colleagues and supervisors, wanting to know what they thought. She decided to go with her gut instinct and enrolled at Stephen F. Austin University with the goal of obtaining her master’s in psychology with an emphasis in industrial and organizational psychology. Falling in love with how different the field of psychology was, and how it worked so well with her collaborative personality, Dr. Yeager wasted no time applying for her doctorate degree in Human Resource Development. It was there that she learned the real aspects of what it means to be an instructor and trainer.
Teaching courses at a variety of institutions including the University of Houston and Texas A&M, Dr. Yeager was making a name for herself. Teaching classes ranging from undergraduate to executive, Dr. Yeager knew she wanted to continue her career as a professor – and maybe something more. Hearing about the great things happening at ACU, and their online campus, Dr. Yeager remembers applying and being thrilled when she heard that she was hired.
“It just felt great to be in an environment where I could profess my faith but also be surrounded by professionals in all sorts of different fields of study,” Dr. Yeager said. “Plus, with the additions of schools like the School of Educational Leadership, I just knew I wanted to be a part of that.”
Life As A Professor
Today, Dr. Yeager not only teaches doctoral students about the various aspects of what it means to be an exceptional leader and educator beyond the classroom. But, she serves as the assistant program director and chair of several dissertation committees due to her ample abilities to manage students, faculty, staff, and all the in-betweens. Knowing most of her students have family to care for or jobs that require their attention just as much as their classes, Dr. Yeager has been praised for how flexible and empathetic she is as a person, and professional mentor.
“I have always tried to treat my students and mentees like how I wanted to be treated,” Dr. Yeager said. “I think respect and professionalism go a long way, so just like I want to be treated that way, I aim to showcase that every chance I get.”
If you ask Dr. Yeager what her goals for the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program are, she would answer quite simply: “continue to bring, build, and send adequately trained educational leaders for the workforce.” Just like her, and her journey of being a forty-year-old student sitting in a classroom nearly twenty years ago, Dr. Yeager sees how her professors pushed her to become who she is today. And that’s what she strives to do, too.
Whether she continues with ACU Online or is called to something else later in life, Dr. Yeager knows one thing is for sure. She was meant to go through those life changes. In many ways, it allowed her to get here, and that’s something she is proud of.