Proposal leads to couple's doctorates

Terry and Claudia Daniel earned their doctoral degrees from GCU in December.

Terry Daniel admittedly wasn’t fond of school, even after earning his master’s degree in public safety with a concentration in criminal justice eight years ago from Capella University.

“Once I got my master’s, I was pretty much done,” Daniel said.

Little did he know his wife, Claudia, who also earned her master's degree – in general psychology from Capella University – had bigger plans.

“I came home from work one day and Claudia said, ‘Hey, I've got an idea,’" Daniel recalled. “And any of us that are married know when your spouse comes to you with an idea, you know it's probably something that's going to be either really good or really bad.

“And she said, ‘I've already contacted Grand Canyon, and we are going to start our doctoral degree.’ And I said, ‘Uh, OK.’"

A seven-year journey mixed with some frustration and plenty of determination culminated in December when the Danielses successfully defended their dissertations in organizational leadership.

“(Claudia) did all this behind my back and said, ‘Oh, by the way, look for this email,’" Terry said. “... She already set up an appointment for me to talk to the student service coordinator. And then next thing I know, I'm getting emails and phone calls asking when I wanted to start.

“(Claudia) said, ‘You've got to get your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) done.’ That’s kind of how it kicked off.”

Terry Daniel spent 20 years in law enforcement before pursuing his doctorate, with encouragement from wife Claudia.

Dr. Michael Berger, Dean of the College of Doctoral Studies, praised the couple during a Zoom meeting for their achievements while raising their two daughters, 23 and 20. They are scheduled to participate in spring graduation ceremonies in late April.

A year ago, the couple started SAPTEC (Substance Abuse Police Training Education and Consultations), a company that provides educational and research resources for law enforcement and substance abuse professionals.

Their background in training helped them prepare for resuming their studies.

Terry joined the Navy out of high school in 1997, was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in 1999-2000 and to the Mediterranean and Afghanistan in 2001-02 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He received an honorable discharge in May 2002 and was in law enforcement for 20 years in Virginia, Georgia and Alabama.

Claudia, a native of Bolivia, came to the U.S. at age 15 and joined the Navy at 19, serving as a psychiatric technician at the naval hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, before being certified as an addiction counselor in 2004 while still in the Navy.

The couple met through mutual friends in 1998.

Claudia, whose master's is in psychology, was enrolled in a doctoral program before, but time constraints prevented her from completing her dissertation. That didn't stop her from trying for her doctorate again. She researched 10 colleges before selecting GCU for her ... and her husband.

“I need to get my Ph.D. or my Ed.D., and I can't do it alone, so we're going to go through this together,” Claudia told Terry.

That allowed them to help each other with questions, prevent the other from quitting, and sometimes they’d travel on weekends and devote a day to studying. They also read large portions of each other's dissertations.

Terry's dissertation is titled, “The Correlation Between Compassion Satisfaction and Police Officer Well-Being in the United States,” while Claudia authored, “Correlation Between Spiritual Well-Being and Job Satisfaction in Addiction Counselors.” 

Claudia Daniel was determined to get her doctoral degree.

Claudia said Terry is the better writer, adding that he’s able to help her, since English is her second language. Terry praised his wife for her statistical acumen.

“I'm horrible at that kind of math, other than two plus two is four,” Terry said. “I work in law enforcement. I've been doing it for 20 years. We don't use a lot of math. (Statistics) were a really big concern for me when we got to that aspect of it.”

The commitment to a doctorate meant balancing their time at home with their daughters, but their eldest watched them succeed and said, “I want to get a doctorate as well,” Claudia said.

Both Terry and Claudia hope to teach at the university level someday.

But for now, they're looking forward to celebrating their 25th anniversary.

With their studies behind them, “We're going to be able to focus a little bit more on that,” Claudia said.

GCU senior writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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Related content:

GCU News: Colorado couple achieve principal goal of earning doctorates

GCU News: Passion for Christian education motivates GCU's first doctoral fellow

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