By Karen Fernau
GCU News Bureau
The reasons to pursue a doctoral degree run the gamut, from obtaining a coveted degree to teaching college or advancing careers.
For business executive Andy Bevilacqua, the motivation for enrolling three years ago in Grand Canyon University’s online Ph.D. program was more personal than professional.
The chief executive officer of Bevilacqua Research Corp., an Alabama company that tests and evaluates equipment and technology for the U.S. military and space program, was in an enviable position at the top of his field.
But the 65-year-old, who had turned over a portion of his executive duties with plans to slow down, was bored and searching for a new challenge. He also had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and was committed to keeping his mind razor sharp.
Prayer led Bevilacqua to GCU’s doctoral program. He enrolled without a moment’s hesitation.
Friday, he will be awarded a doctoral degree in General Psychology with an Emphasis on Cognition and Instruction.
He’s now an expert in a field that eventually will allow computers to think like both men and women.
“If I can understand the differences in how men and women process information, I can help them learn more effectively,” said Bevilacqua, who plans to continue his Ph.D. research even after receiving his doctorate.
His dissertation topic was admittedly sensitive, and Bevilacqua credits the staff of GCU’s College of Doctoral Studies, including the dean, Dr. Michael Berger, and an assistant dean, Dr. Cynthia Bainbridge, for encouraging him to pursue the research.
“The scientific community has been slow in recognizing how to process the differences in how men and women think,” said Bevilacqua, who earned an undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics plus a master’s in solid state systems from the University of Texas.
“They allowed me to color outside the lines and research the topic.”
GCU also gave him permission to publish a paper with Fred Paas, a professor of psychology at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, on their shared interest in cognitive load, or the total amount of mental effort in the working memory.
GCU’s doctoral program provided more than just academic support, however. It allowed Bevilacqua to weave faith into his studies.
“Sometimes God pushes you a little in the background,” he said. “I went to secular colleges before and could not talk about God in classes. I really appreciated talking about faith and interpreting research in light of my faith.”
Berger called Bevilacqua a model learner.
“The speed at which Andy completed his dissertation is a testament to his focus and hard work,” he said. “He is a great addition to the hundreds of doctoral alumni and an inspiration for other learners.”
Commencement for the College of Doctoral Studies was the first visit to GCU for Bevilacqua, and he hoped to have time to stroll the campus.
“It’s a very special university,” he said, “and I know that even before I see it.”
Contact Karen Fernau at (602) 639-8344 or [email protected].