Alumna Spotlight: Dr. Zauyah Waite

Originally from Malaysia native, Dr. Zauyah Waite earned her Interdisciplinary Ph.D. from UMKC in 1998 in Higher Education Administration and Reading Education.

“I have always been a firm believer that combining two disciplines is better than one,” she said. “Specifically for me, it was good to be able to utilize the two disciplinary approaches in my work in and outside the classroom.”

Prior to her Ph.D. studies, Waite earned a Master’s and Education Specialist Degree in Reading Education. Having served as a Student Government leader, she found herself interested in student affairs.

“These experiences led to a full time position in the Student Life Office.  I always knew I wanted to obtain a Ph.D., and being able to gain professional experiences while pursuing a degree was a big incentive for selecting UMKC,” she said. “Plus I knew most of the professors and felt really comfortable at UMKC.”

Waite continued to work at UMKC for several years after she graduated, and served as the Director of the Student Life Office. In 2006, she went to the University of Toledo to become the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students. In 2008, she moved to Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA and has been serving there since then as the Vice President for Student Affairs. She is also an Adjunct Professor in the Higher Education program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Under Dr. Tom Sandreczki, Waite co-taught a first-year class at UMKC, which was the basis for her dissertation. She describes her time in the IPhD program as “great” and a “perfect journey.”

“I really loved Kansas City and made so many life-long friends while in Roo Country,” she said. “I always share with others that my foundation and who I am as a professional is in big part due to Dr. Gary Widmar, Dr. Larry Dietz and Ms. Deborah Lewis – they are my teachers outside the classroom.   UMKC is a special place and will always be my hometown in the United States.  The faculty was great and really cared about me as a student.  This is something I try to emulate in my classes today.”

For students interested in a UMKC Ph.D. program, Waite says to be purposeful and realistic.

“Do not expect your Ph.D. to get you a higher ranking job or a better paying job,” she said. “Your dissertation need not be a solution to a world’s problem. Also, no matter how difficult the journey ends up – take a breather but DON’T give up.”

She also advises students to take advantage of all that UMKC has to offer.

“Don’t focus 100% of your time on your studies,” she said. “There is more to college (even at the Ph.D. level) than what is taught in the classroom.”

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