Shaq Dissertation

Former superstar basketball center and current TNT mumbling head Shaquille O'Neal has told Jon Stewart, the New York Times, and ESPN that he's getting his doctorate at Miami's Barry University, where he defended his dissertation this month. His purported title? "How Leaders Utilize Humor or Aggression in Leadership Styles."

Unfortunately, we've learned Shaq is not actually defending a traditional dissertation. Which is very disappointing for one reason: Dissertations are peer-reviewed and publicly available. And we already know from Shaq's Miami Beach Police application -- on which he listed "Laptop computer, binnochulars, master of surveillance" under special skills-- that his writing style is incredible. We were really looking forward to dissecting Dr. O'Neal's academic argument.

But alas, Shaq is getting not a PhD but a Ed.D., in Leadership in Education with a specialization in Human Resource Development. That department's chair, Dr. David M. Kopp, tells us that instead of a dissertation, Shaq has been working on a "Capstone Project".

"You present the project findings and any reflections that you have as a student to your committee," explains Kopp. The project is not peer-reviewed.

Kopp confirms of Shaq's Capstone Project: "He is looking at humor and seriousness in leadership styles."

News outlets have reported that Shaq-- who previously got his MBA from the University of Phoenix-- has "secretly" taken courses at Barry since his NBA days. We're not exactly sure how one of the largest and most famous men in the world can go unnoticed in a moderately-sized Catholic school. 

Kopp assured us that Shaq has not gotten special treatment in taking his classes: "He's done everything a traditional student would do. He has come to classes, but we have accomodated his NBA schedule and his work schedule."

He adds: "He's a very impressive guy, very inquisitive, and it's a pleasure to have him as a student. I think the degree will serve as an example for others, and he should be very proud of himself."

On May 5, Shaq will hold a press conference about his impending graduation, according to Kopp. That will most likely be one of those trademark wacky events Shaq likes to put on.

Shaq, we know you're reading this. Don't be The Big Ivory Tower. The world wants to know the proper ratio of humor and seriousness that should be utilized when leading things. So release your Capstone Project, and let the Internet be your peer review.

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Now that he's earned a doctoral degree, bringing much attention to himself and Barry University in Miami, former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal wants to be known as "Dr. O'Neal."

But I'm inclined to call him dr. Shaq (that's doctor with a small 'd'), because the super-sized former Heat center appears to have done pint-sized research for one of the most advanced degrees in academia.

Over 4 1/2 years, while finishing his playing days and launching his broadcasting career, O'Neal did the required course work for his doctoral degree in education. Sometimes he flew teachers to him, and sometimes he attended class online and through video conferencing. He completed 16 classes with a 3.81 GPA for the school's Organizational Learning and Leadership program, with a specialization in Human Resource Development (ya gotta love academic jargon).

But don't go looking to read dr. Shaq's thesis or research dissertation.

He didn't have to write one.

Instead, O'Neal did an oral presentation for faculty on April 21 that included a video of interviews with four business executives, including one from Time/Warner, which owns TNT, where he now works. O'Neal's subject: "How Leaders Utilize Humor and Seriousness in Leadership Styles."

Can someone say doctorate lite?

Barry spokesman Michael Laderman said O'Neal didn't get any special treatment and the oral presentations, known as Capstone Projects, are standard for doctorates in education, including at Ivy League schools.

O'Neal's spokesman described it as "a more practical doctorate, as opposed to a research-based doctorate like a Ph.D." I tried to speak with the good doctor himself, but Shaq was too busy with his NBA analyst duties and his next big event – a shirtless weight-loss showdown with TV cohort Charles Barkley.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's laudable that O'Neal put in the time and effort to get through Barry's program. He paid around $45,000 in tuition. In a piece he wrote for USA Today, O'Neal said he wants to encourage others to pursue advanced degrees, and to show that even a former college dropout like himself can return to the classroom.

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