A bid to boost ranks of minorities with PhDs
In its 14 years, The PhD Project has helped to triple minority presence on business school faculties.
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As the only Latina in her business school's doctoral program, Ms. Cordero is glad to know people in similar situations around the country, including the "buddy" assigned through The PhD Project. They regularly send her reassuring e-mails and advice. "It's a subtle support I can't get in my program," she says.Skip to next paragraph
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With funding from university and corporate sponsors, The PhD Project pays each year for minority doctoral students to meet in advance of national professional conferences in particular disciplines such as accounting and management. But the network operates year-round. That helps explain the project's 92 percent completion rate, compared with about 70 percent overall for business doctoral programs, Milano says.
Igwe says friends from The PhD Project were a "lifeline" when his dream appeared to be dying. The department he joined at Penn State, where he was the first African-American to pursue a PhD, turned out to be a bad fit. "We couldn't communicate," he says, noting there were no black professors. Igwe found a way to transfer to an information-sciences and technology program at Penn, where he connected with mentors, including an African-American professor.
This fall Igwe is likely to be teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, and he's looking forward to giving back through The PhD Project. "Somebody who might not even be born yet, he's waiting for me to stay plugged into the network; so for him, whoever he may be, I have to succeed," he says with a determined thump of his fist.
Although The PhD Project is not a direct recruiting venue, a company sponsoring it at a minimum of $25,000 a year may generate good feelings toward it among people who will influence business students' job choices.
"With more diverse faculty, you're going to attract more diverse students into the colleges of business, and you're also going to educate your majority students ... so they're sensitive to the global marketplace," says Jody Hestand, a diversity recruiter for Wal-Mart, now in its second year of sponsorship.
Patricia Martinez was a first-generation college graduate when she connected with The PhD Project in 1994. Now a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, she sees her presence having an effect on students' aspirations.
"The minority students identify with you ... and they'll be more open to the message because it's coming from someone like them," Ms. Martinez says.
Now that the first participants are publishing their research and earning tenure, "the next dream for us is to see ... these people ascend to leadership positions in higher education," says Nicole Chestang of the Graduate Management Admission Council, which runs the admissions test for business schools and has been an early sponsor of the project. In the US, there are fewer than 10 black, Hispanic, or native American business school deans, according to The PhD Project.