How one university turns PhD's in humanities into business people

When Carl Springer received his doctor of philosophy degree in German at the University of Texas at Austin five years ago, he thought the rest would be easy - a position in some prestigious university teaching German, with his translations and scholarly papers gaining wider and wider attention as time passed.

That PhD degree was what Carl had been working toward for a long time. But as he began to apply for positions and ask for interviews, the silence of the responses was deafening.

Then he heard about a new program the university was offering: Careers in Business for Liberal Arts PhDs. The program was the brainchild of Dr. Irwin C. Lieb, a former UT administrator and philosophy professor. Careers in Business takes University of Texas PhD graduates in liberal arts and in three months turns them into people ready to take on the business world.

''It didn't seem fair,'' says Dr. Joseph H. Vorsas, director of career planning and placement, ''for the academic world to subsidize these people with fellowships and promises to earn a PhD, then leave them to find nothing waiting for them. Nothing at all.''

The plan is to take a group of PhDs (usually 16), provide them with a $1,000 stipend, and from the first Monday in June until the last Friday in August put them through crash courses in accounting, marketing, economics, finance, and management.

At the end of three months of intensive study, they have the equivalent of 15 hours toward a master of business administration degree.

This was the program Carl went through. At the end of the summer of 1979, he was interviewed by Exxon Corporation representatives and landed a job in Exxon's human resources division. Since then he has had four promotions and has worked in both Houston and Midland, Texas. He made the transition from academe to business smoothly.

Dr. Vorsas says oil companies and banks have been the best employers of the new liberal arts-business hybrids. ''These industries require the broad knowledge and people skills that a liberal arts PhD usually has,'' Dr. Vorsas says.

In addition to taking the business administration courses, program participants receive counseling on how to break down the walls to business success. They also take field trips to cities like Houston and Dallas, visit banks and corporate headquarters, talk with personnel directors, and look at the kinds of jobs available.

The students are videotaped in interview situations, so they can critique themselves and make improvements in the skills needed to sell themselves.

Vorsas is proud of the record of the graduates of the program. ''They are doing well in their new jobs - using both the knowledge gained in liberal arts and the skills newly learned in business administration courses.''

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