Attracting Minority PhD Business Students

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017
President of The PhD Project, Bernie Milano, chats with Christine Clements about how business schools can attract minority students to their PhD programs and how The PhD Project assists these students in earning their degrees.
President of The PhD Project, Bernie Milano, chats with Christine Clements about how business schools can attract minority students to their PhD programs and how The PhD Project assists these students in earning their degrees.


Christine Clements: [00:04] Bernie, would you be willing to start by telling us a little bit about the PhD Project?

Bernie Milano: [00:18] KPMG was very involved in higher education, supporting primarily research. The trustees said, "You know, the biggest problem we have facing the profession is a lack of diversity. What can we do to try to improve diversity?"

[00:30] We spent a year going around the country talking to different individuals, attending conferences, creating conferences. We came up with the concept, "If we had more minority faculty, perhaps they'd be a magnet for minority students."

[00:45] That's what we launched. We launched a program. It's really a marketing effort. We're marketing a career as academics to people already in other careers.

Clements: [00:55] On that note, what do you think the barriers are that keep minority populations from pursuing doctoral degrees in business?

Milano: [01:03] The barriers are really misinformation. First of all, there's no information. It's almost impossible to find out how to become a professor, what a doctoral program is. How do you apply? How do you differentiate among them?

[01:16] We found there were actually four myths that people were running into. The first was that it must be very expensive, because they had already checked out with an MBA costs, and they know what that is. They assume a PhD costs even more.

[01:31] The second myth was that they perhaps didn't have an MBA, so we're looking then at, "Oh, I have to go get an MBA. Then I have to spend five more years paying off those student loans." All of sudden, it gets stretched out.

[01:43] The third myth was they were too old, because if they knew anybody who got a PhD in chemistry, or biology, or went to law school, went to medical school, went to dental school, it was right through an educational experience. They didn't realize that real world experience combined with the PhD makes you much more viable.

[02:00] The fourth myth brought it all together, and that was all the articles are about too many PhDs, "If you teach, you take a vow of poverty." Article after article after article that, "Find something else to do if you have a PhD because there are no jobs out there."

[02:16] In our marketing effort, we had to dispel all of that. Once we did that, then some people said, "Well, maybe this is something I can do."

Clements: [02:23] It's interesting you mention that, because you're talking about doctoral programs in general, and yet business programs are quite different in a number of different ways. One is the demand for people in the field.

[02:38] What are some of the things that business schools might do in order to attract more students into doctoral programs? Start earlier, or what would you recommend?

Milano: [02:48] There's a real role for deans of business schools and department heads, in trying to get more minorities to get PhDs. I remember having a meeting with the dean of Florida State, African American.

[02:59] He said, "Shame on me. I've always talked to my, either undergraduates or my MBA students, 'Go out there. Get that job. Get that corporate consulting job, whatever it might be.'" He said, "I never talk to them about doing what I do, and I love what I do."

[03:14] One thing they can do is to start to talk about the very career that they have, the thing that they get passionate about, the thing that they love, the thing that they have done for decades, but it's hardly ever discussed.


Filmed February 2017 on site at AACSB's Deans Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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