The PhD Project’s annual conference empowers minority professionals considering a Ph.D.
America is becoming more diverse with each generation, but the educators and leaders at the nation’s higher education institutions are not. Consider the country’s youngest generation: Gen Z. According to Pew Research, 48% of Gen Z—the largest generation in American history—is nonwhite. However, more than 75% of the faculty at the nation’s colleges and universities—from professors to administrators—are white, according to the United States Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.
These numbers highlight the growing disconnect between the higher education industry and the students it serves. That’s why events like The PhD Project’s annual conference are even more important.
In its 26th year, this conference brings together minority professionals considering a Ph.D. to learn more about pursuing this respected credential. Over the years, people from a variety of backgrounds—including entrepreneurs, naval aviators, corporate real estate professionals, former stay-at-home parents, CPAs and more—have attended the conference to begin their Ph.D. journey.
Changing the Face of Diversity in the Classroom and Boardroom
Since 1994, The PhD Project has worked to increase diversity among U.S. business school faculty and, by extension, within U.S. businesses. Created in collaboration with the KPMG Foundation, Citi, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), The PhD Project was founded upon the premise that advancements in workplace diversity could be propelled forward by increasing the diversity of business school faculty. Since that time, The PhD Project has more than quintupled the number of Black/ African American, Latinx/Hispanic American and Native American Ph.D.s in the United States.
“While we have made steady progress toward increasing diversity in university classrooms, there is more work to do,” says Blane Ruschak, president of The PhD Project and KPMG U.S. Foundation, Inc. “Students of color still don’t see enough people in front of the classroom who look like them. That’s why this conference and the work we do year-round to support professionals at all phases of their Ph.D. journey are so critical.”
And The PhD Project model works. Because of its support system, 90% of PhD Project members complete their doctoral degrees, compared to the national average of 70%, and 97% remain with higher education institutions, compared to the national average of 60%.
According to Ruschak, the annual conference offers an honest assessment of what it takes to get a Ph.D. and what it’s like to be a Ph.D. This year more than 300 Black/African American, Latinx/Hispanic American and Native American professionals were selected to attend the virtual event themed “Set Your Course—Impact the Future”. On average, about 15% of conference attendees will go on to pursue their doctoral degree.
This three-day event served up a mix of learning and networking with doctoral students, business school representatives, professors and sponsor organizations. Highlights from this year’s conference include:
■ A keynote address delivered by Dr. Miles Davis, president of Linfield University (McMinnville, Oregon). Dr. Davis is the first PhD Project alum to become a university president.
■ Sessions exploring what it takes to be a successful Ph.D. candidate—from insider tips on the application process to perspectives on life as a doctoral student, including how to balance studies and family.
■ Insights into life as a Ph.D., featuring current faculty who shared how they view the choices they made to achieve their dream to become a business school professor and how they continue to create a balance.
■ Breakouts and networking sessions in accounting, finance and economics, management, management information systems, marketing, strategy/ entrepreneurship, and supply chain management.
■ A university fair, which presented the opportunity for candidates to meet with representatives from about 100 universities that offer business doctoral programs.
■ A look at alternate careers in academia for attendees who want to work in higher education but aren’t ready to pursue a Ph.D.
The conference culminated with a capping ceremony for 14 of the 33 newest PhD Project Ph.D.s—an annual tradition that celebrates the success of the program’s most recent doctoral graduates.
“Every year, it’s so exciting to see the full spectrum of The PhD Project family represented at one event—from those just getting ready to begin their studies to someone like Dr. Davis who’s reached the pinnacle of an academic career,” Ruschak says. “We are inspired every day by the work our members are doing to foster diversity.”
The PhD Project Conference will take place Nov. 17–19, 2021 in Chicago.
FOR MORE INFORMATION