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Changing the Face of Business Academe

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

My Salute to The PhD Project

No, a Ph.D. is not just a "super" Master's degree.  Undoubtedly, thousands of Ph.D. earners have said this statement in an effort to explain to people (often skeptics) what exactly the Ph.D. degree is.  It's understandable that many people do not know exactly what entails earning a Ph.D. as it's a degree that is held by a small minority of people. Therefore, many of us have neither been "up close and personal" with someone either while he or she was matriculating through the Ph.D. program nor have we spent considerable time with people talking about what the degree is after they have finished it.  This situation is exacerbated for underrepresented racial minorities, particularly in business disciplines.


In 1994, when Bernie Milano of KPMG founded the Ph.D.  Project, there were only 294 African American, Hispanic American, and Native American business professors in the United States.  In just 20 years, the Ph.D. Project has played a vital role in quadrupling that number such that today there are 1,274 minority professors in business schools (there are over 30,000 business school professors).  Although the percentage of racial minority business school faculty is still disconcertingly low, the percentage increase to this point is an impressive feat and the entire Ph.D. Project staff deserves boisterous praise.  The Ph.D.  Project’s efforts are a testament to how effective targeted diversity initiatives can be when they are managed and funded well. 

My introduction to the Ph.D.  Project occurred in 2007 after I was rejected from all 12 organizational behavior Ph.D.  programs I had applied to during that application cycle.  I was devastated and depressed.  After my pity party was over, I searched the internet for resources that might encourage and help me reapply.  I do not remember the search terms I used, but I believe that it was divine intervention that led me to stumble across the Ph.D.  Project website.  Just weeks before the deadline, I hurriedly applied and, fortunately, was accepted to their annual November conference in Chicago.  At this conference, hundreds of aspiring minority Ph.D. students are brought together over two and half days and are taught all the ins and outs of life as faculty and a doctoral student in business.  With this new wealth of information, I altered my packet accordingly, reapplied and was accepted into a Ph.D. program.

Companies contend that they want to hire diverse workforces so that they can enter into new markets and gain competitive advantages in a global economy.  Unfortunately, recent reports suggest that enrollment of racial minorities (except Asians) have declined at top-ranked business programs.  Additionally, with only 38 minority deans leading business schools, a recent Bloomberg article stated that business schools score worse on diversity than corporate boards.  So while we should celebrate the success of the Ph.D.  Project, we recognize that there is still an enormous amount of work to do.  It is great to see that the Academy of Management is also committed to do this important work.  AOM has provided funding to the Ph.D.  Project since 1997 and recently reached full sponsorship level.  The Ph.D.  Project is changing the face of business academe and similar to the sentiment shared by many other minority business professors, I am honored to say that I am Dr. Holmes because of the Ph.D.  Project. 

I encourage everyone who is interested in a Ph.D. in a business discipline to click here to learn more information about the Ph.D. Project and what it means to earn a Ph.D. in a business discipline.  Additionally, the Academy of Management and the AACSB, the premier accrediting body for business schools, provide a host of information on their websites.  Changing the Face of Business Academe was first published in AOM's AcadeMY News June 2015 Newsletter.  Click here to read it in the AcadeMY News Newsletter.

Dr. Holmes can be reached on Twitter @OHIV

Photo Credit:  The PhD Project

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