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The PhD Project: A Means to Diversifying the Business Professoriate and Corporate America
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Joyonna Gamble-George


The PhD Project is an award-winning nonprofit organization that promotes diversity in the workforce, especially in corporate boardrooms. It is a nationwide alliance of foundations, corporations, universities, and professional and academic organizations. It was founded in 1993, when concerned academic and corporate leaders sought a solution to the lack of diversity in corporate hiring.


President Bernie Milano with newly capped PhD Project Professors at The PhD Project 2017 Annual Conference. Image courtesy The PhD Project.

At that time only there were only 294 underrepresented minority business school professors out of a total population of over 26,000 business professors in the United States. Today, that number is over 1,450 and they are close to naming “Dr. Cinco” - who will be the 1,470th minority business professor to be capped!


Since its inception, The PhD Project has more than quintupled the number of minority business faculty by attracting and assisting over 1,100 minority doctoral students to acquire business doctorates. Recently, The PhD Project was named as a “Bright Spot in Hispanic Education” by the White House due to its efforts to support Hispanic students in their academic careers and close the achievement gap.


Goals of The PhD Project

The goal of The PhD Project is to encourage African-American, Hispanic-American, and Native American professionals to attain a business doctorate. Subsequently, The PhD Project provides guidance for graduates to join the faculty pool at U.S. business schools. This goal focused approach creates a nurturing and supportive network system as doctoral candidates navigate through their academic and professional journey to become professors and pursue business leadership positions in today’s multicultural workforce.


To accomplish its goals, The PhD Project uses a three-tier strategy that aims to increase the number of minorities in the business professoriate:

  1. Recruiting high caliber prospective business doctoral students from underrepresented minorities in the workplace.
  2. Hosting an annual conference and information sessions that educate minorities on the benefits of pursuing a business doctorate and prepares them for the application process.
  3. Providing peer-to-peer support in the Minority Doctoral Student Association as minority students pursue their business doctoral degrees.

Peer-to-peer support is particularly important. It allows minority business professionals to serve as role models and mentors for future generations of minority business students, strengthening The PhD Project’s efforts to diversify corporate America. Therefore this is also promoted through a series of doctoral student/faculty alumni association conferences held in various venues nationwide.


Peer-to-peer support allows minority business professionals to serve as role models and mentors.


Evidence of Success

In November 2009, The PhD Project demonstrated its success and effectiveness at diversifying business management leadership positions and faculty in the United States when it proudly announced Dr. 1,000—Shalei Simms, PhD.


Simms became the one thousandth minority business school professor when she defended her dissertation, "Why who you are at the time matters: An examination of the relationship between social identity salience and risky decision making.” Simms received her doctorate in management from Rutgers University.


“I cannot thank my PhD Project family enough for helping me through this pursuit. As challenging as earning my doctorate was, it would not have been possible without the support I received through the PhD Project," said Simms. "It was timely and it was invaluable. The best I can do to show my gratitude is to continue to support their mission and be of service to others as they were to me."


Simms is currently an associate professor and the acting assistant vice president for academic affairs at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Old Westbury. For her, The PhD Project provided an invaluable experience and support network during her PhD-to-professoriate journey.


Shalei Simms, PhD, Belinda Shipps, PhD, Alisa Mosley, PhD, (the first PhD Project professor to be capped), and Alisha Malloy, PhD. Image courtesy The PhD Project.

Promoting a More Diverse Future

The United States is becoming more diverse with respect to its demographics and workforce. According to the Census Bureau, by 2044, the U.S. population is projected to become a “majority-minority” nation, where women and men of color will outnumber non-Hispanic whites. Yet, minority men and women are still underrepresented in business faculty positions, on corporate boards, and in executive or senior-level leadership positions of Fortune 100 and 500 companies.


Currently, non-Hispanic white males occupy more than half of all seats on corporate boards. As a result, minorities continue to face a greater wage gap in corporate America and receive inadequate mentorship and support to become future business leaders in academia and industry. The overall performance of a company suffers due to a lack of a diverse workforce in business management at the executive and senior levels. In addition, where minorities have risen in the ranks, the same few minorities serve as board members in multiple organizations.


Those interested in pursuing a business doctoral program to join the professoriate or become a business leader in corporate America, can do the following:

  • Visit The PhD Project website
  •  Attend a “Become a Business Professor” information session in a nearby city to
    • Learn more about The PhD Project
    • Gain facts about business doctoral studies
    • Hear personal journeys discussing being a business doctoral student and becoming a business leader in academia or industry
  • Apply to attend The PhD Project Annual Conference by September 30, 2018 at midnight Eastern Standard Time, held in Chicago, Illinois from November 14–16, 2018.

Becoming or supporting one of tomorrow’s minority business leaders in academia or industry, supports this national movement to significantly increase the talent pipeline of minorities for business leadership positions across the United States.


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Joyonna Gamble-George, PhD, MHA,  is chief operations, scientific, and medical officer at SciX, LLC, and is an associate editor of The POSTDOCket.