Diversity and the finance doctorate.

Author:Milano, Bernard J.

When Jocelyn Evans was earning her doctorate and starting out as a finance professor more than two decades ago, she felt very much alone as an African American woman. There were, at the time, fewer than 25 minority professors of finance in the United States.

Today, there are about five times as many and the face of finance education is literally changing, thanks in large part to an organization that Dr. Evans has been involved with since its inception 20 years ago: The PhD Project.

The PhD Project was launched in 1994 to address the severe under-representation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in business--especially finance--by diversifying the front of the classroom and the business school faculty.

"There were few professors to guide me," recalls Dr. Evans, who earned her PhD at the University of South Carolina in 1991 and went on to teach at the University of Iowa and Georgia State University before becoming the Economics and Finance department chair and a finance professor at the College of Charleston's School of Business. "There were no minority faculty at all, so there was very little networking, no golf, no co-authorships. I knew nothing about research, or how to plan which school would be best for me."

Dr. Evans, unaware of how academia operates and how the research game is played, pursued a direction for her doctorate thesis that was largely incompatible with the university she was attending.

She was, effectively, in the wrong program for her academic interest.

Fast-forward two decades, when The PhD Project can point proudly to making a difference in numerous lives and academic careers.

Kelly Carter was struggling as a doctoral student in the mid-2000s because he, like Dr. Evans, was at a school that wasn't the right fit for him. Because he was a participant in The PhD Project, Carter met Dr. Evans and other minority finance professors who guided him.

Through their efforts, Carter found the support he needed to move to another university doctoral program, complete the degree, become Dr. Carter," and succeed in the next challenge--finding employment as a professor.

Because the total number of minority business professors has more than quadrupled since The PhD Project began, it's no longer a rarity to find a minority professor at a university finance department. The project supports a critical mass of peers who mentor each other and conduct research together. Their collaboration has transformed the...

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