The PhD Project and the Importance of Mentoring

Miles Davis, dean of Shenandoah University's Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business, shares with AACSB Explores his experience with The PhD Project and how it encourages the growth of underrepresented doctoral business students and business educators.


Miles Davis: [00:14] The PhD Project means far more to me than anybody could possibly imagine because it was a catalyst. The idea that I could come out of business and get into this thing called academia that didn't offer me necessarily more money at the time but offered me a better quality of life was important and, also, to impact lives in a different way.

[00:37] I was in industry. I was doing deals. I was with a large Fortune 100 organization. I thought that I was achieving the cream of my profession. To speak quite frankly, there aren't a lot of people who look like me who are doing the things that I was doing at the time in corporate America.

[00:56] Unfortunately, the same thing was happening in academia. The PhD Project, under Bernie Milano's leadership, recognized that it's how you diversify corporate America to also diversify the classroom if they can see natural mentors.

[01:11] There are underrepresented minorities that exist in school. We're very intentional about that use, "underrepresented." That's Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. They're underrepresented within the halls of the academy.

[01:24] Thereby, any student who was studying business really has no what we refer to as a natural mentor. Let me clear: I'm not saying that other people can't mentor you if they come from a different ethnic background, but we often tend to look for success stories in people who look like us.

[01:44] The PhD Project gives you a network, a foundation, an infrastructure to support you along that path. There is no doubt in my mind that not only wouldn't I have been able to be in the academy, I wouldn't have been able to advance to a deanship as rapidly as I did without the mentoring, having conversations, and interacting with people who were a part of that.

[02:09] Even now, The PhD Project has started a project called Project Ahead for those who want to go farther into administration. It diversified the first stage by getting faculty member into the classrooms. Now, we need people at leadership levels.

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