By Ed Brennen
After four years of rigorous research and teaching, of journal publications, conference presentations and dissertation defenses, they are fulfilling their dreams and embarking on careers in academia.
And as the first cohort of graduates from the Manning School of Business’ Ph.D. program, they are also leaving their mark as trailblazers at the university.
“This has been the most valuable experience of my life. I have built the foundation for my career,” says Yin Liu, one of six graduates with a Ph.D. in business administration to land a tenure-track assistant professor position at a business school.
Liu, whose concentration is in accounting, is moving to upstate New York with her husband this summer and starting her new job as an assistant professor at SUNY Brockport in September. Her five fellow graduates are:
- Mousa Albashrawi (management information systems), who is returning to his native Saudi Arabia to join the faculty at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals;
- Hasan Kartal (management information systems), who will begin working at the University of Illinois Springfield in the fall;
- Atthaphon Mumi (entrepreneurship), who is joining the business school at Mahasarakham University in his native Thailand;
- Nam Nguyen (finance), who is moving to Montreal to join the faculty at the University of Quebec;
- and Jenna Tang (accounting), who will remain in New England at the University of Hartford.
“The placement of our graduates is one of the most important metrics to assess the performance of a Ph.D. program,” says Program Director Yi Yang, an associate professor in entrepreneurship and strategic management. “It’s a great achievement for a program that was launched just four years ago. But it would not happen without the university’s support and our faculty’s commitment.”
Indeed, the graduates agree that the support and guidance they received from Manning School faculty every step of the way — from their first day on campus to their final dissertation defenses — were critical to their success.
“A Ph.D. student has to be self-motivated, but getting support from good advisers is important,” says Kartal, who earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in engineering in his native Turkey before connecting with operations and information systems Prof. Xiaobai Li and coming to UMass Lowell for his doctorate.
Any trepidation Kartal may have had about being in the inaugural 12-student cohort disappeared after the students’ first meeting with Yang and Scott Latham, the former associate dean of the program, who set the supportive tone.
“One of the advantages of being in a new program is you can get one-to-one attention,” says Kartal, who found that colleagues at other universities often complained about a lack of individual support. “That has never been a concern for me here. We had that privilege.”
Nguyen, a native of Vietnam who earned his MBA from Marshall University in West Virginia, says he was lucky to have an adviser like Asst. Prof. Hieu Phan. Not only did Phan guide Nguyen on research and help him publish in the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, but he also offered life advice when Nguyen and his wife welcomed a baby daughter, Mia, during his second year in the program.
“Those first two years were challenging, but he helped me a lot,” says Nguyen, who also credits the support of Asst. Profs. Tunde Kovacs and Steven Freund. “Coming here was one of the best choices I’ve made.”
Tang, who was born and raised in China and earned her master’s in finance from Boston College, says she’ll never forget March 18, 2017: the day she got her job offer from the University of Hartford. She says the support she received throughout her job search, led by Prof. Khondkar Karim, chair of the Accounting Department, and Manning Dean Sandy Richtermeyer, was invaluable.
“From the minute I started looking, they helped me select a list of universities that would fit me,” Tang says. “Then they prepped me for interviews, down to every little detail: how to dress, what to order during dinner, how to accept offers, how to turn down offers. They were always there to help. It was fantastic.”
Tang, who also worked closely with Assoc. Prof. SangHyun Suh, says that members of the first cohort became a tight-knit group over the past four years.
“No one knows what we’re going through better than the other Ph.D. students,” she says.
As for teaching, the newly minted Ph.D.s say they benefited from leading classes in just the second year of the program.
“It’s nice to get feedback from students at an early stage so you can develop your skills and yourself,” says Kartal, who taught eight classes. “And if you have good evaluations from students, that’s an asset in the job market.”
Liu says she appreciated being assigned a teaching mentor, Lisa Andrusaitis, who audited her classes and helped her to design coursework.
“This helped me a lot, especially when I would go to an interview and they would ask about teaching,” says Liu, who won the Best Ph.D. Paper Award at the 2016 Accounting Association of America Northeast Region conference, co-authored with Karim and Asst. Prof. Huiqi Gan.
As Liu and her fellow graduates begin their careers, they share a sense of pride in what they helped create. According to Yang, there were 102 applicants for the program’s third cohort this fall, a 57 percent increase from two years ago. Of those, a dozen new Ph.D. candidates are expected to join the university.
“I think we did a good job,” Liu says, “of building the foundation and setting the standards for future cohorts.”