Dear friends:

Carson College doctoral students play an integral role in helping the college reach its strategic goals. They provide vital teaching assistant services for undergraduate classes, and every semester several PhD students teach courses as the sole instructor. Many serve in similar capacities for our nationally ranked online programs. Simultaneously, they provide energy and results toward our research mission by participating in research seminars, presenting their own research locally and at international conferences, and publishing their work in quality journals. Full-time faculty enhance their own research productivity by working closely with, and often publishing with, our students.

In fact, the PhD program stands out as part of the college’s Disciplinary Research strategic goal: “Our top doctoral students earn placements at peer universities and go on to successful research careers.” We loosely define peer universities as the approximately 130 schools listed on the Carnegie Research 1 Universities list, which includes WSU. Among our 12–13 annual graduates, we have recently averaged two peer placements per year. Alex Paparas, a fifth-year student in operations and management science, has already accepted a peer position for 2021 with the University of Cincinnati.

Peer placements can be much more challenging to attain than they might seem because doctoral placements generally follow a “trickle-down” effect. The very top schools in the country produce more PhD graduates than they hire. Those who aren’t hired by the very top institutions take jobs at schools ranked slightly lower. Most graduates from those slightly lower-ranked institutions accept positions at schools ranked slightly lower than their own. So when a graduate bucks this trend and places at a peer or better university, she or he has made a remarkable impression.

How do they do that? Typically, peer placement results from one or more published research papers prior to hitting the job market, along with evidence of success in classroom teaching. Our program continues to search for ways to improve the profiles of our graduating students. On the research side, we have been pushing students to begin research projects earlier in their program, and we have allocated summer stipends to encourage early-stage students to work on research during the summer. Just last semester we instituted a peer presentation program, where students present their work to each other to receive feedback for improvement. On the teaching side, all students now take a full three-credit course on college teaching.

As described in my August 2020 e-Dividend message, our students transitioned quite seamlessly to the distance learning model, both as students themselves and as instructors. We commend them for remaining focused on their studies during these times. As the pandemic wears on, the college is doing everything possible to assist our new international students in attaining their student visas so that they can begin to study in the United States. We look forward to the day when we can all reconvene in person to experience the rich diversity they provide to our community.

Chuck Munson,
PhD Program Director