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Dividend The official online magazine of the Carson College of Business

PhD Corner – Director’s Message – August 2023

Dear friends:

This summer, my family and I are spending time in Busan, South Korea, enjoying the beautiful Gwangalli Beach and other sites. By the way, if you’re ever there on a Saturday night, the drone show is out of this world!

Speaking of drones, I’m pleased to introduce you to the work of Amirhossein Moadab, a doctoral student studying operations and management science. Our feature article describes his efforts to harness the potential of aerial drones to deliver swift assistance to those in need of humanitarian aid after natural disasters or other crises. He’s no stranger to the devastating impact of natural disasters, having experienced severe earthquakes in his home country of Iran when he was a young boy. Moadab is using his industrial engineering background and WSU training in operations and management science to help save lives. He also has a forthcoming research paper in which he proposes a mathematical model geared at enhancing the supply chain network for COVID-19 PCR diagnostic tests.

Moadab is just one example of how Carson doctoral students develop technology and business insights for social good. Another is the work of operations and management science doctoral student Shirin Shahsavand, who is highlighted in the PhD Corner achievements section. She received third place in the communication and political science category of the GPSA Graduate Research Exposition this past spring. Shahsavand is exploring the fast fashion industry and some retailers’ efforts to provide monetary incentives for customers to return used clothing to stores for recycling rather than sending their clothing to the landfill.

Back in Korea, it feels so safe to walk around Korean cities, day or night, which causes me to ponder the rising homelessness, pervasive drug addiction, and other issues that are impacting cities in our nation and world. It’s time for more of us, collectively, to get involved. With donor support and seed funding, I’m confident Carson doctoral students and faculty possess the talent to develop new models that can not only improve business practices but also impact larger humanitarian efforts such as emergency services, sustainable housing, food security, basic health care, and drug rehabilitation.

If we work together, Washington State University can be the leading source of insights for social good through the study of business and power of community.

Chuck Munson,
PhD Program Director

PhD Corner – Director’s Message – March 2023

Dear friends,

As we reflect on the first graduating class of The Next Carson Cougs, we are reminded that Carson PhD students play a significant role in their journey. From teaching assistant duties to serving as the sole instructor for courses, our doctoral students impact the undergraduate student learning experience greatly. To support that responsibility, all PhD students take a teaching course and have the opportunity to participate in a number of teaching development activities sponsored at both the college and university levels. And to ensure a quality learning experience, all international teaching assistants must pass an oral English teaching examination before being allowed to teach courses on their own.

An important element in the revised undergraduate curriculum has been the introduction of the Carson Career Amplifier Program designed to enhance career readiness. As a member of the curriculum revision task force at the time, I supported this major new requirement. Employers have been sending a clear message that college graduates from all over the country have been lacking critical “soft skills” that lead to long-term successful professional careers.

While not quite as formalized, our PhD program has similar soft skill requirements. People often think of PhD holders as highly technical individuals with deep knowledge about a particular subject, but that skill set is hardly enough to land a coveted professor job at a university. While technical skills may help get a research paper published, the daily life of a professor is often filled with soft skill activity, from teaching courses to contributing to meetings, writing recommendation letters, chairing committees, advising students, and communicating research results.

A big part of the PhD job market process involves the hiring faculty attempting to determine if the candidate would be a good fit for the department. Will the candidate teach effectively, become an active contributor in service activities, and get along well with students, staff, and faculty? Nobody is interested in hiring new professors who will be locked in their office all day long, no matter what level of research is being produced.

After four to five years of working informally with faculty mentors to build professorial qualities, our PhD students partake in several formal soft-skill development opportunities. First-year students take Research and Professional Development, a colloquium where they learn about preparing an academic vita, being a good college citizen, time management and working with coauthors, university service activities, and interviewing tips, along with several sessions on research and teaching. Every semester, we have each PhD student make a formal research presentation in front of a peer group and receive constructive feedback on presentation skills. The teaching course is usually taken during the second year. Finally, the Carson College has begun offering weekly “Lunch and Learn” sessions covering a wide variety of topics important for university faculty, and the WSU Graduate School offers a series of soft-skill sessions as part of its professional development initiative.

By the end of year five, we believe that most of our students have transformed into well-groomed professionals suited for faculty roles at universities around the world.

Chuck Munson,
PhD Program Director

PhD Corner – Director’s Message – August 2022

Dear friends,

Academic conferences represent the single best way to disseminate current research and personally connect with colleagues from around the world. At this stage in my career, the best part about conferences is the opportunity to meet up with Cougar PhD graduates who have established their own careers at universities far and wide.

This fall, we are excited to roll out a new fellowship program for our PhD students who present their research at conferences, tapping into some of the generous donations to our scholarship funds. Sometimes, scholarships are used to attract top candidates to the program and help with their expenses once they’re here. We’re expanding the use of scholarship money to encourage and reward PhD candidates for their research by offering stipends when they present their work at academic conferences. Students will be able to receive up to three stipends for presenting different papers during three academic years.

Conferences are typically organized by our professional societies, such as the Academy of Management and the Financial Management Association. Several hundred up to 10,000 attendees gather. Most are academics, but some conferences also appeal to industry professionals. The typical conference lasts for three to five days. Each day is packed with plenary sessions, workshops, company tours, and parallel sessions that focus on a specific research subject.

Typically, research paper presentations last about 20 minutes, which is long enough to share the work’s main points and include some detail. Sometimes the room is full, while other times the presenters end up just presenting to each other.

Often, the most valuable parts of these sessions are the 15-minute breaks. Interested scholars frequently strike up conversations with presenters or other audience members and begin connections that can lead to official collaborations down the road. I find these between-session discussions more productive for networking than showing up at a huge reception and randomly striking up conversations.

Presenting their research is great experience for PhD candidates, and students often receive valuable feedback from audience members. Every now and then, presenting leads directly to a job opportunity from the school of an impressed audience member.

We expect students to take advantage of this fellowship opportunity and increase the volume of Carson College research presented at conferences. Over time, this will result in an increase in journal paper submissions from our students, more journal publications, and even better job placement opportunities for them.

Especially during this inflationary period, we don’t want travel costs to hinder students’ participation at conferences. Thank you to our wonderful donors for making these opportunities possible!

Chuck Munson,
PhD Program Director

PhD Corner – Director’s Message – March 2022

Dear friends:

In the midst of taking rigorous PhD courses in theory, research methods, and statistics, each spring our first-year students get a bit of an academic “break” in their Research and Professional Development course. This one-credit required course exposes students to some of the expectations, responsibilities, and challenges that professors face.

As the PhD program director, I run some of the sessions, but most other sessions invite faculty and associate deans from the Carson College as guest speakers. We believe it’s very important for our students to get exposed to views and people from outside of their home departments. These faculty volunteer their time to help prepare future generations of professors.

Several sessions cover academic research, including the paper review process, time management and working with coauthors, plagiarism and ethics in academia, and publishing in top journals. Presenters provide research tips while also conveying the scope of the process. Similar to a professional athlete being drafted by the pros, earning a PhD is only the beginning of the research journey. Professors have to “prove themselves on the court” regularly to remain relevant and in the academic research “game.”

The course also features sessions on teaching. These sessions provide an excellent preview and complement to the three-credit teaching course students typically take in their second year. Topics include preparing good lectures, teaching cases, motivating and engaging students, teaching large classes, and teaching in the online environment. One clear message is that different teaching styles and techniques can all be successful—there is not one right way to teach a class.

We also hold several sessions on topics other than teaching and research, beginning with how to prepare an academic vita. We also discuss the extremely important faculty role of service, both for the university and the profession. In fact, one requirement of the course is for students to provide several service hours to the college during the semester. In April, we offer a session on being a good college citizen, followed by an interviewing tips session. At the end of the semester, graduating students who have received job offers share their interviewing experiences with first-year students during a panel discussion. While the interview process may seem far off for first-year students, the takeaway from the final two sessions is that successful job placements tend to come to those who start preparing for the job market early in their program.

We hope that the varied sessions in this course help our students get through their program and have a leg up on their future in academia. Nobody ever said getting a PhD is easy, but the rewards are worth the journey.

Chuck Munson,
PhD Program Director

PhD Corner – Director’s Message – December 2021

Dear friends:

I always enjoy WSU alumni events where former Cougs gather to reminisce and support the university. Carson College of Business PhD graduates often maintain especially strong connections not only with their classmates, but their faculty members as well. A student’s “academic family” is formed during the PhD years and often remains tight throughout his or her career.

Graduates often continue to publish papers with their dissertation chair and other Carson College faculty long after they leave the program. Some of these papers are continuations of research started here, while others are brand new initiatives. Such collaborations, especially early in a graduate’s career, can greatly enhance prospects of earning tenure. As junior faculty members, our graduates are expected to begin developing their own independence from their PhD advisors; nevertheless, a steady flow of collaboration can significantly increase their research output.

Professional relationships are maintained in a variety of other ways. Annual academic conferences represent a great way to reconnect with alumni. In fact, seeing former doctoral students has become my single favorite part of attending such events. In recent years, we have had several WSU reunion meals, which have even brought different “generations” of graduates together. These connections can lead to tangible outcomes, such as referring students to each other’s programs, providing recommendation letters for job applications, obtaining editorial assistance, and sharing teaching ideas and resources. Once faculty like me get old enough, we even talk about “academic grandchildren,” i.e., the PhD student of my PhD student.

For many parents with children, the emphasis over the years shifts from caring less about themselves to caring more about their kids. I have found the same to be true with my “academic children.” I find most of my research efforts are now geared toward helping current students with their research projects and helping former students continue to publish. I actually haven’t started my own research project in a number of years—and that suits me just fine. At this point, seeing them succeed brings me much more satisfaction.

While I feel strongly about the several thousand Coug alumni whom I have had the privilege to teach over the years, PhD graduates hold a special place in my heart. I can’t wait until our next post-pandemic live conference to see them again!

Chuck Munson,
PhD Program Director

PhD Corner – Director’s Message – August 2021

Dear friends:

We’re so thrilled to welcome our 14 new and 47 returning PhD students to campus. After working from home for 16 months, it’s great to be back in Todd Hall! Of course, it’s not so much the building itself as the students, faculty, and staff inside. While Zoom helped us maintain communication tremendously, it’s still not the same. Making an appointment to chat through the computer is not the same as knocking on a door or seeing someone in the hallway.

We’re fortunate in the Carson College of Business that a lot of our research can be conducted from an office (even the “good old days” of PhD students stuck in the library late into the night have been replaced with electronic versions of journals and books.) As a result, many of our students continued to make outstanding progress during the pandemic, culminating with the awarding of nine new doctoral degrees this past spring and summer. Nevertheless, the temporary closing of the Center for Behavioral Business Research lab caused significant disruption to student progress, and we are pleased that it is up and running again.

The other major missing piece during the pandemic was the myriad of informal conversations that occur during normal times. The importance of being able to share ideas with classmates or simply to converse with them cannot be overstated. Certainly, when I was a student, sharing joy and pain in real time was so important to my psyche. And when my advisor wanted to see me, he wanted to see me now. His every bit of advice, however painful at times, was invaluable to my progress.

Now that I’m on the other side of that relationship, I very much want to see my advisees regularly. I think it’s important to keep encouraging them to make progress, but I have also found that informal conversations over lunch or in the hallways often lead to breakthrough research ideas. From my experience, many little conversations lead to more creativity than one major brainstorming session.

Moving forward, an unintended consequence of COVID-19 is a plethora of ideas for business research focused on managing organizations during pandemics or other major disruptions. (I’m working on two such projects myself.) From supply chains, to working from home, to surviving in the hospitality industry when nobody is traveling, many new issues have arisen that are ripe for deep study. Ideally, several of our own PhD students will examine some of these issues so that during the next pandemic (perhaps in another 100 years?), organizations will be better able to adapt nimbly. Sometimes out of tragedy, opportunity emerges.

Chuck Munson,
PhD Program Director

PhD Corner – Director’s Message – March 2021

Dear friends:

At many universities, 20 percent of a professor’s job is formally allocated to service activities. In other words, professors should be working the equivalent of one full day per week providing service for their department, college, university, and profession. Faculty perform many functions that keep the university moving forward, such as serving on hiring committees, curriculum committees, and student conduct committees.

At the professional level, the peer review process for getting research published only works because other researchers across the world volunteer their time to perform such reviews. Faculty sometimes also get involved with professional conference activities, and senior faculty may be invited to act as an external reviewer for another faculty member’s tenure and promotion case at another university.

We expose our Carson College PhD students to several service opportunities. In fact, our Research and Professional Development course devotes sessions to “The Service of Service,” “Paper Reviews,” and “Being a Good College Citizen.” We have also required students to provide service by assisting with the college’s annual Business Plan Competition or helping with the WSU graduation ceremony.

Current students have performed university service in a number of ways. Mycah Harrold created an undergraduate research assistant program in conjunction with the Center for Behavioral Business Research (CBBR). COVID-19 also presented the opportunity for her to create and run a virtual CBBR lab, as well as coordinate the Virtual Northwest Marketing Symposium for 50 West Coast scholars.

Meanwhile, Greg Denton helped undergraduate students receive their certification in hospitality industry analytics. Nasir Haghighibardineh has been serving both as a senator for the WSU Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) and as president of the Iranian Students Association at WSU. Demi Deng has served as a GPSA senator as well.

Students have also reviewed papers submitted to academic journals or conferences, including Denton, Haghighibardineh, Shizhen Jia, and Kesha Wu. Others have either chaired sessions or led discussions of papers at professional meetings, including Sheng Bi, Haghighibardineh, Jia, and Yoonsoo Nam. Deng has assisted a WSU professor with journal editorial coordination.

More and more universities encourage and even reward community service. First-year student Oluseyi Elliott has volunteered as a high school teacher in Nigeria in the past. And two of my former students, Sadegh Kazemi and Aysajan Eziz, helped me coach fifth grade soccer here in Pullman while they were earning their degrees.

Service activities represent a crucial element of our jobs as professors. Our PhD students leave here well prepared to tackle those duties.

Chuck Munson,
PhD Program Director

Ph.D Corner – Director’s Message – December 2020

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

Ph.D Corner – Director’s Message – August 2020

Dear friends:

COVID-19 hit our PhD students especially hard from a variety of angles. The spring break University transition to distance delivery impacted them as both teachers and students. As either teaching assistants or instructors, our PhD students converted their teaching roles to distance delivery with little time to prepare.

I commend their extraordinary efforts. Many attended emergency faculty training sessions, and they all helped us provide a quality end to the spring semester for our undergraduate students. They had to learn new technologies, innovate, and remain patient and flexible with the varying needs of the undergraduate population who were also flung into this new state of uncertainty.

At the same time all of this was happening, courses that our PhD students were taking themselves converted to distance learning, and they had to adjust to virtual interactions with both professors and classmates. Students involved in active research programs had to move those to isolation and suspend studies with live subjects. Fortunately, a lot of business research is conducted in a normal office space. Collaboration with faculty mentors continued online, and final dissertation defenses took place over Zoom with faculty providing support virtually.

Our PhD students had to tackle these unprecedented challenges while following “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” orders; many were far from friends and family. Through all of this, our students performed remarkably. They taught well, passed their courses, continued to make research progress, and 12 of them successfully defended their dissertations during this crisis.

None of the graduating students expected to complete their PhD journey that way. Their resilience in this time of crisis will prepare them well for future upheavals they encounter during their careers.

Chuck Munson,
PhD Program Director