Editor’s note: This is the continuation of a series of profiles of students and graduates of Pamplin College of Business Executive Ph.D. in business.
Industry professionals are utilizing the advanced research skills and problem-solving skills gained through the Ph.D. program to transform the business and higher education landscapes.
Executive Ph.D. program, also known as Ph.D. concentration in Executive Business Research, launched in 2016 to serve experienced executives who seek the advanced knowledge and skills needed to conduct high-quality research on critical, evolving issues facing the business community and the world in general. The hallmark of the Ph.D. program is its part-time format—a unique opportunity that attracts students with a variety of career goals.
One of those students was Sarah Tuskey, who joined the first batch of Ph.D. program in fall 2016.
In search of an executive doctoral program in business that emphasized research, she regularly monitored the list of members of the Executive Doctorate in Business Education Council (EDBAC) to see what new programs were being launched or about to launch. .
“When I noticed that Virginia Tech had joined EDBAC, I reached out to learn more,” Tuskey said. “A few weeks later, I was on a phone call with the program director, Dr. [Dipankar] Chakravarti, who shared with me the vision for the program. What he described was everything I was looking for in a research-based PhD program, including the opportunity to collaborate and take classes with full-time Ph.D. students and to be mentored by tenured faculty in my research area. I knew immediately that I had to be a part of what was being built in Pamplin.”
Tuskey, who graduated from the program in the summer of 2021, currently serves as dean of faculty for Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus. Prior to assuming this role in early 2020, she served as associate dean of faculty and chair of the business department at the Kendall Campus; and chair of the business, technology and engineering department at the Homestead Campus.
“As a manager, I’ve always been curious about self-perception and how it affects behavior in the workplace,” said Tuskey, whose Ph.D. the program was management.
Her research interests in identity at work, employee well-being, and technological implications for employee attitudes and behavior prompted her dissertation, “Identity at Work: Balancing Identity Related to Workplace Demographics and Impact on Extra-Role Behaviors and Turnover “.
She has presented her work at the Academy of Management; Southern Management Association; and Industry Studies Association conferences; and is published in the Academy of Management Procedures; Journal of Management; and Human Resource Management.
“Being a student in Ph.D. the program changed the way I think, the way I approach problems, even the questions I ask,” Tuskey said. “To anyone considering it, I would say this: the program will challenge you in ways you never thought possible, and it won’t be easy. But you will become a better researcher, a better researcher and you will leave the program knowing that you have the ability to contribute and advance new knowledge.”
The academic rigor of the Ph.D. The program may seem daunting at first. However, according to Tuskey, overcoming this obstacle is one of the skills that can be gained through the program.
“No matter how many rejections you get, no matter how impossible, insurmountable or scary something may seem, just keep trying,” she said.
This was the lesson learned by another student of the program, Gelila Sebhatu.
“It wasn’t that the work was ten times harder than anything I’d ever done before, but I had to adjust my whole way of thinking and solving problems from a practitioner’s perspective – what is the problem and how can I solve it anymore well that – a more academic, theoretical approach – what does the existing research say and how can I build on it?” said Sebhatu. “I had to clear my brain completely.”
There have been obstacles in navigating the path between the corporate world and academic culture, but, refusing to give up, Sebhatu is now in the initial stages of writing her dissertation and is expected to graduate in the spring of 2023.
Last year, she presented research from her dissertation-in-progress, titled “Decision-Making for Early-Stage Investors: The Role of Narcissism and Gender,” at the 2021 Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference (BCERC).
Attending this and other conferences during a Ph.D. studentship has allowed her to meet experts in her research field, she said, some with whom she remains in touch and one who has become both a mentor and a friend.
“Being able to make these kinds of connections is invaluable and really helps you feel part of the academic community,” she said.
Sebhatu had considered pursuing a Ph.D. in business for a while. “There aren’t many universities that offer a program like this,” she said, “and Virginia Tech was at the top of my list because of such a positive experience in the Executive MBA program.”
Pamplin’s group model is one of the things he liked best about both programs. “The students in the group provide each other with so much emotional support,” she said. “We’re really there for each other.”
While she has been able to adapt to a more academic culture and has reached the final stage of the executive doctorate. program, Sebhatu is still trying to decide if a traditional academic career of teaching and conducting research is in her future.
But one thing she knows for sure.
“The program made me realize how much I really enjoy research and I want to continue researching and publishing in journals, so even if I end up back in a corporate environment, I’m determined to find a way to do that,” she said.
To request information on the Ph.D. program, click here.
– Written by Barbara Micale and Jeremy Norman