Sarah Zechman


Degree Date: PhD, 2008
Program: Accounting
Placement: University of Chicago

When recalling the aspects of Wharton’s doctoral program from which she gained the most, Sarah Zechman says without hesitation: the faculty.

Guiding, Not Directing

As a Ph.D. candidate in the Accounting Department, Zechman had the chance to collaborate on projects with professors—fruitful relationships that allowed her to leave the program with one forthcoming paper she co-authored with faculty members and several others in the pipeline. In particular, Zechman points to her working relationship with Catherine Schrand as having an integral impact on her. “She was the chair of my dissertation. She is my current co-author. She has absolutely had a great influence on helping me think about issues and guiding me,” she explains. Their working relationship remains strong even though Zechman has moved on to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where she serves as an assistant professor of accounting.

Overall, Zechman describes the student-mentor relationship at Wharton as being one that’s guiding, not directing. “The faculty at Wharton were very supportive,” she says. “I came up with my own ideas, but they helped me figure out which ideas were worth pursuing. They let me set my own agenda, but helped ensure that agenda would be successful.”

Freedom and Responsibility

Still, with freedom comes responsibility, and the onus, Zechman says, falls on the student to reach out to faculty members to develop meaningful working relationships. “It’s not the kind of group who is going to knock on your door, but they are absolutely open to talking about ideas, bouncing around projects,” she says. “They are extremely open and receptive, but you have take initiative.”

The Benefits of Being at Wharton

In addition to the personal relationships she was able to forge with professors, Zechman also touts the department’s feedback system as helping strengthen her research and presentation skills. “They were very supportive about giving PhD students feedback on their work and the chance to present to the full faculty,” she says. Another benefit of being a Wharton student, she says, is Knowledge@Wharton, the school’s online business journal “One of my projects was written up in this forum, and, likely as a result, it was also picked up in the press, providing access to a broader audience.”