Welcome from Vice Dean Catherine Schrand

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On the Advantages of Wharton

The advantage of Wharton Doctoral Programs is its breadth of expertise. We have nine programs of study, all of which have faculty whose expertise spans a broad range of areas within the discipline.

The size is important because to be a successful academic scholar, you have to have a passion for your area of research – the thing you want to think about for the rest of your life. But what if you don’t have any idea what your passion is, or you have an idea but you aren’t sure. Wharton can open your eyes to lots of possibilities and we have the faculty expertise to help you pursue your passion once you find it.

Even if, by luck or circumstance, you have already found the area of interest that is your passion, the breadth of the Wharton faculty is an advantage. A true scholar will appreciate the ability to read and learn about research in other areas, even if it doesn’t change the type of research you want to do. You don’t have to do research in another area to find it exciting or to see ways to integrate other ideas into your own research.

Basically, Wharton should be a good fit for the research interests of any student.

Because of our faculty size, we can also have a large doctoral program, and the students have a community of their own within the larger Wharton community. We encourage peer mentoring and fund cross-disciplinary research (and social) activities.

On What Makes a Good Candidate

Obviously, we look for students who have (or have the ability to develop) the types of technical skills necessary to be successful researchers in their chosen field. The question I get most frequently, though, is whether students need work experience. We admit students straight from undergraduate or masters programs and those with work experience. Most departments try to have a portfolio of students at any given time with varied interests and varied experiences.

Students with work experience bring something different to the table than those without. Students coming right from undergraduate or masters programs tend to come with the most up-to-date skills in math and technology. Students with work experience have a different set of virtues and strengths. Applied business research is about understanding business of economic issues and about discovering and evaluating ways to prevent problems or take advantage of business opportunities. Students with work experience have often already thought about these issues. With varied experiences, the students can support each other and learn from each other.

Our goal is to have a diverse collection of students in the program — a portfolio that works together and supports each other.

On Reducing Everyday Friction to Improve Scholarship

As I said, the advantage of Wharton is its size, but size can be a disadvantage if the program isn’t well-managed.

All of the academic aspects of the program are managed within the departments. Each of Wharton’s nine departments, like statistics or marketing or finance, has its own doctoral coordinator dedicated to supporting the department’s PhD students. The coordinator is responsible for managing the initial admission process (with a committee) and keeping a watchful eye on each student throughout the program. The departments offer PhD-level courses in their disciplines and have research programs and resources to help the students get involved in conducting research.

The doctoral office offers a number of cross-disciplinary programs. We have writing and oral communications programs, both of which include one-on-one professional assistance. Wharton Research Computing is an amazing resource for the students; they offer assistance with all aspects of using technology in research from set up to programming to data acquisition and storage. These are just a couple of examples of centralized programs. Wharton’s associate directors in the PhD program, Maggie Saia and Gidget Murray, ensure students are aware of the various opportunities around Wharton and the University. Maggie and Gidget also help the students navigate various administrative processes.

Many students would manage to slog through the various centers and organizations at Penn and found the resources they needed on their own. They would be able to read the University policies and procedures and stay on track. But our philosophy is that students shouldn’t have to do that on their own. We don’t want to have a heavy hand in a student’s academic development – that isn’t helpful to a student in the long-run – but we do want to make sure students have all the resources they need to be as successful as they can possibly be, and we want to minimize the administrative burdens so that students can concentrate on what matters.

Catherine M. Schrand
Vice Dean of Wharton Doctoral Programs
Celia Z. Moh Professor
Professor of Accounting

How a Passion for Solving Problems Became an Academic Career