By Anna Bedell
It's so important—but so hard. That’s where faculty come in.
Publishing research: It’s one of the most important factors in successfully becoming a professor. It establishes credibility in your field and leads to more opportunities in academia, but it can also be incredibly difficult and time consuming—especially when you’re just starting out.
This is the position most PhD students first find themselves in. Fortunately, the Leeds School of Business’ PhD program offers mentorship from faculty members who provide significant support to doctoral students in their research journeys.
The Leeds PhD program focuses on developing the necessary skills for creating original research and spreading knowledge through teaching and writing. Every student is paired with a faculty mentor who offers abundant support in getting published—an activity that takes years of work.
After working at a school more focused on teaching than research, Sabrina Volpone, associate professor and PhD program director of Organizational Leadership and Information Analytics, realized she wanted to pursue more research opportunities.
“When you get forty or fifty people who just love research and love publishing, all of a sudden you get this culture or climate where I can go to any one of my colleagues in any office and they can offer really insightful feedback,” she said about Leeds’ research culture.
Volpone came to Leeds and started a research lab focusing on diversity and organizational behavior, which has become popular with both PhD and undergraduate students. She makes a concerted effort to be an approachable resource to her students; she knows the importance of faculty involvement to their success.
“Being able to help students translate what's fulfilling and meaningful for them on a daily basis to it actually occurring is really fulfilling,” she said. “When students publish a paper in their third, maybe fourth year of graduate school, it represents so much more than just a paper; it represents, ‘Hey, maybe I can actually be an academic.’”
Not only do the faculty love working with students, but it’s often a two-way street. Recent PhD graduate Liza Barnes, who now serves as an assistant professor of management at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, highlighted her experiences working with her faculty mentor, Assistant Professor Christina Lacerenza.
“I started a project with Christina and we immediately clicked,” Barnes said. “We have really similar communication styles, shared research interests and methods.”
She continued, “I could tell pretty quickly working with Christina that it was a space where I could brainstorm ideas and we could build on them together. I was looking for an advisor or someone that would push me, but in a kind way and an uplifting way—and that's exactly what she did.“
Together, Barnes, Lacerenza and Volpone worked on a study about right-hand partners to organizational leaders, and it was recently accepted into a journal.
Getting the chance to work with faculty in research is not only a great opportunity while in the program, but it can open doors for better positions after graduating. With a connection in the industry along with published work straight out of the program, PhD students are getting the positions they hoped for.
“Being able to work closely with faculty members and publish is the most important thing as a PhD student,” Barnes said. “Working closely with Christina and building out my research portfolio set me up really well to interview for academic jobs last year, and I ended up getting the exact job that I wanted.”
Just having a more experienced mentor can make all the difference, too. Fairy Gandhi is an incoming second year student in the Information Systems PhD program and previously earned a Master’s in Business Analytics at Leeds. While she’s just beginning the long journey toward publishing research, she’s already learned so much from the school’s faculty.
She said she owes all of her research knowledge to Kai Larsen, an associate professor in information management she worked with after her master’s program.
“Professor Larsen who introduced me to the world of Information Systems,” she said. “Under him, I have been introduced to opportunities that I never thought I was capable of.”
Now, she’s being mentored by Leeds assistant professor David Dobolyi.
“I feel very lucky to be getting a chance to work for him—he has been a truly amazing mentor,” she said. “He has been guiding me throughout and been very patient at the same time. Because, obviously, you know, I'm making mistakes, and I think I’m definitely flourishing under his leadership.”
“Faculty have gone through all the mistakes that we are in the process of making, and they share those things. I think that that vast experience they have truly helps students.”
PhD programs can often be overwhelming—taking classes, researching and preparing for roles after graduation. Leeds has been able to create a PhD program that empowers faculty to guide students into successful careers in academia—and create a fulfilling environment while they’re at it.
“I truly feel like I belong here, and that this is my home,” Gandhi said.