More than 50 BYU-trained candidates enter top doctoral schools
Brigham Young University doesn’t offer a doctorate in accounting or information systems, but not because professors are afraid their students will replace them at the front of the class—in fact, they’re hoping some may do just that.
Marriott School of Management accounting and information systems professors developed a unique, hands-on doctoral preparation program to coach select students on what to expect from rigorous doctoral programs. The BYU courses have placed more than 50 graduates into top 25 programs in the past five years, creating goodwill for the university and helping students swap backpacks for briefcases as they learn to become research-intensive, university professors.
“Directors of doctoral programs love our students because they know what they are getting themselves into,” says Doug Prawitt, who developed the School of Accountancy Ph.D. Prep Track ten years ago. “The average national drop-out rate from these programs is about one-third; ours is much lower because students enter with solid quantitative skills and know what to expect, having already experienced teaching and even co-authoring on research projects.”
Prawitt shared the accounting model with colleagues in the BYU Information Systems Department, which, like its accounting counterpart, has enjoyed 100 percent placement. Since its inception in 2003 the prep track has placed 11 information systems Ph.D. prep graduates into top 25 doctoral programs, schools with a reputation for being extremely competitive.
“A top accounting or information systems program will receive hundreds of applications to fill just one or two openings, but our students have an advantage,” says Paul Lowry, director of the Information Systems Department Ph.D. Prep Track. “The best universities are fighting each other for our graduates, and are wondering what it is about BYU that makes our students so well prepared.”
The advantage Lowry specifies is an unusual theory-based empirical research training that transforms highly gifted business students into budding scientific researchers who create new knowledge to help businesses run more efficiently.
Trent Spaulding, an information systems Ph.D. prep student who recently co-published an academic article with Lowry, agrees that the experience helps students compete for doctoral program admissions. The writing and research training Spaulding and other students receive, as well as the experience of presenting papers at international conferences, are skills that have impressed faculty at top doctoral schools.
Last year, all accounting and information systems doctoral. entrants from BYU received tuition waivers, and stipends averaging more than $18,000 a year. Most of these graduates also received tens of thousands of dollars in fellowships and additional summer research money.
Greg Moody, an information systems student who will begin his doctorate in August at the University of Pittsburgh, advocates testing the waters in accounting or information systems before deciding to take the plunge into a doctoral program. “If someone thinks he or she might enjoy being a professor, that individual should apply for the Ph.D. prep program. It’s better to see if this career path fits early on, than applying to a school and dropping out a year later when you learn you don’t like it,” he says.
Prawitt agrees that it’s best for interested students to find out sooner rather than later if being a professor is right for them. “We try to give students all the information they need to self-select the program that best fits,” he says. “If they drop out of the prep program we still see it as a success. It’s much less costly for them and for prospective Ph.D. programs to find out early if it’s not the right choice.”
Writer: Derek Westra