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‘Ph.D. Project’ Aims to Boost Minority Presence at Business Schools

November 16, 1995

CHICAGO (AP) _ A year ago, Peter Aranda was earning six figures as an executive at entertainment conglomerate MCA Inc. Now he’s getting an annual stipend of $11,000 as a doctoral student at Columbia University’s business school.

Another victim of corporate downsizing? No, this change was by choice.

Aranda was lured from the corporate world by the Ph.D. Project, a corporate-academic effort to put more minorities on lily-white business school faculties. More black, Hispanic and Native American professors will attract more minority students to business schools and create greater diversity among future MBAs, organizers of the project said at a conference Thursday in Chicago.

The deciding factor for Aranda, who attended a similar conference last year: ``It was the huge opportunity to make an impact, to help shape tomorrow’s leaders.″

Aranda, 35, quit his job as vice president of operations of MCA’s San Francisco-based Winterland Productions division to pursue a Ph.D. at Columbia University in New York.

A Southern Californian of Hispanic-Native American heritage, Aranda said he had no minority teachers at either the University of Southern California, where he earned a bachelor’s degree, or at Washington University in St. Louis, where he received a master’s in business administration.

That’s typical of U.S. business schools, according to Bernard Milano, founder of the Ph.D. Project and a partner in the KPMG Peat Marwick accounting firm. Other project sponsors include Chrysler Corp., Citibank, Ford Motor Co., Texaco Inc. and more than 80 universities.

``Right now 96 percent of business school faculties are white,″ Milano said. ``Six hundred universities have schools of business and no business school has anything remotely resembling a diversified faculty.″

He said that of 1,100 business Ph.D.s awarded in the United States in 1993, just 24 were to blacks and 12 were to Hispanics. Last year, 77 minority business executives entered doctoral programs after contacting the Ph.D. Project, Milano said.

There are no blacks, Hispanics or Native Americans on the faculty of Cornell University’s graduate school of management, but it’s looking for candidates through the Ph.D. Project, said John Elliott, director of the business school’s doctoral program.

``Major universities in the United States right now are prepared to attract and nurture and support minority faculty members,″ he said.

PhD Project seeks doctoral candidates by advertising in business publications and pays their expenses to attend the annual conference, where they meet university recruiters. Some project sponsors offer financial assistance to Ph.D. students.

At the Chicago conference, recruiters from 79 of the 100 U.S. universities with business Ph.D. programs met with about 350 minority executives seeking information on doctoral work.

Among those considering a leap to academia was Margarita Jones Scheffel, director of finance and management information systems at the Chicago chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

``I want to understand what the process is and what is the commitment on my part,″ said Scheffel, 37. ``I understand it’s four to five years and I have to make sure it’s something I would want to do.″

Scheffel said she wants to make a difference. Elisa Fredericks, another black woman and a project alumnus, is doing just that by teaching at Chicago State University while pursuing a Ph.D. in marketing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

``I’m actually a role model for my students because they see I’m going through this program,″ she said. ``You wouldn’t believe how many people believe they can’t do it, and it’s important for them to have a role model.″

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