News & Events

Kellogg offers more than 40 experiential learning classes, offering students the opportunity to solve real-world challenges by partnering with the school’s corporate partners.

Kellogg School's leading Doctoral Program trains next generation of scholars

By Dylan Walsh

8/16/2017 -

In the fall of 2015, the Kellogg School of Management embarked on a year-long overhaul of its Doctoral Program. With students in mind, “we asked every department what they would do if given the opportunity to redesign their curriculum from scratch,” said Kathleen Hagerty, the senior associate dean for Faculty and Research. “We added classes, took them out, changed our teaching—we did a lot of revamping.” One of the country’s oldest PhD programs became thoroughly modernized.

Among the many changes, one was the addition of the Idea Incubator for Behavioral Science, introduced this past spring and co-taught by Kellogg Professors Derek Rucker and Loran Nordgren. The class is designed to help doctoral students learn how to generate research ideas and determine which are the most likely to lead to both publication and impact. “It’s the course that I wish I had while in graduate school,” said Rucker.

In its first iteration, with an enrollment of about 10, Ideas Incubator drew students from across Kellogg’s seven [SA1] internal departments. Such diversity—in academic training and departmental affiliation—is a hallmark of Kellogg’s Doctoral Program, which cultivates a multidisciplinary environment unparalleled in its richness.

Valuing diversity and a multidisciplinary community
“We’re working to dispel some of the myths around business school—for instance, that you need to be a business major to apply,” said Susan Jackman, the administrative director of the Doctoral Program. To this end, Kellogg accepts students with all types of undergraduate experience, from sociology and psychology to engineering and math.

“The thing that is exciting and attractive to me about Kellogg is the breadth of intellectual diversity,” said Rucker. “We’re all given the opportunity to intermingle—we’re encouraged to intermingle with other departments, and often the best ideas come from these cross-field collaborations.” Rucker reinforced this point by highlighting the variety of academic backgrounds among both Kellogg’s students and its 133 tenure-line faculty[SA2] : economics, sociology, psychology and neuroscience. “That’s exciting to me.”

For Rachel Ruttan, who graduated this past year with a PhD in Management & Organizations, and who starts this fall as an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Kellogg’s emphasis on multidisciplinarity was one of the School’s most attractive features. “While here, I very actively pursued different perspectives on research, exposed myself to different ideas and ways of thinking,” she said; the School’s multifaceted environment facilitated creative approaches to the way she did research as well as the kind of research that she did. “Kellogg students don’t typically look like students from other business schools because we’re welcomed to pursue new ideas with other people.” (For Ruttan, this opportunity comes with a caveat: prospective students ought to be entrepreneurial in order to take advantage of what Kellogg offers.)

One of Ruttan’s classmates, Can Urgun, who starts as an assistant professor at Princeton University this fall, noted that the benefits of multidisciplinarity bleed into more informal settings, as well. A recent graduate of the Managerial Economics and Strategy, Urgun found value in attending a weekly social get-together for PhD students during which he talked with students from other departments; these conversations often enriched his own work in economic theory and even led to collaborations.

An unmatched learning environment
Helping to drive the quality of the Kellogg School’s Doctoral Program are faculty with “an incredible thirst for knowledge,” according to David Dranove, faculty director of the Doctoral Program and a professor of Strategy.


Faculty are also able to build very close relationships with their students because cohorts remain small—roughly 20-30 students per year. “It is a true mentorship relationship,” explained Dranove. “The success of program depends critically on the love and nurturing by faculty.”

Urgun corroborated the value of faculty-student relationships when discussing his adviser: “I hope to eventually advise students of my own and if I can do just 10 percent of what my adviser did that would be great. He helped me through everything.”

Faculty, though, are just one part of the overall experience. From basic informational outlets like Northwestern Scholars and Kellogg Insight to the vast array of offerings across all of Northwestern, including a joint JD-PhD with the Pritzker School of Law, Kellogg presents students with an unmatched learning environment.

“Kellogg is different from other schools because of the variety of offerings and faculty at the students’ disposal,” said Nicola Persico, a professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences. “The critical mass of available resources for the student is simply enormous.”

For over 85 years, PhD graduates from the Kellogg School of Management have gone on to positions of influence in academia and business. The doctoral program covers seven [SA4] focus areas:

  • Accounting Information & Management
  • Finance
  • Management & Organizations
  • Management & Organizations and Sociology
  • Managerial Economics & Strategy
  • Marketing
  • Operations Management

Landing academic jobs after graduation
Washington University for Ruttan, Princeton University for Urgun—such distinguished job placement is both a core goal of the Kellogg School’s Doctoral Program and a signal of its quality. (Other recent academic placements include Cornell University, Georgetown University, Harvard Business School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University.)

To help students land these posts, Kellogg actively supports them throughout the job market process.

“My primary role as an advisor is to train the next generation of scholars,” said Rucker. “The idea is not for students to work for us, but to work with us, so that when they leave Kellogg they are their own, independent thinkers.”

Both Ruttan and Urgun spoke glowingly about their advisors’ help in developing their research for the job market and going through the application process. But, beyond advisors, “I was very pleasantly surprised at how people who were not on my committee were willing to sit down and talk to me,” Ruttan said. “It felt like a community; in the end, there were so many people I could approach to talk about concerns and strategies.”

But placing students in highly selective jobs is not only the result of deep support from faculty and staff; it is also an affirmative signal of Kellogg’s ability to do exactly what Rucker strives to do: train the next generation of leaders.

“When Princeton or Yale hires from us, those schools are judging that these are future thought leaders,” said Dranove. “Placement into a top program is a terrific indication that the outside world thinks we’ve trained these leaders.”

For more information on visiting or applying, please check the Kellogg School Doctoral Program website or contact

Related reading
Considering a PhD? Learn about recent placements for Kellogg School PhD graduates
Learn more > 

Kellogg offers a variety of community resources and housing for students in the Doctoral Program
Learn more >