Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Summer 2001Kellogg School of Management
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  PhD Faculty
© Nathan Mandell
Some of Kellogg's PhD faculty include (L to R) Professors Torben Andersen, Peter Klibanoff, Keith Murnighan and Robert Magee

Academic entrepreneurs
Kellogg faculty guide doctoral students to new research frontiers

By Mary E. Morrison

Kellogg professors describe students who enter the school's doctoral program as curious, academically oriented entrepreneurs, people who like to solve puzzles and work on their own.

It's an apt description. The program -- five intensive years of classes, research and teaching culminating in a doctorate degree -- produces scholars highly specialized in one of Kellogg's six programs. Though a small number of graduates go into corporate or government positions, the majority pursue academic research at top universities.

Take, for example, Emre Ozdenoren and Ramon Casadesus-Masanell, two graduates of the class of 2000's Managerial Economics & Strategy program.

In collaboration with Kellogg faculty members including Peter Klibanoff and Nabil Al-Najjar, Ozdenoren and Casadesus-Masanell published papers on topics such as how decision makers approach "uncertain" situations in which odds cannot be used to estimate success or failure.

"We consider PhD students have been successful if, as part of the dissertation requirement, they're able to produce a novel contribution to their chosen field," says Klibanoff, associate professor of managerial economics and decision sciences, and co-coordinator of the Managerial Economics & Strategy program.

Ozdenoren and Casadesus-Masanell did just that, and both have since landed enviable jobs -- Casadesus-Masanell at Harvard Business School and Ozdenoren at the University of Michigan.

Ozdenoren says the amount of attention students receive at Kellogg and the flexibility the program affords were part of what made his experience so positive. "Compared to other programs, we had much more of a chance to work closely with the faculty, which is very important," he notes. "The program lets you do what you want to do, and if you're a self-motivated person it's a great place to be."

What it takes
Of the 25 or so new doctoral students entering Kellogg each year, about half already have master's degrees, in fields such as economics, natural sciences and psychology. Currently, there are 102 students in the entire program, of which 60 percent are international students, and 35 percent are female.

Students can enter one of six programs offered by various Kellogg departments: Accounting Information and Management, Finance, Management and Organizations, and Marketing offer individual doctoral programs. The Management and Strategy and Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences departments offer a joint program called Managerial Economics and Strategy; and the Management and Organizations Department has a joint doctoral program with the Sociology Department in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Early in their program of studies, students fulfill general degree requirements. As part of these requirements, students take qualifying exams, usually at the end of their first year. They also take written and oral qualifying exams at the end of their third year. During the last two years of the program, students focus on their dissertations, and before completing their studies, present an oral defense of their work to their faculty dissertation committee.

The PhD program differs from the MBA program in a number of ways. In the MBA program, the focus is on the breadth of different disciplines of management. An MBA student will take a variety of courses in areas such as marketing, finance and accounting. A doctoral student, on the other hand, focuses in one area, learning an existing body of research in their specialized field, and then trying to expand it.

"There's actually a large discontinuity between the MBA program and the PhD program in the sense that there are two things we're trying to teach someone," says Shane Greenstein, associate professor of management and strategy. "We're trying to teach them how to do research, and we're trying to take them to the frontiers."

To reach these frontiers and produce research on them, students must shift from being consumers of knowledge to being producers of knowledge. The "product" that doctoral students create is a knowledge product, or new evidence about a particular issue, explains Robert Magee, the Keith I. DeLashmutt Distinguished Professor of Accounting Information and Management and recently named associate dean of academic affairs. Academic researchers must know their market -- which is generally other faculty members -- in order to "sell" their product, he says.

"You have to know what people in the field are interested in, what needs they have that haven't been met, and try to find some way to address those," Magee says. "You find a hole in the current fabric of what we know about a field and try to fill it in."

An ideal starting point
With a doctoral program that is on par in size with other top business schools, Kellogg has proven to be an ideal starting point for those beginning the rigors of academic research.

"In terms of the strength, we are a very eclectic group with a great breadth of courses," says Dipak Jain, Kellogg's dean. "We really believe that it's important to train our students in terms of good conceptual, analytical and methodological skills." Students can take courses within Kellogg and also in other departments in Northwestern, such as the economics, psychology or mathematics department, Jain points out.

This breadth and depth of expertise between departments -- and within each department -- provides students with the curriculum and guidance to become leaders in their field. The marketing department, for instance, is the most comprehensive of its kind in any major business school, says department chair and A. Montgomery Ward Professor of Marketing Lakshman Krishnamurthi. "The program offers six or seven PhD seminars each year, which is more than most other private schools can afford to do," he notes. "Our students get a very broad, terrific exposure to current marketing thinking. After the second year, students specialize, but in the first year we want them to be exposed to a broad range of issues. That's our big strength."

Another key to student success is the active involvement of faculty members in doctoral candidates' research, says Keith Murnighan, the Harold J. Hines Jr. Distinguished Professor of Risk Management. "What's wonderful about Kellogg and our department is we have easily a dozen experts in what they do among the faculty, which provides students with a wealth of human capital. The faculty members have great research records, and they can inculcate students into these projects."

In addition to guiding students through research methods, Kellogg's program gives students teaching experience. "Not many top schools would let their PhD students teach," Jain says. "We consider this teaching part of the education experience."

Even though doctoral students are focused on their classes and research, they are encouraged to take a few MBA classes to be prepared for what they might have to teach in the future, says Torben Andersen, professor of finance. "I think the presence of the MBA program is important," Andersen notes. "It gives doctoral candidates institutional and practical experience."

After completing the program, students use that experience to teach, but more important, to continue to define their fields with groundbreaking research. What can they expect from such a career?

"Most of the time, you're working on your own," Magee says. "You have to be a person who likes to identify ideas and then work on them. Nobody tells me what to work on in the morning; I get to choose. I enjoy teaching my classes, but that's just part of the job. The rest of the time, I'm with a blank pad of paper trying to create something."

©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University