When Dr. Aichia Chuang was hired as a professor at the UNC Greensboro Bryan School of Business and Economics in 2019, she was simultaneously appointed director for the brand new PhD in Business Administration program on an interim basis. Initiated and designed by Dr. Moses Acquaah, head of the Department of Management, the program is now flourishing in its third year. While Chuang’s interim status has changed and students from the program’s first cohort are now writing proposals for their dissertations, the program’s focus is as clear as it has ever been — world-class research.
“The PhD program is a research-oriented program designed to prepare students for careers as faculty in academic institutions and as professionals in research organizations and government institutions. Our program is a PhD in Business Administration not a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). We focus strictly on theoretical research,” says Chuang, program director and professor in the Department of Management.
With three concentration areas — International Business, Organizational Behavior, and Strategic Management — the program enrolls about 12 students a year. Most students are assistant professors, instructors, or lecturers in academic institutions, while the rest are industry professionals. They are genuinely interested in doing research and looking to obtain a PhD to either advance in their career in academia or switch to academia.
“Our students tend to have full-time jobs. So a majority of them now have a time conflict from three ways: work, family, and school. But the program will not compromise the quality of our PhD education. Our students have impressed us with how dedicated they are to their course work and doing research,” said Chuang.
Chuang has enjoyed watching the first cohort grow and develop. Like her, those students have been with the program since the very beginning — students like Katherine Clyde.
“We were lucky that we all got to meet in person prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I think that really helped us bond as a group,” says Clyde, who teaches and serves as the Dean of Business at Pitt Community College in Greenville, North Carolina, a position she held before starting the PhD program. “I think our cohort is very close, and we try to encourage each other and cheer each other on. It does feel special.”
For Clyde, online flexibility was a major factor when choosing a PhD program.
“I started working full-time after finishing my MBA, and I didn’t feel like I could ever stop working and relocate to participate in a full-time, face-to-face, PhD program,” she said. “The UNCG PhD in Business Administration is ideal for working individuals because it allows me to keep my job but still complete a PhD from an AACSB-accredited school.”
The Bryan School’s program is the first Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredited online PhD in Business Administration program in the world. AACSB is the largest and longest-serving global accrediting body for business schools that offer undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees in business and accounting. The Bryan School holds dual accreditation in business and accounting from AACSB – a distinction held by only 1% of business schools worldwide.
The PhD program also holds an accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). But for Clyde and her first cohort classmate Kristi Lynch, their enjoyment of the program goes beyond accreditations and online flexibility.
“I have been incredibly impressed with the quality of faculty and instruction throughout the program,” said Lynch, who also teaches and had joined the University of Nebraska Omaha as the Director of the MBA program before her admission to UNCG. “The professors also are very supportive of the students and are working hard to mentor and coach us along the way.”
Students in the program interact with faculty who are top researchers, publishing in various Financial Times 50 journals such as Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of International Business Studies, Strategic Management Journal, and Harvard Business Review.
“Although our program is an online program, students have strong bonds with each other, our faculty, and the program. This is probably because the program offers a lot of opportunities for students to interact with each other. For example, we offer a synchronous session every other week for every course where students interact with the instructors and their peers. Students really appreciate this opportunity to learn from their instructor and cohort in addition to studying on their own,” says Chuang. “The program also offers training opportunities such as department research seminars and research workshops — not to mention virtual social hours every month.”
The program’s students take part in major management academic conferences such as those organized by the Academy of Management, Academy of International Business, and Southern Management Association.
Chuang says there are many reasons students continue to choose the Bryan School’s PhD in Business Administration. But there’s one reason, she says, that is top of mind for many applicants alongside online flexibility, rigor, accredited quality, access to world-class faculty, and the program’s research-oriented approach.
“It is reasonably priced,” she says.
Clyde says if prospective students out there think they want to pursue a career in academia, it’s never too soon to start exploring options.
“I was really clueless about what the program would be like, what is involved with research, and what it would take to be prepared to pursue a tenure-track faculty position,” Clyde says. “At the Bryan School, I have obviously learned the more tangible and technical skills like how to structure a research paper, how to collect and analyze data, how to be a better writer, etc. But I think we have also gained intangible skills, too. How to be a better group member, how to advocate for yourself, how to practice open-mindedness, how to engage in healthy debate, and how to persevere.”
-Eric Jackson, MBA ’23, contributed to this story