Ph.D. Students Pursue Research Remotely
While the pandemic impacted all students at the Whitman School as they transitioned to online instruction in March 2020, doctoral students had other obstacles to overcome.
Some, including Haiying Yang ’21, managed to successfully conduct research and complete proposal defenses remotely. Yang is researching the corporate social responsibility of auditing in relation to the supply chain. She is from the Hebei province of China but remained in Syracuse during the pandemic.
Yang optimistically says, “The good thing about the online transition was that it was easier to schedule a time for meetings and there were no space limitations.”
Yang was excited to teach an introduction to supply chain management course as a hybrid class this fall. Even though she initially had concerns about how students would adjust to hybrid learning, she says, “The Whitman team responsible for online learning resources sent us well organized emails and provided lots of useful information about the potential scenarios that we may encounter during teaching, which helped a lot.”
Kurian George ’21, who is studying entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises, admits that he, like many other international students, faced concerns about visa restrictions and did not returned home to Kerala, India.
George intended to travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, this past summer for the Babson Doctoral Consortium. Although George was a bit disappointed that his first doctoral consortium was held virtually, he says, “The networking was the best part of the consortium. It was great to interact with other Ph.D. students who were in the same boat as me.”
He added that networking with senior scholars became more feasible, too. “The organizers arranged breakout sessions on Zoom where three to four students got to interact with a senior scholar of their choice. Unlike the common sessions, which were mostly in a lecture format, this session allowed us to interact much more and ask specific questions related to our research,” George says.
Devin Stein ’22, also an entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises Ph.D. candidate, shares his new appreciation for collaborations. “We usually collaborate with people from different departments while we’re at Whitman. Our shared office space is often a place where you get new ideas or develop your own. With the lockdown, that went away, and it made me realize the importance of teamwork and collaboration,” Stein says.
One similarity that many Ph.D. students shared was a concern for time management. Yang says, “The online transition actually gave me more flexibility to schedule meetings and work. However, I struggled with being alone at home and staying on track.”
They adjusted by working with their advisors and setting realistic deadlines to help them progress throughout the past summer. Many successfully completed milestones online, including doctoral proposals and dissertation defenses, as well as comprehensive exams.
Michel Benaroch, association dean for research and Ph.D. programs, praised the candidates’ adjustment to taking at-home comprehensive exams for the first time and adjusting during the pandemic overall.
He says, “Three Ph.D. students taught courses and completed them online. Their teaching performance, as rated by students, is just impressive. And, most remarkable, this was the first time in Whitman’s history that Ph.D. candidates defended their doctoral dissertations and completed their programs remotely.