PhD Profile: Zhiyuan Yu

Many college students switch their fields of study and career paths several times before discovering their true passion. It wasn’t until Zhiyuan Yu ‘23 discovered the strategic management doctoral program at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, 10 years into his law career, that he discovered his own passion. 

As a practicing lawyer in Shanghai, China, Yu had thought he had found his passion in corporate law with a law degree from Washington State University three years prior. He slowly realized he enjoyed the schooling and preparation associated with becoming a lawyer, but did not enjoy the career itself. That was when the opportunity to pursue a doctorate at Whitman fell into his lap. 

“I found the chance for me to pursue an academic life because that was my dream when I was in college,” Yu shares.

Yu has always enjoyed academia and is now pursuing his dream to become a professor and scholar. The intensive workload and time management that Yu expected after going to law school continues to both challenge and inspire him. 

While Yu’s path to Whitman may seem like a mystery to some, he truly believes that he stumbled upon the opportunity of a lifetime. Yu was given a chance that he thought he could never have. During his time studying law in the United States, he had heard about research being conducted in business schools across the country. With an interest in business as a corporate lawyer, he decided to follow suit. For a doctoral program like his, Yu’s background as a lawyer did not matter. His passion and determination to pursue the degree superseded his work experience.

“Business schools here don’t mind what your background is, so I found the opportunity to pursue my passion. I applied, and here I am today,” Yu adds.

After just four months into his first year as a student at Whitman, Yu undoubtedly feels the impact and support of the faculty members. 

“I was told before I attended how great the faculty is here. They are great scholars, and you can tell from both their publications and even the way they talk to you. They’re very receptive to your ideas and are understanding,” says Yu. It is only the beginning of his next few years at Whitman, but Yu is grateful to be surrounded by supportive faculty members, supervisors and peers.

In his first semester as a doctoral student, Yu is ready to hit the ground running. Yu is encouraged to accept the challenge to absorb new knowledge from scratch and learn from the Whitman community he has become a part of at Syracuse University. The focus and drive that he has as a student continues to motivate him, and he hopes to learn more with each person he meets at Whitman.

“The atmosphere here at Whitman is great. It’s not just politeness; the relationships here are very real and sincere. I’m very grateful for that,” Yu adds.

Karley Warden