Ph.D. Alumni Accomplish Success Globally

headshots of four alumni

Ph.D. Alumni Accomplish Success Globally

The Whitman School has graduated four outstanding alumni through the entrepreneurship Ph.D. program over the last five years; all have gained positions in top research universities with a global reach. Learn more about what these four alumni have accomplished post-graduation.

Fabian Diaz 

Fabian Diaz ’21 Ph.D. was a fellow at Whitman’s Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society (IES). He landed a job at the University of Louisville, where he began a new role as assistant professor in the fall of 2021.

Diaz’s work focuses primarily on the strategies entrepreneurs use to obtain legitimacy, particularly in low-tech service sectors such as the moving industry. Specifically, he has found that the presence of online platforms—such as Yelp, where entrepreneurs can interact publicly with their customers and suppliers—may provide an alternative form of legitimacy to that traditionally provided by professional certifications or licensing. People still place significant trust in word of mouth, and online platforms that provide large numbers of reviews play a role akin to the technological word of mouth.

More recently, Diaz has been investigating the legitimating strategies used by entrepreneurs in industries characterized by historical stigmas, such as tattooing parlors. Among other things, his work sheds light on the relationship between customers’ perception of legitimacy and entrepreneurs’ choice to operate their businesses informally. Also, the recent pandemic emphasizes the crucial rolelow-tech service industries play in the economy, as well as the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in these industries.

The value and timeliness of Diaz’s work have been noted and praised at several top conferences in the field, and his research has appeared in the Best Paper Proceedings of the Academy of Management. His work with Todd Moss, associate professor and chair of the EEE department, has appeared in the Journal of Business Venturing, a leading journal in the field of entrepreneurship. Diaz is also organizing and running a seminar for graduate students in his department at the University of Louisville.

Almantas Palubinskas

Almantas Palubinskas ’20 Ph.D. was also a fellow at IES; in spring 2021 he began a postdoctoral research position at Emlyon Business School in France. As of January 2022, he will continue as a tenure-track assistant professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Emlyon. He is looking forward to meeting his new students and teaching courses on technological innovations.

In his dissertation, Palubinskas studied how regulations influence the emergence of different types of innovation, and how entrepreneurial firms shape an emerging industry’s competitive structure using political and lobbying strategies. His research has a specific emphasis: the consequences that regulations have on innovation within the non-military drone industry.

Since joining Emlyon, he is investigating with some of his new colleagues the emergence of complementary industries, such as the drone and delivery industries. Sparked by the creation of new technology or service, complementary industries emerge to expand upon the services provided by that technology in traditional industries. Because of their interdependence, however, the constraints and challenges faced by companies in those industries differ from those faced by companies in regular industries, with potentially dramatic effects on the economy.

Palubinskas’ work has been published in book chapters, and elite journals and conference proceedings in entrepreneurship and management. His work has received significant attention for its high quality and, in 2021, his dissertation was selected as one of the top finalists for Outstanding Dissertation in Strategy by the Academy of Management. He also received a Syracuse University All-University Doctoral Prize in 2021.

James Bort 

James Bort ’14 MBA, ’20 Ph.D. is a Syracuse, New York native, who graduated from the Syracuse City School District. He earned his online MBA through Syracuse University while working in IT and returned to Whitman for his Ph.D. in entrepreneurship. His dissertation research on the startup workforce was recently featured in Startup Missouri Magazine, where he was interviewed about the challenges associated with early-stage hires.

After spending the spring of 2020 working with Wei Yu ’18 Ph.D. at the University of Singapore as a visiting researcher, he joined the University of Missouri in the fall of 2020 as a tenure-track faculty member in the department of management and entrepreneurship.

Bort’s research is primarily centered on individual well-being, including that of entrepreneurs and their stakeholders, and how it is influenced by entrepreneurship. Based on their award-winning research—best paper at the 2018 Annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference—he and professor Moss worked closely with Kiva, the world’s largest prosocial crowdfunding platform. The Kiva team offered Bort and Moss the opportunity to work at their headquarters in San Francisco, California for a week, during which they were able to connect with various project stakeholders, and to present an overview of their research agenda focusing on their broad interest in psychological well-being and entrepreneurial performance.

Bort was also a featured presenter at the Global B Academics Workshop in August 2020, where he presented research in collaboration with Al Berg Chair and Professor of Entrepreneurship Johan Wiklund and Jeff Gish, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Central Florida. Bort is frequently featured as a panelist translating research on neurodiversity and well-being to diverse audiences hosted by the University of Missouri’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation alongside venture capitalists, medical professionals and others; he also mentors undergraduates interested in pursuing research through the University’s prestigious Stamps Scholar Program and advises students who recently received funding to pursue an early-stage startup through the Entrepreneurship Alliance Program.

Wei Yu

Wei Yu ’13 M.S., ’18 Ph.D. earned her master’s degree in finance from the Whitman School and continued as a Ph.D. candidate in entrepreneurship. Post-graduation, she landed a job as a tenure-track professor at the National University of Singapore—ranked 11 in QS World University—beginning in summer 2018. (This university is constantly ranked among the top 20 universities in the world.)

Yu’s research on ADHD and entrepreneurship with Johan Wiklund gained attention and was featured in Fast Company, Huffington Post, TIME magazine and more. She has continued her focus on ADHD, impulsivity and entrepreneurship, completing research with professor Wiklund.

Her work has appeared in elite management and entrepreneurship journals. Recently, she has been working on broader topics of suffering, as an individual entrepreneur or working in a firm; she is also mentoring two Ph.D. students and completing big-data projects.

Current Job Market Candidates

Two Whitman Ph.D. candidates—Kurian George ’22 Ph.D. and Hooman Abootorabi ’22 Ph.D.—are currently on the job market. Both have demonstrated the ability to go above and beyond in their areas of expertise.

George’s work focuses on immigrant entrepreneurship, investigating the special challenges that immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs face when attempting to start a new business. Shortly after joining the Ph.D. program, he became involved in a large-scale qualitative data collection project on refugees’ entrepreneurship experiences with Whitman faculty members Todd Moss, Maria Minniti and Trent Williams, associate professor in the management and entrepreneurship department at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. The project consisted of about 60 interviews and has yielded an impressive set of original qualitative data on refugee entrepreneurship. George was responsible for much of the data collection and cleaning process. The development of such sources of data is itself a significant scientific achievement.

Abootorabi’s research concerns the evolution and performance of entrepreneurial ecosystems. To date, he has published the article “A holistic approach to the evolution of an entrepreneurial ecosystem: An exploratory study of academic spin-offs” in the premier entrepreneurship outlet Journal of Business Venturing in collaboration with Whitman faculty members Johan Wiklund and Cameron Miller. He has several related articles in the pipeline.

George and Abootorabi have each won the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2021 and 2020, respectively, given to the top 4% of teaching assistants at Syracuse University.

Kimmy Kimball