UF grads cross bridge to business education

Gainesville, Fla. – In May 2008, 23 students joined with the Hough Graduate School of Business in a new and very different type of program. These individuals were part of the first-ever cohort of the Post Doctoral Bridge (PDB) program for non-business Ph.D. holders, created to prepare participants for teaching and research careers in business schools. The program is endorsed by AACSB International, and was conceived in response to an AACSB Doctoral Faculty Commission report that predicted a critical shortage of business faculty (about 2,500 PhDs in the U.S. alone) by 2012. As of September 21, graduates of Hough’s program—one of only four in the U.S.—will be considered academically qualified (AQ) by AACSB-accredited business schools for a period of five years.

“It’s a real concern; the overall production of business PhDs declined while enrollments in undergraduate and master’s level business programs have grown,” says Dean John Kraft. “We were excited about participating and felt we could be successful because we have a unique advantage, with 10 to 15 percent of our faculty being non-business PhDs. The psychologists, economists, engineers, and sociologists who are outstanding members of our faculty are evidence that research and teaching skills are transferable, and our experience in this process has informed the design of the Bridge Program.”

Students in the Hough PDB program had the choice of three areas of specialization: Accounting and Finance; Marketing and Management; and International Business and Entrepreneurship. The PDB program was designed to facilitate this transfer and enable the participants to connect their skills and experience to the field of business. To make the program as accessible and flexible as possible, it was presented over a five-month period, with participants coming to the UF campus for one weekend a month. Courses were delivered through a combination of interactive DVDs, live lectures and Internet technology, using such tools as chat sessions, electronic discussion sessions and electronic office hours. In addition to the formal courses, the program included teaching panels, research panels, one-on-one participant-faculty meetings and research seminars.

“The PDB program at Florida is the perfect mix of instruction and challenge,” says Daniel Gaygen, now a Visiting Assistant Professor in Marketing at the University of South Dakota. “If you already have a PhD, this program will get you up to speed so you can teach and conduct research in a business school. I know that my present position is a direct result of my participation in the Bridge program.”

The participants had a common interest in Business Education and comparable training evidenced by a research-based graduate degree. Beyond that, the diversity of the participant’s backgrounds and aspirations was interesting. Some of the qualifications included:

– Physics PhD from Kansas State (currently at University of Texas, El Paso)
– Economics PhD from University of Warwick, UK (currently at International Monetary Fund, Washington,
– Philosophy PhD from Purdue University (currently at Fayetteville State University)
– Engineering PhD from Georgia Tech (currently at Gonzaga University)

Overall, the program has exceeded the expectations of administrators—in attracting a diverse set of participants—and of the program’s graduates—in delivering the research and teaching methods they will need in business education. The success of the program has already generated applicants for next year’s session, which is scheduled to begin in April.