Map Journeys Together

The PhD Project: Paying it Forward: The Four Directions

Design insight from The PhD Project

  • Orchestrate journey-mapping to nurture conversations and set the stage for spontaneous journey-mapping to emerge.

The Four Directions[1] chapter in The PhD Project’s recent publication illustrates how spontaneous journey-mapping emerges through engagement in PhD Project activities. I chose this article since it conveys the idea of individuals coming from different directions to The PhD Project, exchanging ideas and insights with each other, and continuing to move on their own paths. Occasionally, collaborations may emerge as it did in The Four Directions case. The idea of networking to help each other find their own path and letting collaborations happen is a distinctive characteristic of The PhD Project.

Orchestrating Journey-mapping

The PhD Project provides opportunities for prospective students to start mapping their journeys with others even before they enter a Ph.D. program. During the Annual Conference, prospective minority students meet Ph.D. students at various stages of their Ph.D., as well as faculty from institutions across the US. They also have opportunities to meet with representatives of doctoral programs across the country at the programs fair.

The process often starts with the Marketing Campaign, one of the three parts of The PhD Project’s three-pronged approach. In the Four Directions article, one of the four participants (Joseph Gladstone) had noted the lack of management talent in organizations that served his community. He came across an ad that asked “Have you thought about being a business professor?” He decided to attend the PhD Project Annual conference, the second part of The PhD Project’s three-pronged approach. He attended a panel by Dr. Daniel Stewart, a Native American business school professor, and realized that there was someone who looked and thought like him. Joseph Gladstone realized that he would not be alone if he started his Ph.D. journey!

The annual conference sessions and Doctoral Student Association (DSA), meeting sessions are geared towards helping prospective students and current Ph.D. students map the next phase of their Ph.D. journey. The focus is on helping individuals find a path that is right for them. All minority Ph.D. students are members of Doctoral Student Associations, the third part of The PhD Project’s three-pronged approach. They can attend the meeting at the beginning of each year in their Ph.D., and learn about the road ahead. They can anticipate and prepare for challenges in the next phase of their journey. The key point is that journey-mapping is carefully orchestrated in these conferences as speakers and facilitators help participants see possibilities and challenges, and find a path that is right for them.

Mapping Journeys Together

The structured journey-mapping activities organized by The PhD Project set the stage for other forms of journey-mapping to emerge. One important form of journey-mapping relates to identifying and shaping contributions. By connecting participants and engaging them in journey-mapping, The PhD Project amplifies the impact of individual professors.

PhD Project participants have opportunities to collaborate and contribute to The PhD Project and other organizations even before they become professors (paying it forward). For example, a second-year Ph.D. student can participate in a panel in the Annual Conference and share her insights with prospective students. PhD Project resources and connections also make it possible for minority Ph.D. students and faculty to get involved in activities that enhance the educational experience of minority and other students early in their career.

Some of these experiences such as the White House Initiative are organized by The PhD Project. Others such as the collaboration discussed in the Four Directions article emerge as participants find others with shared interests.

In addition to formal PhD Project activities such as the White House Initiative, collaborative approaches such as the one discussed in The Four Directions article can amplify the impact of The PhD Project’s efforts to encourage and guide minority undergraduate students and others. Sharing successful models through PhD Project publications can further amplify impact. In the Four Directions example, the seed for a long-term collaboration was planted in the Doctoral Student Association meeting that three of the participants attended.

According to the article, Joseph Gladstone met Deanna Kennedy and Amy Klemm Verbos at the Doctoral Student Association meeting. As noted in the article, “They talked animatedly during session breaks, after hours and before hours. Not only had Gladstone found two peers, he quickly discovered that both shared his passionate concern for the dearth of Native American undergraduates studying business. The discussions turned to those concerns and continued via e-mail through the academic year.”

By the third year, they decided to do something to address the dearth of Native American students in undergraduate programs in business. They invited Dr. Stewart and launched a collaborative effort. “Working in shifting combinations on different projects, and sometimes singly with their universities, the four hope to redefine business education for Indian County’s would-be entrepreneurs and manager.” According to Dr. Gladstone “The PhD Project was the hub that brought us together.”

Growing Systems of Success

This section expands on the discussion of The Four Directions scenario using the Six Cs. The discussion below focuses on one of the Six Cs (Connections).

Weak and Strong Ties

The notion of weak and strong ties can be used to further clarify the nature of connections. Connections(Wu[1],[2] ) start as weak ties characterized by low frequency of interactions. Engagement in PhD Project activities can also lead to strong ties characterized by sustained communication as seen from the Four Directions story.

Distinguishing the two types of ties is important for understanding The PhD Project design and impact (Table1). Most relationships start as weak ties. Some relationships can continue as weak ties as individuals have limited interactions with each other. Other ties become stronger over time with more frequent and in-depth communication between individuals. Access to networks and weak ties are valuable since participants know that they can reach out to those who can guide and support them on their journey. Many participants may not need ongoing support, and may not develop strong ties. However, The PhD Project influence may still be important in the journeys of these individuals. Individuals who make some strong ties through The PhD Project network may also have numerous weak ties through the network.

Developing Weak Ties Early

As seen in The Four Directions scenario, The PhD Project enables participants to start developing weak ties with mentors and peers early in the process. Prospective students can develop weak ties several years before they start applying to Ph.D. programs! Weak ties developed in The PhD Project conferences set the stage for the development of additional weak and strong ties within the PhD Project and beyond. Even student who do not stay actively engaged with The PhD Project beyond the annual conference, the intensive immersion experience provides information that impacts how these participants develop weak and strong ties within their Ph.D. program and beyond.

Patterns of Engagement

As ties strengthen over time, different patterns of engagement evolve:

  • Participants access PhD Project weak ties occasionally to seek guidance and feedback during the Ph.D. program
  • Individuals develop strong ties with a few mentors and peers and interact regularly with these individuals throughout the Ph.D. and beyond. See the video about Dr. Double and Dr. Triple here.
  • Individuals develop collaborative relationships and work together during the Ph.D. and beyond (e.g., The Four Directions)

Patterns of engagement influence how PhD Project members map journeys together. In turn, impact of PhD Project engagement on participant journeys varies depending on the nature and timing of engagement.

[1] Steele N. 2014 Paying It Forward. The PhD Project. Montvale, NJ.