03 Nov 2021

Supporting Doctoral Program Diversity: HBS Hosts Rising Scholars Conference 2021


by Shona Simkin

Leonardo Barcellos and Kalan Norris

On October 20 and 21, diverse doctoral and postdoctoral students from across the country gathered virtually to present their work and interact with faculty at Harvard Business School (HBS) and other institutions. The second annual Rising Scholars Conference originated at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2020 to support doctoral student and faculty diversity through opportunities to gain feedback, insight, and exposure, and expand academic networks.

HBS Dean Srikant Datar and Dennis Yao, the Lawrence E. Fouraker Professor of Business Administration and chair of the Doctoral Programs at HBS, gave opening remarks. Sessions included talks with Linda Hill, Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at HBS and chair of the Leadership Initiative at HBS, and David Thomas, former HBS professor and current president of Morehouse University; a research presentation by Patricia Satterstrom (DBA 2016), current assistant professor of management at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; a conversation on self-care in academia with Sadé Abraham, an academic coach at Harvard University; and a closing panel on building a mentoring network James Cash, the HBS James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus; Hise Gibson (DBA 2015), senior lecturer at HBS; Wiljeana Glover, associate professor at Babson College; and Michelle Shell (MBA 2003D, DBA 2020), visiting assistant professor at Boston University. Student presentations included work in the areas of accounting, diversity and intersectionality, strategy, economics and policy, and leadership.

We talked with two participants, Leonardo Barcellos from Emory University's Goizueta Business School in Atlanta, Georgia; and Kalan Norris from the University at Buffalo School of Management in Buffalo, New York, about their research and experience at the conference.

What is your area of research, and how did you get interested in it?
Barcellos: When I got to Emory, I was fascinated by how everyone I talked with tried to guess where I was from. I saw that people had different reactions—as soon as they learned that I was a PhD student I suddenly became a genius, and I am not a genius! I went to psychology research and looked at stereotypes of accents. In finance, earnings conference calls with CEOs are becoming more popular as people try to decide whether or not to invest. Research shows that the tone of voice and speaking traits that CEOs show in these meetings have an effect on price movements, but we don’t know anything about accents, which is a very important feature of how we speak. My advisor Kathryn Kadous graciously accepted to join me in this project, and together we found that investors reconcile conflicting stereotypes from nonnative accents and the CEO position by inferring exceptional qualities—such as hard work and determination—onto CEOs with non-native accents, and hence onto the company as an investment.

Norris: I came to the University at Buffalo School of Management to do leadership research. In my first year, I reviewed the diversity literature and found that a lot of papers didn't examine within-group differences. We have a tendency in the social sciences to treat race as a monolithic entity; we group people together—white, Asian, Black. In doing so, we lose a lot of nuance in the individualized experiences that people have in their workplaces, particularly with minority individuals. That was the catalyst. I had great mentorship from my advisors, and I started looking at leadership and diversity—my first publication explored delegation, a behavior many people think of as effective leadership, but that others can perceive as pushing tasks off and avoiding leadership. My current papers look at inclusion, with research on how individuals see themselves as esteemed members of a workgroup, and on the degree to which minorities monitor their interactions with dissimilar others to downplay behaviors that could be stereotyped as racially distinct.

Why did you attend the Rising Scholars Conference?
Barcellos: I went to last year's conference, and it was fascinating. Even though my paper has been accepted for publication—in academia it's kind of silly to present research after being accepted because you're not going to be able to incorporate the feedback you receive—I decided to submit it because I thought it was relevant to the program, which promotes diversity.

Norris: This is the second annual conference—I went last year, and my whole life changed. The University at Buffalo School of Management is a top-tier business school, but it doesn’t have the same brand power as a Stanford or a Harvard. To be in that space and present quality research puts you in the minds of others—you might make a worthwhile connection or a mentor or a friend. Ultimately, it’s truly about the exposure, and now, in my fourth year, it’s time to put in the work and see if I can manifest my goal—to be hired by nothing less than a top 10-caliber business school. I feel it's important to get into those spaces so people see you presenting your work.

What resonated with you during the conference?
Barcellos: I focused on the two sessions in accounting, my area, and I really liked hearing other people’s research. I also liked the conversation with David Thomas—I loved the story he told us about his life in academia and what he had to face to get to his position. His advice to pursue what we love, whether it's controversial or not, was important to me. I do get people asking if it's important to look at stereotypes and if there's a real way to measure how it affects markets, and I faced some pushback from people who didn't want to hear about this very human behavior that we all have—I have my own stereotypes, everyone does. I really liked that conversation and it was very encouraging for me to listen to him, a very prestigious scholar. And getting feedback—it was encouraging to have people ask questions and show interest in stereotypes of CEOs and minorities.

Norris: It was an amazing opportunity for diverse PhD student scholars to not only get exposure but to see top programs that maybe five years ago wouldn't have had this push to increase enrollment of diverse faculty members or PhD students. The time is now. It's a great, eye-opening experience to see programs like Harvard and Stanford opening their doors to us. They listened to our research and gave us a platform to potentially make a good impression so that when we go on the job market or look for a postdoctoral position, we might have the opportunity to come to a place like Harvard. It might just be one or two students or faculty here and there, but over time it makes a positive and vast impact. This is my second year of teaching, and it's an amazing experience when a fellow person of color or a young Black student comes up to me and says they've never had a Black professor before. Shouldn’t all students of color have the opportunity to have a faculty member of color?

Thank you so much, Leo and Kalan—we can’t wait to learn what you do next!

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