December 21, 2015
One particular graduate from the College of Business and Economics, who walked across the stage at December 2015 Commencement to receive his doctor of philosophy degree last week made history at West Virginia University: he was the first-ever graduate of the new Ph.D. in business management program.
Drew Carnes initially came to WVU in 2010 to leave with an education in MSIR, in which his plans were to take his master of science degree and work in the human resources department of a manufacturing company. Little did Carnes know that he’d come out of the program with a whole new set of plans.
Carnes got a small taste of teaching through a graduate assistantship during his MSIR studies. It was then that it dawned on him to pursue a doctorate.
“I really enjoyed teaching, enjoyed making that difference in students’ lives. That really encouraged me to go on and get started with it,” Carnes said. “I also began to really enjoy the research aspect of it. It was so neat to me, that I found this whole other thing that I had no idea I would really come to enjoy.”
Carnes began toward the journey of this newfound career choice by applying nationwide for Ph.D. programs, a journey that the faculty and administrators at B&E had been informed of; luckily for Carnes these exact faculty and staff members had been discussing the launch of a new doctoral program in business management. Carnes was offered a spot, and made the decision to stay.
As with any brand-new program, curriculum, scheduling and other expectations were being formed as Carnes and his committee moved through it, giving Carnes room to leave his personal fingerprint on the program.
“I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out when I started, and soon the management program started to change a lot, for the better. B&E brought in new faculty, those who were able to support the new Ph.D. program, which was neat to be in the center of,” he said.
The experience that Carnes got at B&E isn’t typical of most doctoral programs throughout the country. Carnes said that, where he might have had to share the attention of his committee members with four other classmates, he had his committee (Dr. Joyce Heames, Dr. Mark Gavin and Dr. Jeff Houghton) all to himself.
“I was able to work with professionals that have a very established record in the field on a two-to-one ratio, where I could’ve been one of four students anywhere else,” Carnes said. “I was able to ask questions, polish my skills and get experiences I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. The size of B&E’s program is really great for developing students and leading them to solid job placement.”
With the start of Carnes’ first year in the program, B&E launched the Ph.D. in business administration program in 2011. The program is designed to prepare students to assume faculty positions at business schools around the globe. Students are exposed to world-class faculty members who are committed to fostering the development of the students through academic research and instruction of university-level courses, and can focus in accounting, finance, management or marketing.
Gavin, assistant dean for graduate programs and research impact, spoke to Carnes’ dedication to the program and how he has paved the way for the students who follow him.
“It takes a lot to get a program off the ground, including having students who are willing to invest in the program beyond themselves. Drew did that very well, especially in the mentoring perspective to the students who entered the program after him, and we really couldn’t ask for a better student from that perspective,” Gavin said. “He helped shape expectations, define work ethic, and modeled those things for the students that came after him, helping them to develop. He was very important in getting the program on its feet.”
Carnes noted that while it was a challenge not knowing what would come next, it was quite rewarding in the end, despite the uphill battle at times.
“The size of WVU’s program is a real competitive advantage for us needy Ph.D. students – at WVU, the Ph.D. students can dip their brush into experiences and opportunities that they couldn’t get at any other place.”
Once he was finished with the Ph.D. program officially at the end of August 2015, he transitioned into an assistant professor of management position at Western Carolina University, where he had earned two bachelor’s degrees prior to his time at WVU.
“To just see the amount of positive change in the management department, and be part of that change is interesting to me – this experience is what I am most proud of. It’s extremely rare that someone can say they were the first graduate of a program like that. I really appreciate B&E for the opportunity to be a part of history.”