Podcast Episode 29: Celebrating Diversity in the Classroom and Beyond

The PhD ProjectIn this podcast, DHG Chairman Kent Satterfield talks about his role as Chairman of the Board of The PhD Project. The PhD Project serves to increase the diversity of leaders in business by getting more diverse professors in front of classrooms at business schools. Data shows that more diversity in classrooms produces better outcomes for all students, and similarly, at DHG, we believe the more diverse and inclusive our teams are, the better outcomes we will be able to produce for our clients. Visit to learn more about The PhD Project.

Episode 29 Transcript

AGH: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of our DHG podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison, your host, and I love this venue because we get to hear from our team members about the things that matter the most to them; flexibility, careers, and people. So this month, we are celebrating Black History Month, and as part of that, we at DHG are celebrating inclusion and diversity in its holistic sense. I’ve invited our current chairman, Kent Satterfield, to talk with us about the PhD Project and his role with The PhD Project. Welcome.

KS: Thank you Alice Grey.

AGH: Let’s just start with The PhD Project, what exactly is The PhD Project? Photo of PhD Project professors

KS: The PhD Project was started in 1994 by KPMG and Citi Group and a couple of other organizations. Back in 1994, as best could be determined, there were less than 300 African, Native and Hispanic American business school professors. 300 out of 20,000+. So the whole end game of the PhD Project is to increase the diversity of leaders in business and the approach to do that is to get more professors in business schools in front of classrooms that look like minority students. Because it wouldn’t be unusual, particularly then, even now, in a lot of classes for an African American student, they may not have a business class that has an African American professor. The data is crystal clear that more diversity in classrooms produces better outcomes for all students. That’s really the whole mission. I can talk a little more in detail later on about how we’re going about making that happen.

AGH: Very cool. This is part of our inclusion and diversity strategy. Why is inclusion and diversity so important to us?

KS: For the same reason that it is in the classroom, we believe the more reflective our teams are of America in general and our clients, the better outcomes we’ll be able to produce for our clients. Diversity of thought, background, ethnicity, all of those things makes the team stronger and that’s why we’ve been focused on this for a number of years.

AGH: Right, absolutely. It seems so logical, it’s perfectly logical.

KS: Seems like we would have thought about this sooner.

AGH: How do we get involved in The PhD Project?

KS: We have a lot of KPMG connections. A number of our partners and others worked there earlier in our careers. So we were invited to learn about The PhD Project. We believed then, and now, it’s a direct fit for our inclusion and diversity strategy. We were invited to become a sponsor, which we did in 2009 and have been since then. I’ve been on the board for the last few years. Serving as Chairman of the Board of the PhD Project is really a great honor to get to.

AGH: Yes definitely, and we’re honored that you’re on and involved at this level. What does this role mean for you? What do you do?

KS: As chair of the board, one chairs the board meetings. But it’s enabled me, on behalf of DHG, to make a lot of connections that I wouldn’t have had; we wouldn’t have otherwise. For instance, the AACSB, which is the crediting body for business schools. They’ve been supporters/sponsors since the beginning and so through that I met a number of business school deans. I was on a task force to redesign accounting curriculum, some of those. The National Association of State Board of Accountancies — accountancy boards are our regulators, licensers. This is their sort of trade group. They are sponsored. Through that I’ve gotten to know a number of those people. So a lot of connectivity. The way The PhD Project approaches accomplishing the mission is really to attract people primarily out in corporate America. There would be some students right out of undergrad that would go into a PhD program. Far more often though, it’s through advertising in diversity magazines and other venues that connect with African, Native and Hispanic Americans who are working in corporate America that may have some inkling about becoming a professor. Every year in Chicago in November there is a conference and we’ll have 600 people apply, about 300 people are accepted to come to this two and a half day conference. They can learn more about getting a PhD in those two days than they would learn in a year on their own. Out of those 300 who attend, 45 or 50 will go into a PhD program and the vast majority of those, way higher than normal statistics, will complete their PhD, write their dissertation, get a PhD, and then become a business school professor.

AGH: Wow, that is so cool.

KS: It really is cool and it is like a  big family. Everyone is really connected. Most of these folks have families, were working and now, they’re getting a PhD. They have similar stories. “I wasn’t sure I could hang in, I was about to quit and I talked to,” — they don’t name names — “and they talked me through,” and it’s really pretty cool, amazing.

AGH: That’s really awesome. It sounds like the PhD Project’s been super successful over the years. What would you say are some of the major achievements and how do those achievements link to our success at DHG?

KS: In 1994 when it started, there were less than 300 minority business school professors. In 2017, there are over 1,300. So you think about that, it’s pretty significant and actually, I met and know the 1,300th PhD recipient and he’s a Hispanic guy and they refer to him as Dr. Quatro. It was really, really cool.Huge success there! What happens is once somebody is in a PhD program, they’re a member of the project forever. What happens is, you say in accounting they have a Doctoral Student Association, which would be all of the accounting doctoral students, minority. Then every year they have a conference that connects in accounting, the American Accounting Association, which is the accounting professor group. They get together, they all cover all kind of different topics, work together on research papers and peer review for each other. A lot of connectivity there, it’s been very successful. The other thing that’s really cool, The PhD Project is supported by Citi Group, KPMG, Dixon Hughes Goodman, Walmart stores, John Deere, Cigna.

AGH: Big names.

KS: Hershey Company, along with 300 universities and others. For DHG, when we joined, it put us in really good company and it directly does support our strategy to recruit a more diverse work force. Because through the PhD Project, we’ve gotten to know professors at most all of our key schools who are Project members and it’s not unusual at all for professors to refer students to us. For example, Tom Lopez, who is a professor at University of Alabama sent me an email about a specific student. In this case it was, “You all really ought to talk to this student.” And I think she is interning right now in our Atlanta office and it’s just because of that connectivity.

AGH: It’s relationships.

KS: It’s relationships, yes.

AGH: Which is on of our core values.

KS: Core values, absolutely. It’s kind of all a beautiful fit.

AGH: It is, it absolutely is. Well, thank you, on behalf of everyone for the work that you do for The PhD Project and for representing us.

KS: It’s great. Like you say, it’s one of the things I have a lot of passion about and great to get to do it for DHG.

AGH: Thanks for being with us today.

KS: You’re welcome.

AGH: Thank you all for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stories about our Life Beyond Numbers and our celebration of inclusion and diversity. Join us next time for another edition of Life at DHG.

About the PhD Project:

The PhD Project was founded by the KPMG Foundation in 1994 then became a separate 501©(3) in 2005, and recruits minority professionals from business into doctoral programs in all business disciplines. Since its inception, The PhD Project has been responsible for the increase in the number of minority business professors from 294 to 1,344. Further, 278 minorities are currently enrolled in doctoral programs, and will take a place at the front of the classroom over the next few years. The Project attacks the root cause of minority under-representation in corporate jobs: historically, very few minority college students study business as an entrée to a corporate career. Diversifying the faculty attracts more minorities to study business and better prepares all students to function in a diverse workforce. To learn more:

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