It takes a village and a variety of skills to succeed in the doctoral world. Here are a few of the many resources Wharton Doctoral Programs offers to help.

Like most of our doctoral students, perhaps you’re preparing to go into academia after completing your PhD. Being a professor and researcher today often involves opportunities to share your research with a larger audience than a classroom of students. The doctoral journey is meant to prepare you with the wide array of skills you’ll need to be effective whether you’re in front of the classroom or a conference stage.

That includes the polish to present and speak publicly with ease, the writing and communication skills to craft your dissertation and journal articles, the analytical know-how to research thoroughly and gather meaningful data, and the ability to teach — colleagues, pupils, or the general public, whatever the case may be. And, if you have family, you’ll need support in getting them through this journey with you.

Wharton Doctoral Programs offers a wide range of resources to help you thrive in the PhD program and prepare you for life beyond it. Here are a few of the top Wharton resources our students have highlighted as most beneficial:

1. 5 Slides 5 Minutes

Researchers often have the opportunity to share their work with a larger audience through social media and mass media outlets — but it requires nuanced communication skills. How do you take complex findings and communicate them to a general audience concisely without oversimplifying the message?

That’s the focus of 5 Slides 5 Minutes. Launched in 2014, this low-stakes, high-potential event enables PhD students to present an abstract to students, faculty, and staff to practice engaging non-experts in their research topic. Students receive an invitation to participate via email from the Doctoral Programs Office.

After students present, they can work with Wharton Communications Program to review their presentation and get tips on how to improve their communication skills. Wharton’s renowned faculty also share valuable insights with students about these presentations.

“We focus on individuals. We help them convey their research content most effectively given their style and personality,” said Lisa Warshaw, Director of the Wharton Communications Program.

2. Dissertation Boot Camp

The name might sound intimidating, but some students think of Dissertation Boot Camp as a two-week writers’ retreat. Hosted twice a year by the Graduate Student Center, it’s designed for students who have dissertation status but haven’t presented their proposal yet.

The camp offers an environment and support for intense, focused writing time as well as a review on the steps, deadlines, and University policies. Limited to 20 students, the small group gives writers a chance to make connections with others who are going through the dissertation process and provides participants with the structure and motivation to overcome typical roadblocks along the way.

3. Wharton Communications Program

The Wharton Communication Program helps Wharton PhD students become more effective communicators and thus better presenters, public speakers, and writers — all critical skills in academia. All doctoral students are provided with access to on-site, one-on-one writing coaching during the academic year.

Wharton PhD students are required to attend two workshops: First-Year Communications Workshop in the fall and First-Year Writing Workshop in the spring. The skills-based approach adopted in the workshops helps students develop their personal style and strengthen their confidence as communicators.

Through multiple practice opportunities, video recording of speeches, and rigorous feedback, the program provides students with a thorough foundation in communication theory and for doctoral students, focuses on research presentations and job talks.

4. Teacher Development Program Workshop

Offered in conjunction with the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Teacher Development Program is a four-session course. It gives doctoral students a foundation in core teaching practices to support their teaching at Penn.

By helping with presentation skills and academic job placement, the workshop prepares students to become faculty in the future. Ian Petrie, Senior Associate Director, Center for Teaching and Learning described the workshop as “a collective, collaborative program.” Each week features “microteaching” demonstrations, where participants conduct a brief lesson and get feedback from their peers and the directors.

The intent is that faculty and graduate students will engage and learn from each other to master fundamental teaching methods. “Every PhD student can leave the program having gained some new tools for teaching,” Petrie said. This exchange happens when doctoral students observe “talented colleagues from other departments to get a glimpse of how they teach.”

Students also have the opportunity to enroll in the CTL Teaching Certificate program to hone teaching skills and grasp a commitment to developing as teachers.

“I’d like everyone to come out of the experience feeling more confident about their skills as an instructor or presenter,” Petrie said. “Anything I can do to support doctoral students in achieving their goals is extremely gratifying.”

5. Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS)

With more than 50,000 corporate, academic, and government users, Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) is the global gold standard in data management, research analytics, and thought leadership. Researchers at more than 450 institutions in 36 countries across the globe depend upon this award-winning research platform and business intelligence tool — and researchers are doing the work to grow it right here on Wharton’s campus.

“The fact that the people who create the data, research analytics, and tools are here is super important,” said Prof. Cathy Schrand, Vice Dean of Wharton Doctoral Programs. “I’ve had early access to WRDS before it even became available to other subscribers. Top universities all over the world that have subscriptions to WRDS may only have access to certain elements of it, but we have access to all of it and it’s here on site which does provide an advantage.”
The platform allows researchers to access more than 350 terabytes of data in one location that spans across multiple disciplines, including accounting, banking, economics, ESG (environmental, social, and governance), finance, health care, insurance, marketing, and statistics.
“WRDS is by far the most important source of datasets for academic researchers. As a Wharton PhD student, you automatically get unrestricted access to every one of these databases,” said Itamar Drechsler, associate professor of finance at Wharton and NYU’s Stern School of Business, who has experience on both sides of the classroom – he earned his PhD from Wharton in 2009.

6. Wharton Behavioral Lab

A shared resource for all Wharton faculty, the Wharton Behavioral Laboratory (WBL) provides a variety of services that support data collection for behavioral research on business-related topics. The primary goal is to enhance the research productivity of Wharton faculty by minimizing the operational costs, both time and money, of conducting research.
With two locations — one in Steinberg Hall Dietrich Hall and another in Jon Huntsman Hall, doctoral students can gather original data through lab experiments and panels, instead of using secondary data created by others. Each year, the lab collects about 23,000 subject hours of data.
Research from WBL can consistently be found in national and international publications such as the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, and the Journal of Business Ethics.

7. Support for Families

For some PhD students, attending Wharton means relocating their families to a new city. To help students and their families ease the transition to PhD life, the Wharton Doctoral Program Office hosts the Maternity/Paternity Workshop, an annual event that talks about the resources available to PhD students with families.

Here are a couple of the key resources they highlight in the workshop:

  • The Doctoral Programs Office allows eligible students to apply for up to one year of additional school-level funding beyond their allotted funded year. Furthermore, students are eligible for up to eight weeks of time-off for childbirth and adoption and have the option of taking unpaid Family Leave of Absence.
  • At Penn, the Family Resource Center provides additional resources and facilities, such as a children’s playroom and two private lactation rooms, which cater to the needs of students with families. The Center also has two grant programs for PhD students to help offset the cost of childcare and family expenses, and health insurance for dependents.
  • Wharton Doctoral Partners & Families is a student-run online resource created to communicate the resources at Penn and Philadelphia to partners and families. Its mission is to empower members to transition and settle into their new lives.

Posted: November 6, 2018

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