With so few role models, many minorities don't even consider a PhD, preferring instead the more popular MBA – until they're drawn in by the project's recruitment web. Each year, the nonprofit invites potential career-changers to an introductory, all-expenses-paid conference where professors, deans, and current minority doctoral students demystify the PhD pursuit.
"We uncovered four myths that would have been preventing people from thinking further about it," says Bernard Milano, president of both The PhD Project in Montvale, N.J., and the KPMG Foundation, a business-education backer and the project's principal funder.
First, people think they have to earn an MBA before a PhD. Not true, he says. Second, they expect a PhD to be costly. In reality, most doctoral programs waive tuition and give a stipend. Third, people well into a career often assume they're too old to switch, but business schools look for PhD candidates with work experience. Finally, there's the perception that scholars take a vow of poverty. With a shortage of business professors projected to intensify in coming years, Mr. Milano says, it's not uncommon to start out with a six-figure salary.
"I wasn't sure what to expect, but when I went to the conference, I was sold," says Jennifer Cordero. She started a PhD program the next year at the University of California, Irvine. A former banker, she wanted to combine her interest in international marketing and her academic curiosity.