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The best kept secret in Corporate America: The PhD Project

In this week’s episode, I had the distinct pleasure to chat with Blane Ruschak and Dr. Marinilka Kimbro about their work with The PhD Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the number of Black/African American, Latinx/Hispanic American and Native Americans in Ph.D. programs nationwide who encourage, mentor, support and enhance the preparation of tomorrow's leaders. With 1,420 activee faculty and 250 current Ph.D. students among its members, The PhD Project is truly making a difference in attracting diverse, top talent to pursue these impressive degrees. Our conversation is uniquely raw, and I’d encourage everyone to give it a listen. If you need a few key takeaways, though, you’re in the right place.


1. Cultivating Diverse Role Models Pays Dividends to Young Professionals

Key to The PhD Project’s mission is the pursuit of cultivating diverse role models. Dr. Kimbro shares with us that many schools cultivate isolation in diverse students, who seek professors that share their identities and lived experiences. Connecting with diverse professors, especially those with who one identifies, can be a key source of empathy, connection, mentorship, and inspiration. Dr. Kimbro speaks passionately about building institutions that cultivate diverse leadership, and allow young professionals to see their future selves in a myriad of professional spaces.

2. Accounting and information are intimately linked through data analytics

Accounting is a life skill - one you can practice in any field, anywhere in the world - that structures information so that it can provide value. As such, the information that accountants work with is as integral as the accounting mechanisms themselves. Dr. Kimbro and Blane discuss the importance of understanding statistics as the basis of data analytics, a key concept in many Ph.D. programs. Our conversation touches on the transferability of a career in accounting, the importance of familiarizing oneself with various math concepts, and the association’s approach to combating misconceptions of these realities.

3. Organizations should mirror society in their leadership

Our guest speakers highlight the importance of diverse leadership; organizations’ diversity measures must reflect the reality of their consumers and markets to be effective in their field. One key imperative to successful accounting is understanding one’s constituents and considering various perspectives when analyzing information. As such, Dr. Kimbro and Blane speak with pride about their work at The PhD Project, which seeks to provide diverse, top talent the opportunity to succeed. Their work has incredibly enables hundreds to find a spot at the table thus far.

🎧 To learn more about The PhD Project, how to apply these principles to an effective accounting career, or gain more mentorship advice from Cece Leung, listen to the Dear Accountant podcast here.

🎙 The Dear Accountant podcast is a uniquely insightful and entertaining podcast for aspiring young business professionals. Each episode is packed with actionable advice to help young finance professionals get ready for whatever challenge they may face next. Aside from all of the many cool things in accounting (technical topics and trends), we bring in industry experts and influential leaders to share their journey, insights, and perspectives. We also cover topics that were not taught in school - life essential skills such as personal finance, emotional intelligence, mentorship, networking, body language, and human behaviors, and so much more!

💬 About our guests, Blane Ruschak and Dr. Marinilka Kimbro:

  • Blane Ruschak is currently the President of The PhD Project, and recently served as Beta Alpha Psi President on the Board of Directors and has served on the Board of Directors as the Professional Partners Chair. He served on the Board of the Accounting Program Leadership Group (APLG), the Federation of Schools of Accounting (FSA) Board of Directors, the Board of Directors of the Education Foundation for Women in Accounting (EFWA), and on the AICPA Pre-certification Executive Education Committee (PcEEC). He lives in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended Rutgers College in New Jersey and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics, in 1980. He subsequently attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa where he received a Masters in Accounting degree in 1982. He’s

  • Dr. Marinilka Kimbro received her PhD in Accounting from the University of Maryland in College Park and has held research appointments at the University of Maryland, Groupe HEC-Paris, Hong Kong Polytechnic, IE- Madrid, University of Washington- Tacoma and Gonzaga. Originally from Puerto Rico, Marinilka says that the “island boundaries” that she grew up with; drove her to travel and work all over the world - and she believes this experience enhances not only her research, but also her teaching, something for which she has a passion. Her refereed publications appear in: Journal of Accounting, Auditing and Finance, Asia-Pacific Journal of Accounting & Economics, Journal of International Financial Management & Accounting, International Journal of Business Performance Management, Journal of Forensic & Investigative Accounting, Journal of International Accounting Research, among others. Her research has been recognized by: The Wall Street Journal, Roosevelt Institute, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Star Tribune, The Columbus Dispatch, Harvard Law School Forum, The South China Morning Post, Seattle Business Magazine and Handelsblatt. Dr. Kimbro has received numerous teaching awards and her students rave about her passion and ability to “bring real-world contemporary issues to the classroom” and by making accounting “relevant, intellectually challenging and fun”.

📖 Get amazing advice from the 20 mentors in “Dear Accountant” Book: The book offers a unique immersion into the lives and careers of 20 inspiring leaders in finance from different disciplines - their backstories, pivotal moments, career trajectories, and hiccups along the way.

🎧 Listen to Cece’s interviews about her passion and mission in writing this book and paying it forward to help young professionals to find meaning and fulfillment in their life and career:


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