Native Americans are largely absent from corporate boardrooms, executive positions in major corporations as well as many small and medium-sized businesses, but Amy Klemm Verbos, Ph.D., J.D., an assistant professor of management at the University of South Dakota, is working to change that.
Verbos and educators from institutions across the United States, including Deanna Kennedy, assistant professor of operations management at the University of Washington Bothell; Joseph Gladstone, assistant professor of public health management at New Mexico State University; and Dan Stewart, associate professor of management at Gonzaga University; are developing strategies to attract Native American students to business majors as part of The PhD Project.
Founded in 1994, The PhD Project is a program that supports African American, Latino American and Native American students into Ph.D. programs with the goal of putting more professors of color in front of business students. Last year, according to The PhD Project, only 12 Native Americans were in enrolled in business doctoral programs.
"The great news is that we've been enormously successful as our graduation rate for students in the program is better than 90 percent," said Verbos, who is a member of the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi Indians. "The problem is improving those numbers for Native American students, who have been largely overlooked when it comes to doctoral programs."
Verbos and her colleagues' work was highlighted nationally in the publication "Diverse Issues in Higher Education" (http://diverseeducation.com/article/49678/) outlining their mission of increasing Native American students majoring in business and directing graduates toward doctoral programs. For the last five years, Verbos, Kennedy, Gladstone and Stewart have traveled the country presenting at conferences and publishing papers on the importance of Native American values and the impact those principles have in encouraging Native America students interested in business as a major.
"At USD, we present to First-Year Experience students and talk about why they may wish to consider business as a major," added Verbos, who has taught at USD since 2009. "We show them what they can accomplish with business degrees and that there's a tremendous need for people with business degrees.
"Business, as a major, has been a little less important in the tribal community generally," Verbos continued, "but the importance of those degrees is becoming greater in South Dakota and across the nation."
For more information about the PhD Project, please visit https://www.phdproject.org.