THE PH.D. EXCELLENCE INITIATIVE, supported through a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, identifies high-achieving college graduates of color (or graduating seniors) who have a passion for economics and prepares them for the rigors of top-tier Ph.D. programs within the discipline. The Initiative positions these high achievers for further success in academia through its focus on research excellence, writing for publication, and peer networking and support. A high degree of one-on-one mentoring (working closely with Peter Blair Henry) is also a hallmark of the Initiative.

Description and Instructions for Application (PDF)

Harnessing Untapped Talent: The Problem of Underrepresentation in Economics

Untapped Minority Talent in Economics PhDs (chart)

Despite greater overall advancement in higher education for minorities, data reported by the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession (CSMGEP) make clear that disproportionately few of these minorities, particularly African Americans, find their way into the field of economics—both in terms of doctoral graduates and number of professorships.

Such underrepresentation is significant, since policymaking bereft of insights from economists of color can result in an incomplete understanding of the impact of the policies—not only on communities of color but on the U.S. economy as a whole, due to the increasing importance of minority groups in the general population. The Ph.D. Excellence Initiative aims to address the problem by augmenting the skills of already highly qualified candidates and channeling them into top-tier Ph.D.-granting institutions where they will also serve as highly visible role models for others and help break the self-reinforcing pattern of underrepresentation.

Components of the Initiative

The Initiative adds one outstanding college graduate each year, bringing him or her to New York City to receive an annual stipend to work and study full time as a Research Scholar for two years with Peter Blair Henry, professor of economics and dean of NYU’s Stern School of Business.

The Ph.D. Excellence Initiative is an intensive, highly individualized training program that rests on four pillars of success for doctoral studies: Economic Research, Writing/Publication, Advanced Coursework, and Mentor/Peer Support.

Research Scholars participating in the Ph.D. Excellence Initiative take an active role in collaborative empirical research for papers to appear in economics journals. Scholars hone their research skills by assisting with hypothesis formulation, data collection, and rigorous econometric analysis. Through critical engagement with research and exposure to some of the most significant economic issues of the day, Scholars have an opportunity to more clearly define their own research interests and generate ideas that may form the basis of future journal publications and/or dissertations.
Recognizing the importance of publication in leading journals as a primary path to success for academic economists, the Ph.D. Excellence Initiative focuses heavily on the development of high-quality writing throughout the year and during the Initiative’s Summer Workshop. Each year, Workshop participants attend a symposium for works-in-progress and enjoy time and space for the generation of viable future research topics and article ideas.
An additional benefit of participating in the Ph.D. Excellence Initiative is the option to enroll for credit in up to two New York University classes per semester. Following an assessment of their undergraduate transcripts, Scholars will receive individual guidance in selecting the best enrichment courses from among NYU’s offerings in economics, advanced mathematics, statistics, or other relevant subject areas.
Mentor and peer support is widely acknowledged as a powerful “make or break” factor in Ph.D. program success, especially for students of color. Research Scholars in the Ph.D. Excellence Initiative enjoy a high level of mentor support on an ongoing basis. In weekly scheduled meetings, Scholars have the chance to discuss and receive advice on research, coursework, publications, and other areas. Through the Ph.D. Excellence Initiative, participants also gain access to a growing network of similarly motivated, highly successful scholars of color who have gone on to doctoral programs at top-tier institutions. The Initiative’s annual Summer Workshop in New York City unites past and present participants and encourages collaboration and lasting connections, providing additional avenues of support for scholars as they advance in their careers beyond the Initiative.

Peer Network and Prior Participants

The Ph.D. Excellence Initiative Peer Network consists of current and past Research Scholars, together with former research assistants (predating the launch of the program) who have gone on to top Ph.D. programs at institutions such as MIT, Berkeley, Duke, and Harvard. Past and present scholars participate in an annual Summer Workshop in order to share ideas, work, methodology, and professional experience, and for increased levels of mentorship and peer support.

Apply or Make a Referral

The Ph.D. Excellence Initiative now seeks a full-time scholar to begin work in New York City during the summer of 2018, for the following academic year.

Applications are currently being accepted. THE NEXT DUE DATE IS FEBRUARY 16, 2018.
Description and Instructions for Application (PDF)

> Inquiries/additional information: peter “dot” henry “at” stern “dot” nyu “dot” edu