PhD Cohort Bears Fruit
A decision taken by academics from the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance to take ownership of their education by forming a PhD cohort is paying dividends.
The cohort was created by Finance Lecturer, Ms Kerry-Ann McCullough, with the aim of creating a supportive environment for staff members Ms Michelle Hatch, Ms Ralitza Dobreva, Ms Patricia Shewell, Mr Raj Rajaram, Mr Barry Strydom and McCullough to work on their PhD proposals.
Under the guidance of seasoned academics such as Professor Jim Fairbun, Dr Phocenah Nyantanga, Dr Claire Vermaak, Dr Harold Ngalawa and Dr Colette Muller, the PhD candidates met regularly to discuss and share ideas on how to refine their PhD proposals to bring them in line with the requirements of the Higher Degrees committee.
McCullough, whose research under the supervision of Professor Mike Murray and Mr Barry Strydom is on the price of discovery and information transmission on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, said the idea of a cohort appealed to her because she needed a platform to engage with people wanting to share challenges and solutions.
‘I was drawn to the idea of a cohort model for many reasons, the main one being that doing a PhD is very solitary work and so being in a cohort with like-minded people which helps make the process seem less overwhelming,’ said McCullough.
‘It is a lovely way to keep up to date with each other’s research and progress. We have also been very lucky to have a number of senior staff dedicate their time to helping the cohort out, and we have found that having a team of people on your side is incredibly valuable for the sharing of ideas and for extra motivation,’ she added.
Fellow colleague, Ms Patricia Shewell said: ‘I was made aware of the cohort through School structures when I started work on a proposal early in 2013 around the time the cohort formed. I knew the support of the more experienced colleagues offering their assistance would be invaluable.’
Shewell’s research topic is titled: “Towards Value-Adding Performance: A Finance Function Performance Metric for the South African Freight Forwarding Industry”.
Speaking as a mentor, Fairburn said although scheduling meetings between the Westville and Pietermaritzburg campus was a challenge, the outcomes were definitely worth it.
‘When somebody has gone to that much effort there were several of us who were very happy to just put a few hours aside to attend and offer advice about how best to proceed. Although not all of us were there at all meetings we would attend when we could, and simply offer comments or advice on the PhD students’ work,’ said Fairburn.
‘Typically there would be a presentation of a draft proposal or chapter from one or two participants and an updating report from everyone else.’