My CSFE story actually started in 2017 when the Center was just getting off the ground. I had established a relationship with my Business Strategy professor, Dr. Yue Hillon, and we wanted to do some research together so I could start exploring what it would mean to be in a doctoral program. The Center’s director, Dr. Lopez, had just started looking for projects like this and so Dr. Hillon and I applied for research support for the 2017-2018 year. This funding provided the support to do innovative research with the NC SBTDC (Small Business & Technology Development Center) about how perceptions of challenges that businesses face differ between counselors and the business owners. The support also allowed us to present our research at an organizational development conference in France later that year. Additionally, we presented this research at the preeminent Academy of Management Conference and won the Benedictine University Scholar-Practitioner Collaboration Research Award that year.

Post-Bacc fellowship recipient, Alana Pierce speaking with faculty advisor Dr. Yue Hillon

Dr. Lopez and the board of the Center were gracious enough to continue support for 2018-2019 through a formal fellowship program, the Pre-Doctoral Fellowship. This program provided me with a formal mentor relationship with Dr. Hillon and support to conduct more research, attend trainings and conferences, and prepare for and apply for doctoral programs, all to help me get into the best program I could and supporting my success once I get there. In March, I was accepted into the school of my choice, HEC Montréal, in the Management, Strategy and Organization program.

I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been to be part of this program. It has really allowed me the space to explore what it means to be an academic, and, I have come to find out, this is really important. The PhD track rules, priorities and norms are so different from any other experience I’ve had. You really need help not just navigating through it, as your PhD supervisor would do, but also navigating to it. Also, this program can help you get ahead of the game by starting your professional network, getting research under your belt and just having a greater understanding of what you are getting into. It’s also important to be self-motivated in this program because this is something extra the professors are taking on. They don’t have time to be walking you through each step and taking on accountability for you. Instead they are a mentor and support when you need it and a guide on what will be helpful in understanding the academic landscape and getting you accepted into the school of your choice.

All in all, I have nothing but great things to say about the program and I’m honored to be one of the first participants. Thank you to CSFE!


Alana Pierce is a WCU Graduate and a Post-Baccalaureate (now called the Pre-Doctoral) Fellow with the Center for the Study of Free Enterprise at WCU. She was recently accepted into the PhD in Administration: Management, Strategy and Organizations program at HEC Montreal. She received the Scholar-Practitioner Award from the management consulting division of the Academy of Management, a distinguished international association devoted to management and organization research.