During my final semester of WCU’s MBA program, I worked with Dr. Yue Hillon and Dr. Steve Ha on meaningful projects that helped both individual businesses in WNC and the community as a whole. Although I had always had an inclination toward research, these projects and faculty members gave me the encouragement and information I needed to move out of my comfort zone in industry and into the world of academia. Unfortunately, I had very little recent experience in research and publishing and was behind the curve as far as applying to top tier management-strategy PhD programs.

Dr. Hillon first introduced me to the Socio-Economic Approach to Management (SEAM) in the MBA capstone class and during our discussions on future research and PhD program applications she invited me to work with her on her current research. The presentation of this research was to occur about six months later in Lyon, France where I would also attend the first portion of the training for SEAM. It was during this process that she proposed I apply for the post-baccalaureate fellowship through CSFE in order to make myself the best possible PhD candidate, not only for the application process, but also for the duration of the PhD program.

The SEAM training and conference in Lyon was a significant first step in my journey to a management-strategy PhD, and without the Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship from CSFE, I do not believe I would have been a successful candidate for admissions. The paper received the 2018 Best Paper Award from the Academy of Management’s (AOM) Management Consulting Division (MCD) and then later the Benedictine University Scholar-Practitioner Collaboration Research Award at the AOM Annual Conference in Chicago in the fall of 2018. We were then able to further our research topics and present at the Quantum Storytelling Conference in Las Cruces, New Mexico which gave us much greater exposure to the types of research that exist and the ways in which qualitative research has evolved both positively and negatively. These conferences also allowed me to extend my network and work on presenting skills and other soft skills that have been of huge value to my professional relationships.

Since that time, Dr. Hillon has been a great source of knowledge and inspiration in finding new ways to approach research topics, qualitative research methods, and in finding my own voice in my research.  We continue to work on fine-tuning our papers for resubmission to journals, as well as new papers.

Most importantly, I have been accepted into the management-strategy PhD program at Florida State University and will start in the fall. Because of this program through CSFE, I found a great ideological match at FSU, which has committed to giving me the best possible foundations in order to pursue a career in research. I am sincerely grateful for these opportunities and the close mentorship from Dr. Hillon, all afforded to me by this CSFE program.

Christine Madonna is a WCU Graduate and a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with the Center for the Study of Free Enterprise at WCU. She was recently accepted into the PhD Management-Strategy program at Florida State University.