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Doctoral alumna in business administration, academic entrepreneur, mentor shares advice for graduate students, support for diversity

Anne York
Anne York

Anne York received her doctoral degree in business administration, specializing in strategic management, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She retired from Creighton University in 2017, after a 25-year academic career of sharing her knowledge with business leaders, faculty and staff members, and graduate students.

During her career, she founded and directed the Maverick Entrepreneurship Institute (University of Nebraska Omaha). York also founded and directed the Doctorate of Business Administration Program and the Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program and Professional Science Master’s in bioscience management (Creighton). Upon York’s retirement, Creighton and the university’s Heider College of Business commended her teaching, research and service, adding, “Her record also exemplifies a willingness to engage in projects with colleagues, and to shepherd junior faculty and doctoral students through the research process.”

York is a member of The Graduate School’s Graduate Education Advancement Board and a generous supporter of UNC-Chapel Hill’s graduate students. She enjoys engaging with graduate students and Graduate School programs focused on helping students succeed in their professional goals.

“Graduate students, and especially doctoral students who pursue careers in academia, will affect thousands of students’ lives and thinking over their careers,” she shares. Read more of her interview with Carolina Graduate School Magazine below.

What should people know about your career and, specifically, the difference your graduate education made in helping you succeed?

I come from a long line of educators, with my grandmother earning her master’s degree in English and languages at Columbia University back in the early 1900s. She used to read me Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales in Old English before I could read myself. I think I was destined from birth to be a graduate student and professor! While I received my Ph.D. in business administration from UNC-Chapel Hill, my undergraduate degree was in mathematics and my master’s degree was in Victorian literature. So I have always had an interdisciplinary perspective and have always appreciated the role that the arts and sciences play in our universities.

My career began as a teacher in public schools. A geographic move and marriage took me into the corporate world, where I served as a budget and planning manager for a Fortune 10 oil company in Alaska. I also earned a CPA certification and worked as a tax specialist for KPMG. All of these experiences informed my later career in academia. However, the greatest joy in my life has been the 25 years that I spent teaching and conducting research in business strategy and entrepreneurship at several universities, beginning with the University of Washington, then returning to the faculty at Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill, and finally, following a remarriage, working as a faculty/administrator at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where I was given the opportunity to become an academic entrepreneur. I especially enjoyed creating new programs such as a National Science Foundation-sponsored Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program, a Professional Science Master’s program in bioscience management and a doctorate in business administration, all for Creighton.  I also greatly valued my work with graduate students.

You have provided generous support for graduate education in many ways – serving on The Graduate School’s Graduate Education Advancement Board and providing funding for fellowships, to name two prominent examples. Why are graduate students and graduate education at Carolina a priority for you?

Graduate students, and especially doctoral students who pursue careers in academia, will affect thousands of students’ lives and thinking over their careers. They will be role models, mentors and guides who prepare students for their careers and help students learn how to conduct and interpret fact-based, ethical research, which is so important, especially in these times. Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, during the civil rights struggle, my first teaching position was in the Jackson Public Schools at the very beginning of the court-ordered desegregation process. I have always wanted to do everything I could to ensure that underrepresented minority students have equal access to and support for education. We need more faculty of color, especially in higher education, to serve as role models and mentors for our students.

In reflecting back on your years as a graduate student at Carolina, what experiences and support did you value the most here at UNC-Chapel Hill?

At Carolina, doctoral students were treated more like faculty colleagues than like other students. My UNC faculty mentors helped launch and guide my academic career. Bob Harris, Carl Zeithaml, Richard D’Aveni, David Ravenscraft and Hugh O’Neill were all excellent and compassionate role models. I also greatly valued the administrative support at the business school, led by Liz Griffin. While at Carolina, I was fortunate to serve as the president of the doctoral student association and had the privilege of representing my fellow students on the search committee that hired Paul Rizzo as dean. I learned so much from all of these experiences.

Do you have advice or thoughts to share with current UNC-Chapel Hill graduate students?

Oh, boy, how much space do I have? First, many who pursue doctoral programs do so because they want to become teachers. That is what I did, too, as no one in my family had ever earned a doctoral degree. However, I learned that to succeed and ultimately become a college professor, you first have to fall in love with research. Having a lifelong passion for research opens doors everywhere. Research keeps you mobile. It informs your teaching. It keeps your mind nimble. It makes you a learner for life. It stimulates your creativity.

A second lesson is to seek out good mentors and faculty co-authors, always respect and be grateful for their time, and learn everything that you can from them. Then be one yourself.

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