PhDs Are Critical to Top-Tier Status

For Mohsen Bahmani-Oskooee of the Economics Department, the 2017 commencement ceremony was a milestone event. That Sunday, he placed hoods on his 49th and 50th doctoral students: Seyed Hesam Ghodsi and Sujata Saha, respectively. He believes he holds the record at UWM for the most doctoral students produced by a single professor.

Bahmani-Oskooee, a distinguished professor and holder of the Patricia and Harvey Wilmeth Professorship of Economics, says that the number of PhD students a university graduates is directly related to its standing as a top research institution. “In 2016, for the first time in the history of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Carnegie Foundation included us in the top 115 research universities out of 4,665 universities that were evaluated,” he says, adding, “We finally got there!”

Relationships with faculty are critical when a PhD student reaches the doctoral dissertation phase, he explains. “It’s at that stage that the students need somebody to lead them, advise them, and show the way they have to start and finish.”

Philanthropic support is also a key element to a PhD student’s success. Gifts that help doctoral students defray costs of traveling to conferences or submitting papers to academic journals have a real impact. “A hundred dollars might not be that much for a faculty member, but for a graduate student, that’s a lot of money,” says Bahmani-Oskooee, who is also director of the Center for Research on International Economics. The center was created through a gift from Patricia and Harvey Wilmeth.

“Generous support from friends like the Wilmeths is helping our faculty and graduate students, promoting our research, and moving our mission forward. Because of their gift, I spend more time doing research; inviting guest speakers from schools like the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and UW-Madison; and working with my students. I feel very honored to carry the Wilmeths’ name.”