In addition to preparing students for the workforce, the College of Business develops students for PhD programs. They help create the next generation of professors. These former students share their stories.
Mentors make a difference
Dr. Yaoyi Xi, assistant professor of finance at San Diego State University, started his journey at Missouri State University’s Dalian campus. He transferred to Springfield his junior year and earned a bachelor’s in finance in 2010.
It was during his time at Missouri State that he was inspired to consider a doctoral degree.
“I decided to pursue the PhD route mainly due to conversations with Dr. Stephen Haggard. I took his class the first year I was enrolled in Springfield and was amazed by his passion and knowledge about finance. The way he delivered his lectures also encouraged me to know more about finance. After talking to him, I learned that being a finance professor can be a good career and a PhD in finance is required,” he said.
Dr. Haggard, a professor in the finance and general business department, was Xi’s mentor.
After graduation, Xi attended a year of Missouri State’s MBA program to equip him for the PhD program.
“He held my hand and guided me through the preparations. He helped me solidify my math skills by developing a list of courses to take before I left MSU. He also helped me get into the MSF (Master of Science in Finance) program at the University of Tulsa, which offers a PhD preparation route,” Xi said.
In 2018, he received his PhD in finance from the University of Kansas.
Today, Xi is an assistant professor of finance at San Diego State University. He enjoys research and teaching.
“I hope my research projects can help advance the understanding of corporate decisions and provide insights to increase corporate efficiency,” Xi said. “I also hope I can inspire my students to become future business leaders.”
Guided by COB professors
In 2007, Guo came to Missouri State from China.
“My original plan was to get a graduate degree and see what I can do. During my study, at least two IT professors mentioned pursuing a PhD. As an international student, I thought that would be best for me to advance my career,” he said.
While working on his MBA, he met his future wife, who was from the Dalian campus in China. Guo wanted to stay in the United States and hoped for a career in the academic field.
“I got a lot of encouragement from faculty members here. The program prepared me well for my PhD studies. Through my time here, I adjusted to the different culture and language and learned how to become a researcher. I really appreciated the help and support.” he said.
In 2014, Guo graduated from Ole Miss with a PhD in Business Administration-MIS (management information systems).
Guo landed a job at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, and taught in the Computer Information System and Security department there until 2018.
That is when a friend and former classmate, Dr. Lawrence Yang, called and told him Missouri State was hiring. Guo applied and was hired. His wife also works for Missouri State in the Education Abroad office. They have two children.
“And it was happily ever after,” Guo said.
A life changed
Today, Hayden Hollingsworth is a PhD student and graduate assistant at Louisiana State University, studying information systems and decision sciences.
Hollingsworth credits professors in the College of Business for where he is today.
After high school, Hollingsworth was on the verge of joining the military to pay for college. But his best friend had just been accepted to the College of Business and she encouraged him to follow her to Springfield from Smithfield, Missouri.
“She convinced me because of MSU’s affordability, because I could get in-state tuition, I could get some decent scholarships and they had a really good business program,” Hollingsworth said. “I am so grateful for Missouri State. I’m in such a great position today and it wouldn’t be without all of you guys, and without the university.”
At Missouri State, he found his passion and several mentors.
The first was Dr. Randy Sexton, who taught a machine learning class that Hollingsworth fell in love with. The two men got to know each other and one day Dr. Sexton said, “I really think you should get your PhD.”
At the time, Hollingsworth wanted to be an ethical hacker and pushed the comment aside, but it planted a seed.
Then, he took a class with Dr. Xiang Guo, who is also the academic advisor for the Association for Business Information Technology Students (A-BITS). Hollingsworth was president of A-BITS, so they spent a lot of time together. One day, Hollingsworth asked told Dr. Guo what Dr. Sexton had said.
“And he said, ‘I definitely agree. This is what it means. At least think about it,’” Hollingsworth said.
When Hollingworth approached Dr. Joshua Davis, who was department head of information technology and cybersecurity, for his opinion, Dr. Davis was all in.
“The moment I bring that up, he clears his desk. He’s a very visual person. So, he gets his markers out and he’s drawing on his whiteboard and he’s like, ‘You need to do this, and you need to do that and this. Start looking out for this, etc.,’” he said.
And it helped Hollingsworth better understand what a PhD means.
It isn’t just about being a professor, it’s about being a lifelong learner.
“At the end of the day, I feel like who I am is a student,” Hollingsworth said. “And going into your PhD, and becoming a professor, you realize that’s really what your job is, to be a full-time student. Obviously, there are a lot of responsibilities, like teaching and research, but the mark of a truly great professor is someone who never stops being curious.”
Hollingsworth would never have considered this path if it wasn’t for his mentors. No one had ever explained all his options to him. Most students come to college focused on a degree and then a job, he said.
Once Hollingsworth realized he wanted to pursue a PhD, he had the task of being accepted. The mentors helped with that, too.
Hollingsworth wrote several drafts of his personal statement.
“And Dr. Davis read and gave me great feedback on every single one of them. He shared his Statement of Purpose with me. And then I got four letters of recommendation from: Dr. Davis, Dr. Guo, Dr. (Deepti) Agrawal, and Dean Meinert,” he said.
Hollingsworth’s #1 choice for graduate school was LSU and his #2 was Washington State University. He got into both.
In May 2021, he graduated with a bachelor’s in cybersecurity and IT infrastructure and a minor was in data analytics.
“I seriously would not be anywhere without their assistance, and ultimately, their love, their care, and their passion for me,” Hollingsworth said. “I really feel like they shaped who I was, and they took the time to invest in me. And to me, that’s one of the most important and meaningful things that you can do for someone is to really take a lot of time out of your day to show that you care because you want them to succeed.”