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Wharton's Bridge to a Doctorate Program offers mentorship, individualized research opportunities, and financial support for students pursuing a Ph.D. in statistics. Credit: Zenna Haroon

Wharton's Department of Statistics and Data Science has established the Bridge to a Doctorate Program, designed to prepare students for doctoral studies in statistics. 

This two-year research master's program offers mentorship, individualized research opportunities, and financial support, including tuition, stipends, health benefits, and resources for Ph.D. program applications.

Dylan Small, Universal Furniture Professor and Chair of Statistics and Data Science, founded the program to uplift students who may need access to certain resources for success at the doctoral level.

“People who grew up in communities with a lack of resources, such as role models in statistics and related fields, may get a late start in thinking about statistics as a career path,” Small said in a Wharton Story. “Our program seeks to help students fully tap into their potential and to ensure that we continue to develop bold thinkers who will be prepared for the challenges of new sources and new statistical problems.” 

The program began in the fall 2023 semester with the induction of the first two Bridge fellows

The summer before matriculating into the Bridge Program, fellows take a skills assessment to aid faculty mentors in developing an individualized course plan. Each fellow is assigned a faculty mentor and a Ph.D. mentor, both of whom guide the student regarding coursework, research, doctoral program applications, and career outlook. 

Nancy Zhang, professor of Statistics and Data Science and Vice Dean of Wharton Doctoral Programs, co-directs the program with Small. She said in the Wharton Story that she was excited to serve as a mentor for the fellows. 

“There are bridge programs in other fields at many schools, but very few in statistics and in data sciences with the explicit focus on preparing students for Ph.D. study and a future career in research,” Zhang said. “Although this is only our first year, I am getting questions from colleagues in statistics at other institutions interested in developing their own bridge programs similar to ours.”