Devin Kilpatrick

Devin Kilpatrick, PhD

Exploring Choice in a Meaningful Way

If there’s one theme that would describe Devin Kilpatrick’s approach to life and research, it would be that choices matter. He’s built his academic career around it and continues to explore this concept through his doctoral studies in Management and Organizations at the Ross School of Business.

Finding his passion

Devin’s interest in why people make the choices that they do began when he was an undergraduate student at Princeton University studying sociology and Latin American Studies. It was there he explored immigration and the challenging decisions people make to willingly face adversity in order to seek out new opportunities.

“People make really hard choices every day, and I’m really interested in understanding people, how they work together, and how the choices they make benefit them and others.”

He went on to earn his master’s degree in business management from Wake Forest University. When COVID-19 derailed his career plans, he took a position with the New York State Department of Public Health and witnessed the tough choices people were making around the pandemic and remote work. His focus turned to studying hybrid work, exploring choice and flexibility, and if and how the benefits for individuals come at the expense of team members or managers who might make different choices (or not have choice at all) in where to work each day. Initially considering becoming a high school teacher or a human capital consultant, Devin realized earning his PhD was where he could make the most impact.

“In the doctoral program, we produce knowledge and research that people and organizations can use to better themselves,” Devin said. “What better way to help and ultimately influence the world than by studying choice and teaching about the choices managers and employees can make?” 

Discovering Michigan Ross

Devin didn’t initially set out to earn his PhD when he began his academic career and admits that he approached it from a naive standpoint. Online searches and advice from a professor at Wake Forest eventually led him down the path to Michigan Ross.

“I looked for programs where there was a focus on producing high-quality research in a collegial environment where people are built up. I was also really interested in a larger school that serves a more broad, diverse population.”

He’s found that and more at Michigan Ross. 

I realized Michigan had the perfect blend of a caring, collaborative environment. Research matters here as a way to improve people’s lives. It was also a place where I could make my own choices from the very beginning in terms of the research that I wanted to pursue.

Exploring the Resources at Ross

In addition to the freedom to produce his own research, Devin appreciates the depth and breadth of connections faculty have with colleagues at other institutions and industries, and the mentorship he’s received from professors Lindy Greer and Sue Ashford.  

“In addition to being thought-provoking, hard-working research collaborators, I’ve found that faculty in the M&O department are willing to provide high-level advice about a career and a meaningful life in this field,” Devin said. “Plus they know people to connect to all around the world for research and growth opportunities. We have unparalleled access to gathering data and learning more about real-work experiences.” 

Devin also feels the strong, collaborative community among his fellow scholars has elevated his experience. “The connections I’ve made here have already been life-changing,” he said. “I rarely feel like we are competing; we are all ultimately interested in each other’s success.”

Learning in and out of the classroom

Devin has made the most of his time in Ann Arbor, balancing his work in the classroom as a student and as an instructor for a junior-level course (a requirement of the PhD program), with the plethora of activities available around the city.

“Deciding where to live for five years is a real choice people have to make, and you have to enjoy the journey. Ann Arbor is such a fun place where you’re surrounded by young, driven, hard-working people. I love it here,” he said.  

Planning for the future

Devin is open to opportunities for impact within academia, but one thing he knows for sure is that Michigan Ross is providing him the tools to be successful in whichever path he chooses.

“Something I really value about this program is that while I certainly feel like I’m being prepared to be competitive for any type of academic job, I also feel supported in any decision I make about the type of school where I would want to end up, large or small, rural or urban, in the United States or otherwise,” Devin said. 

Offering advice

Devin offers this advice to those considering pursuing their PhD at Michigan Ross: “I think Ross does a great job of building a positive culture within the department and offering a collaborative student experience where people collectively thrive. If you’re thinking about coming here, ask yourself: do you want to be part of a community where people are pouring effort, attention, and time into you? Are you willing and excited about the prospect of being an active community member of not just scholars but peers and colleagues? Are you willing to make an investment in yourself and other people? If so, I think you have your answer.”