I was really thrilled to participate in the 7th IVEY/ARCS PhD Sustainability Academy held in October, organized by Professor Oana Branzei from the Ivey School of Business. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the research of a very diverse group of 14 talented students representing 8 different countries. I really enjoyed discussing this promising work with my amazing colleagues: Tima Bansal, Oana Branzei, Andy Hargadon, Susan Jackson, Dev Jennings, and Dean Shepherd. The discussions were intense and stimulating! I think everyone came back from the Academy with a myriad of new research ideas as well as a set of new friends. Stay tuned for the call for the 8th IVEY/ARCS PhD Sustainability Academy, which will take place in November, 2015. Horacio Rousseau, from IESE, who was one of the participating students, was kind enough to send us his impressions of the Academy – enjoy!

My Personal Experience at the 2014 Ivey/ARCS PhD Sustainability Academy
By HORACIO ROUSSEAU, PhD Candidate at IESE Business School

For four exciting and intensive days, I had the opportunity to be part of the 7th edition of the Ivey/ARCS PhD Sustainability Academy. For those unfamiliar with the Academy, it is basically a four-day academic boot camp where fifteen PhD students receive detailed and rigorous feedback about their research projects from top-notch faculty in the field. In this year’s edition, faculty mentors included Oana Branzei (Ivey Business School), Magali Delmas (UCLA Anderson School of Management), Andy Hargadon (UC Davis Graduate School of Management), Susan Jackson (Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations), Dev Jennings (Alberta School of Business), and, Dean Shepherd (Indiana Kelley School of Business).

The Ivey/ARCS PhD Sustainability Academy was one of my best professional experiences as a graduate student.

Besides receiving feedback from faculty, participants also get tons of great comments from fellow PhD students. In my case, I was really lucky to share the Academy with amazing students from all over the world, including Omar Asensio (UCLA), Viviane Clément (The George Washington University), Steffen Farny (Aalto University School of Business), Jyun-Ying Fu (Imperial College London), Yanfei Hu (Western University), Elena Goryunova (Aix-Marseille University), Aarti Kataria (Management Development Institute), Brooke Lahneman (University of Oregon), Charon Marais (University of Stellenbosch), Lidia Gheorghiu (Copenhagen Business School), Brian Seongyup Park (INSEAD), Patrick Shulist (Western University), Chethan Srikant (Western University), and, Srini Venugopal (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). Everyone was truly passionate about conducting meaningful research and having a positive impact in the world. It was impossible not to feel motivated in such an environment.

Participating in the PhD Sustainability Academy also led to a substantial shift in the way I thought about my work. Of course I realized that, with Susan and Magali as mentors, I was going to be pushed a (long) step forward in terms of paper structure, definition of constructs, analytical rigor and so forth. But I didn’t expect to be also challenged to think more concretely about how my study might impact the strategies of real-world actors promoting sustainable change. In my case, this involved thinking more deeply about how my work could influence the strategies by which activists seek to engage firms in dialogue about social and environmental issues. Adopting this new perspective meant that I had to undertake some major changes about the way I approached this issue. Namely, I needed to complement the statistical findings with finer-grained qualitative data that would allow me to get a more nuanced understanding of the ‘behind the scenes’ of activist-firms conversations. And, to be honest, I’m now using this mixed-methods approach in my other research projects. In addition to this great individual feedback, I also had the opportunity to listen to the sharp comments made by both faculty and students to the other participants. These comments provided important insights on a wide range of issues, from developing a clear framing for the paper to highlighting its most interesting aspects. Throughout the sessions, it was clear that the faculty were committed to help the students make sound progress in their respective projects. Developing and sustaining a constructive yet intense working environment is really one of the unique characteristics of Academy.

In sum, the Ivey/ARCS PhD Sustainability Academy was indeed one of my best professional experiences as a graduate student. I’d absolutely recommend the Academy to all the PhD students doing research in sustainability and sustainability-related topics. There are many other great things about the Academy that I haven’t mentioned, but I don’t want to be a spoiler. Nevertheless believe me that you won’t regret a single thing about your stay in Ivey. Well, that’s not entirely true: you will regret not being able to repeat the experience.