February 22, 2012, by ICCSR

A CSR research seminar in Ghent

The night before… I have arrived in the beautiful city of Ghent to be met by couples cosying up under big red papier-mâché hearts and fairy lights in pizzerias along the river… It’s Valentines Day 2012 and I have arrived in this quaint Belgian city to talk about my true love tomorrow: my PhD in sustainable consumption! I am, however, feeling slightly anxious given that this is my first research seminar…

Having spent the last four years working in industry, I am used to presenting. What makes me nervous is the fact that I won’t be representing the ‘corporate line’ tomorrow; I will be sharing my own thoughts, opinions and research ideas. It feels very personal and quite new being only five months into my PhD. Still, I feel excited at the same time to be given the opportunity to travel, to network with a group of international academics, to gain some constructive feedback on my research and, above all, to taste some of Belgian’s famous chocolate! So I await tomorrow with nervous anticipation. I hope that I am fully prepared for the presentation and that the questions won’t be too challenging…!

The night after… So it’s the night following the presentations and I have returned to my hotel room having spent the evening ‘Celebrating CSR’ with my new PhD friends. The night consisted of sampling a number of key Belgian drinks (Kwak, Genever…), chatting about varied cultural, professional and academic backgrounds, strolling through the city and becoming rather philosophical about what the future holds, and generally taking the opportunity to reflect on what has been an incredible day.

I was dazzled by the beauty of Ghent by day and was not disappointed when I entered into the converted monastery, which houses Vlerick Leuven Management School, this morning. On arriving into the bright and airy seminar room, I was met with a collaborative environment where ideas could be shared freely. The CSR academic panel provided detailed advice around the PhD process, offering tips and words of support to all 20+ students in attendance. The students themselves also brought interesting experience and perspectives to the table. In fact, some of the most interesting conversations I had were with the other students. Getting to know everyone formally and informally was a lot of fun and I feel inspired to be part of the world of academia after today.

Most importantly, my presentation went really well! I felt that I captured all of the key points and gained constructive criticism around the areas of my research that needed it the most (my conceptual framework). The audience seemed genuinely engaged in my research, which gave me a huge confidence boost. I gained some invaluable feedback (particularly from my academic idol who chaired my workshop on ‘CSR and consumers’!) and I have been provided with much food for thought on how I can really strengthen my unique contribution.

The next day… So, now I am on the train back from Brussels to the UK, what can I conclude about my 2 days in Ghent? Well… I have loved every minute. I now have my first insight into the world of presenting academic research and I can honestly say that I liked it! I have learnt that an academic career can provide some exciting opportunities and I have gained some clear direction on how to build my research. Most importantly, I have met some fantastic people, both seasoned academics and fellow students, from all over the world.

On reflection, the common theme that bound us all together was our collective passion for CSR. From quants to qual methods, economic theory to social movement theory, all participants shared a common interest, and I find this really motivating. I hope to continue to ‘celebrate CSR’ with like-minded academics in the months and years to come. I already can’t wait for my next speaking opportunity…  I am leaving Belgium with a notepad full of ideas and a suitcase full of chocolate!

By Sarah Singleton.  Sarah is a doctoral student at the ICCSR, Nottingham University Business School.

Image supplied by the author.

Posted in Academic ACTIVITY