Toronto Skyline

June 24, 2013, by ICCSR

News from a BESTS Scholar in Toronto

I had read their work. I had written about their contributions. I had even admired them from afar. Now it was time to spend some quality academic time with some of the most established CSR and Marketing scholars at Schulich School of Business (York University, Toronto) as part of my BESTS award from the University of Nottingham Graduate School, supported by Schulich Professors Andy Crane and Detlev Zwick.

I arrived as a Visiting Student Scholar at Schulich in May 2013 for a two-month study visit and immediately began populating my calendar with breakfast meetings, lunch discussions and dinners on the patio with anyone who would be happy to speak to me. Come rain or shine, I was there, notepad at the ready, fully prepared to extract the maximum amount of ‘brain juice’ from these seasoned academics. What are the differences between a European and North American academic career path? Can you give me any advice on how I can work through the vast amount of qualitative data I have gathered? Who else should I meet?!

Conversations ranged from detailed analytical discussions, to reflective narrations of a life in academia. As an ‘academic tourist,’ I sampled a range of local delicacies, visiting coffee shops, restaurants and bars in every corner of the city where energetic brainstorming sessions cultivated new ideas (and potential research collaborations). When the conversations took a slightly more critical twist and I found myself defending my research and the decisions I had made, I perhaps felt a little out of my comfort zone. I guess, in the words of one of the Professors I met, I just needed to work out and own my own ‘intellectual space.’

Aside from these formal meetings, I presented my work at a number of conferences and workshops, and gained a huge amount of tacit knowledge through chatting with students, hanging around on campus and culturally immersing myself in all things ‘totally’ Canadian. PhD students at Schulich face a very different reality from the one that I do in the UK. Whilst I aim to finish my PhD in three years, with the key output being a comprehensive thesis (and potentially a publication – fingers crossed!), the students at Schulich will aim to complete their PhD in five years, with at least three publications underway. Compared to my two supervisors who support my intellectual development throughout the entire PhD process, PhD candidates at Schulich choose their main dissertation topic at the end of their second year and employ a committee of around three Professors to nurture their research interests as co-authors on publications.

Aside from these structural differences, the PhD students shared common goals and insecurities and as I spent time with the international student cohort I realised that the more you talk about your research, the more you work out exactly what it is that you are doing (and want to do). Research really is a social construction and as I reflect upon my time at Schulich and continue to search for the hermeneutic ‘a-ha’ moment in my data, I remind myself of one of the best pieces of advice I was given during my visit – follow what you are interested in.

To everyone who supported my visit, made me feel so welcome in Toronto and humoured my ongoing musings for the last two months, thank you so much. This has been an invaluable personal and professional experience.

By Sarah Glozer (@Sarah_CSR), Doctoral Researcher at the ICCSR, Nottingham University Business School.

Image: by Sarah Glozer

Posted in Academic ACTIVITY