Astrid Van den Bossche


DPhil Programme in Management Studies






Started in 2013

By Astrid Van den Bossche

Hand in the honeypot

One of the perks (and curses!) of doing a DPhil is the endless opportunity to learn more. Not just from books, from your supervisor, or your immediate colleagues, but from the vast university network of scholars who all have incredible knowledge to share. Be it a standalone lecture, a lunchtime seminar, or a full-blown course, sometimes it feels like there is a cornucopia of information waiting behind every closed door. No wonder lecture halls rarely fill up at this university—for every talk, there are a dozen others just as compelling.

Personally, I enjoy attending undergraduate lecture series on subjects that I miss from my own undergraduate days (call them tidbits of nostalgic refreshment), on subjects that I wish I had taken (but probably wouldn’t have appreciated at the time), and on subjects that sound somewhat relevant to my research, in some intellectual parallel universe (I often feel like an alien in these, grappling at strings of familiarity and leaving with just enough inspiration to last the day). A bit of philosophy here, a bit of history there, the occasional gender studies seminar to spruce up the menu, and many failed attempts to branch out beyond. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Others have rather more pragmatic approaches. One colleague is currently scurrying between five graduate courses, all vaguely related to what may be(come) relevant to his research. A voluntary baptism of fire, a voracious rampage through skills and knowledge. A quest for the moment all pieces fall into place. Another colleague decided to attend an introductory course on philosophy for social scientists, and came out thinking new thoughts on her discipline, her interests, and her approach. Taking a step back from the routinized assumptions under which Management researchers operate, this sort of pilgrimage does have a way in unearthing the novel and the tantalizing. And on the other end of the spectrum, some colleagues have gone into full lockdown, turning a deaf ear to the indomitable temptation of just wanting to discover more…

…There’s always more. In the wider University, term started on a strong note with the ‘Narrative and Proof’ panel, which consisted of none other than Marcus du Sautoy, Ben Okri, Roger Penrose, and Laura Marcus debating the affinities between mathematical proof and the literary narrative. I walked away reeling with inspiration. Just this week, the Saïd Business School Dean’s Seminar recapped homegrown research presented at the World Economic Forum. It set quite the standard. Here’s to hoping we will hold our own at next week’s Winter Doctoral Conference.

Would time be better spent just reading and writing? Academics have an appetite to hear researchers respond to each other live, and perhaps witness those inevitably vulnerable ‘aha!’ or ‘uh oh…’ moments. Like in a colosseum. Even if the memory of these talks soon softens into snippets of half-baked ideas that do no justice to the originals, there must be value in the exchange. Perhaps, as yet another colleague once pointed out, “it all makes you better at what you do.” I sure hope so.

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