Astrid Van den Bossche


DPhil Programme in Management Studies






Started in 2013

By Astrid Van den Bossche

On doctoral colloquia

One year ago, my colleague and fellow blogger Guillermo Casanovas detailed the proceedings of 2014’s Spring Doctoral Conference with revealing insight. This year’s doctoral research event, held on February 12, differed in little but name—the Winter Doctoral Conference was as much a success and revelation as its predecessor. Our brothers and sisters in arms presented their academic tap dancing skills to the Saïd Business School public in exchange for a few heckles, a few snores, and a delightful post-event dinner to quell the exhaustion.

Jesting aside, these talks are great opportunities to discover, in greater detail than usually covered in hallway catch-ups, what the DPhils are up to. What remains striking about the program—and I have this from unbiased outside sources who snuck in to see what “these business people actually do,”—is the impressive breath of subjects the field hides amongst its folds. We kicked off with an ‘Ideas Market,’ where brave first-year students put veterans to shame with their impressively cogent research plans. Next came a slew of talks creatively subsumed under three sessions, the titles of which barely contain their diversity: ‘Scepticism, Ideology, and Contested Logics’, ‘Financial Markets, Debt and Crises’, and ‘Entrepreneurial Innovation, Accountability, and Reputation’.

If you think about it, this breadth makes sense when studying ‘business’, ‘markets’, and ‘organisations’. It’s not a random miscellany of interests, but rather an incisive search for the theories and methods that will best tease apart the intricacies of these man-made organisms. It has struck me how widely read the best business scholars are. This kind of scientific environment sharpens intellectual acuity and encourages the younger scholar to ponder the uncomfortable questions, from the milder “How is this different from what’s been done before?” to the dreaded “So what?”

But what sets this crowd apart the most is its eagerness to shed new light on phenomena we have barely begun to understand. A faculty panel granted Anna Custers an award for her work on information avoidance in debt management. (Do you ever quietly shelve a letter, unopened, because you fear what’s inside? She knows you do.) Alysia Garmulewicz was commended by the audience as best presenter of the day for her captivating talk on open source 3D printing. (To my regret, no one asked her how far we are from being able to print candy at home, though I’m sure it was on everyone’s minds.)

Edmund Crispin, in his delightful Gervase Fen series, feigns incredulity at the oddities this place tends to harbour: “It is true that the ancient and noble city of Oxford is, of all the towns of England, the likeliest progenitor of unlikely events and persons. But there are limits.” Perhaps those limits are not too quickly attained at a place like the Saïd Business School, where doctoral students play and play to ensure the next Doctoral Conference is as offbeat, refreshing, and enriching as the last.

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