Time gives us perspective. It allows us to reflect on the significance of the past, how to be present in the now, and imagine the future. As the Sprott School of Business celebrated a milestone event—the 25th anniversary of the PhD program in Management—the faculty and students—both past and present, were excited to express their thoughts on the significance and impact of the program over the years, its success today, and what directions the program will take moving forward.

On the evening of October 29, 2020, over 60 Sprott faculty, students, and alumni gathered via Zoom to commemorate the success of the program. Included in attendance were the three “founders” who were instrumental in launching the program many years ago. Nicolas Papadopoulos, Roland Thomas, and Louise Heslop recounted the days when the PhD program was simply an idea, and how bringing that idea to fruition was in fact quite challenging, with multiple formidable hurtles to overcome. But by the fall of 1995, the first seven students began the inaugural PhD in Management program.

Wonderful resounding ardent expressions: synergy, leadership, relevancy, trailblazing research, collaborations, life-long relationships, family—these are the words used by the group to describe the strengths of the school and PhD program. For the Sprott team, it is not just about their passion for research and higher learning, or their passion for seeing real change in the world and being an agent of that change. There is an inherent quality to Sprott that exemplifies higher learning; a group of academics who challenge and inspire, and who set forth skills and strategies that transcend beyond Carleton and into the rest of their lives.

As one of only a third of the business schools in Canada to offer a PhD in Management, the program has proved hugely successful over the years, amassing over 100 graduates to date. Moreover, it is one of the only two programs to offer part-time options.

Shaobo JiThe director of the program, Shaobo Ji says, “The program is designed to train highly qualified professionals who will be working primarily in academia, as well as other organizations, such as research institutions, government agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, and industries.”

The Management program spans many research areas, including Accounting, Marketing, Operations and Supply Chain Management, Information Systems, Finance, and International Business. The students come from a diverse background—from around the world, industry, or academia, and all have gone on to thrive in their respective fields—as professors, deans, and leaders in industry.

The success of the program can be attributed to many factors, but of note, to the distinguished faculty who are leaders in their research areas who are often conducting ground-breaking research. Moreover, there is absolutely a strong collaborative and synergistic milieu. Fostering a multidisciplinary approach to learning and developing quality research is essential to prepare students with the tools to move forward post-graduation; elements that were deemed essential from the inception of the program. Students work with faculty across many disciplines combined with a strong emphasis on deploying industry expertise and in working closely with businesses to truly understand their needs to develop strategies for better business practices.

Rob MittelmanRobert Mittelman, (PhD/15), now acting Dean of the Faculty of Management at Royal Roads University in Victoria, B.C., reflects: “The Sprott PhD program was an incredible challenge as we dove into theory and literature like never before. And, the most valuable take-away [for me] was the interdisciplinary research and collaborations. If we are going to tackle [grand issues], we have to look beyond our traditional disciplinary borders.”

This sentiment is echoed by Papadopoulos: “One of the greatest sources of joy I have had is working with our doctoral students and colleagues. The [PhD] program has created synergy, it has helped bind us together, to enhance Sprott’s collegiate spirit, and to increase tremendously our research and teaching capabilities.”

What’s more, the PhD program is highly competitive worldwide. Admissions are tough and program design and requirements are intensive, with nine mandatory courses, a comprehensive exam, thesis proposals and dissertations, a teaching certificate, and participation in research seminars. There has been, and continues to be, a strong impetus for creating a quality program that produces exceptionally qualified graduates.

Over the past year, with the COVID-19 pandemic and other world events, many new challenges and substantive impacts to the state of the economy, businesses, and society have emerged. The Sprott team, consequently, understands that it is essential to keep the program proactive in the needs of teaching pedagogy and deliver the PhD program in novel ways.

The mobilization of students to remote learning and integrating technology into the teaching regime has been both challenging and full of opportunity. The school knows that they must be leaders in change—with a focus on adaptability and maximizing the benefits of how technology can expand the connections and networks within their research sphere. This means adapting teaching during a time that traditional face-to-face interactions and sharing of ideas is not possible.

The Dean of Sprott, Dana Brown’s advice for doctoral students is that “it’s not just about the quality of your research, or your ability to teach, or your CV as it’s written, it’s who you are as a person. It’s about building relationships and joining a community.”

Sean Lyons (PhD/04), now Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies, of the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph, agrees, “There has been a rapid change and the School needs to reimagine how we teach, train, and engage with students, the research we do, and how it impacts the world.”

Looking into the future, the Sprott team concur that relevancy is key. The faculty continue to evolve and adapt their research to not only stay substantive, but more so, be preemptive to the needs of business and society—thinking holistically about the purpose of business, the responsibility that Sprott has to globalization and creating an inclusive growth pattern, knowing they have a responsibility to shape what the future of business looks like.

Shantanu Dutta, (PhD/06), now Interim Vice Dean, Research, of the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa, emphasizes “that there are challenges, but also opportunities to leverage technologies for collaborative work with academics and business leaders from around the world.”

The Sprott School has consistently demonstrated exceptional standards of research, teaching, higher learning, and industry relationships. But what’s more, the Sprott team has a truly unique quality and is what makes the PhD program particularly special. The faculty and students alike see their experience in the program as one akin to having a family. There is an extremely strong sense of pride from faculty and alumni when speaking about the program—a resounding concurrence on how the Sprott program is a community with a strong focus on quality, relevant, and forward-thinking research.

As Ji states: “As a family, I believe it’s important to remember our past—our roots—in order to move ahead and embrace the future.” And that is worth celebrating!

Thursday, November 12, 2020 in
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