"It Completely Shaped my Way of Reasoning... of Thinking"

Doctorates awarded to graduates of the IESE PhD program

10/08/2016 Barcelona


IESE PhD program: preparing world-class future academics with a generalist perspective and a strong focus on business ethic / Photo: Jordi Estruch

A new generation of management scholars are set to take up their places at universities around the world.

Six doctoral students have received their PhDs from IESE this academic year, with research interests that range from shareholder activism to impact investing; the banking industry in the context of adverse selection and moral hazard to theories of nonprofit organizations; and person-environment fit research to the organizational outcomes of competing leader emotion-related behaviors.

This diversity reflects the broad range of research interests of a diverse cohort of PhD students who hail from Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Dongmei Song from China, whose doctoral research focuses on organizational behavior, has submitted papers to the academic conferences such as the Academy of Management, and top-tier academic journals – fruit, she says, of the “confidence in research,” she developed over the course of the program.

The approach at IESE is to train you to be a rigorous researcher. We are thoroughly trained in qualitative and quantitative research. The other thing that distinguishes IESE is the general management approach. We are encouraged to adopt a holistic and generalist perspective of business organizations and concepts which means that our research is set within a bigger picture context, and in today’s globalized management environment, this is a key differentiator.”

Hers is a view that is shared by Tom Vandebroek from Belgium, whose field of research focuses on the organizational challenges of impact investing.

“From a research perspective, the generalist approach is more tricky as academic research tends to be focused on very narrow topics. But in the case of the PhD program, the implementation of the general management viewpoint provides a grounding in the core concepts, and involves taking into account different types of implications of a decision: This is what will matter in the long term, both from a societal and a firm perspective. IESE wants to equip its alumni to make an overall and lasting positive impact."

Florian Deutzmann, assistant professor of marketing at Erasmus University Rotterdam, agrees: “Pursuing my PhD at IESE Business School gave me a holistic view on management and business. The multidisciplinary course work provided an excellent foundation before diving into the depth of my field of research.”

“Moreover, having the possibility of closely collaborating with top scholars from my area and receiving the necessary support from IESE to broaden my knowledge inside and outside of the school was a major asset for kick-starting my career in academia.”

The PhD program admits around 20 students per year. Students start with a two-year Master in Management before progressing to the doctoral phase, which lasts between two to three years. There are a total of 11 fields of specialization currently offered on the program.

These range from accounting and control to entrepreneurship, managerial decision sciences, marketing and managing people in organizations. A key focus area is also business ethics – in line with IESE core mission to positively impact people, business and society.

Each PhD candidate is mentored personally by a member of faculty who will supervise their research and development as a scholar.

All admitted students obtain a tuition waver fee, a stipend to cover living expenses and financial support for conference attendance and research resources.

Looking for People With a "Passion for Research"

Academic Director of the PhD program, Prof. Christoph Zott, stresses the importance of mastering the “craft” of research: “Our aim is to train the thought leaders of tomorrow for successful careers in academia. So for us, the key objective is to help our students prepare as world-class researchers so that they can go on to work at the world’s top business schools and universities. We are looking for people with a passion for research.”

Irene Beccarini, whose research is in shareholder engagement, says: “Besides teaching me the content, and even more importantly, the methods required to be competent and to do relevant and rigorous scientific research in the broad field of management – and in particular in the field of strategic management – it has completely shaped my way of reasoning and thinking.”

“The PhD program has trained me to analyze empirical phenomena with a variety of lenses and methods, and ask the central questions for understanding them. It has empowered me to challenge taken- for-granted approaches, when they don't prove to be satisfactory, and to conduct multi-disciplinary research in order to benefit from advancements in other fields and shed new light on relevant phenomena.”

This has also been the experience of Federica Massa Saluzzo, post-doctoral fellow at the University of Bologna, whose research is centered on non-profit strategy and bi-directional relationships with firms: “IESE is a globally renowned school. Established scholars know IESE and the faculty members' contributions to research. For PhD students that attend conferences and try to create a professional network, displaying the ‘IESE tag’ is a great plus.”

“I was frequently stopped at conferences because of the IESE tag hanging from my jacket. The IESE brand also solicits high expectations: Scholars from other institutions expect you to be a high level researcher, and this is a powerful motivation to always do your best."

New Horizons, Commitment to Excellence

Doctoral students graduating from the IESE PhD program find placements at universities and institutions all over the world. Recent graduates have gone on to teach and research at universities such as a HEC Montréal, Warwick Business School, McGill University, and the University of Amsterdam.

This month, Shipeng Yan, whose research interests span institutional theory, the emergence of new organizations and strategy in financial markets, will defend his doctoral dissertation ahead of taking up an assistant professorship at Tilburg University.

“One of my areas of interest is mixed method research, and this comprehensive grounding in quantitative and qualitative research is one of the mainstays of the IESE doctoral program.”