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Ljubljana Doctoral Summer School: An International Platform Connecting Top Researchers

26.07.2018Comments are closed.

The Ljubljana Doctoral Summer School (LDSS) at the FELU is a learning platform for PhD students allowing them to improve their knowledge and skills via specifically designed courses, intense work, and networking with other students, academics and professionals. In July 2018, the Faculty of Economics is hosting this programme for the 5th year, with 82 participants from all over the world participating in 8 highly intensive courses. We had the honour of talking with Professor Arun Rai of Georgia State University, Robinson College of Business, USA (course on Theory Development), Professor Jagdip Singh of Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management, USA (course on Multivariate Analysis of the 4M Model) and Professor Vesna Žabkar of the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana, and head of the Doctoral Summer School, who also personally participated in one of the classes.

The Ljubljana Doctoral Summer School connects PhD students, post-doctoral students, academics and professionals. What motivated you to join the programme?

Professor Rai: I know the faculty here, and have a very high regard for them. Also, the subject I teach is something that I am very passionate about and I think it helps students a lot in their research, not just short term, but long term. So, I am very motivated to ‘make a difference’ in the research lives of students all over the world and this allows me to do that. And finally, I love Slovenia! It’s such a beautiful place and it is always one of my favourite places in the world to visit. The people are wonderful, the scenic beauty of this place is striking, and the hospitality is amazing.

Professor Singh: I teach mostly doctoral education where I am, and the research world is becoming globalised and we want to bring different students from different parts of the world to be connected as a community and as a network, so I’m always looking for opportunities to visit other countries. I think my motivation was just in that spirit, that as a senior scholar I would like to see a community being strong and research minds connected so that they can all do better with the resources they can master through the network.

Professor Žabkar: I am convinced of the need for life-long learning and believe the summer months are a good time to expand one’s horizons or deepen knowledge in specific areas. In the role of academic coordinator at the doctoral summer school, I am very involved in designing the programme and interacting with lecturers before we put the programme offering together. Our aim is to design a programme that enables PhD students and interested researchers to improve their knowledge and skills, as well as to build networks with other students and researchers. We aim to include courses that would be of interest to students and researchers from different disciplines within business and economic studies as well as in other social sciences. Every year we add new topics and areas so that the school attracts students to return in following years.

How would you describe your overall experience, especially with the course(s), academic and organisational staff and students? What are your thoughts on the dynamics within the classes as well as other social events and programmes that are offered?

Professor Rai: I think it is terrific. The administration here has done a fantastic job in organising this summer school, attracting excellent students from many different countries. In my class alone, I think we have people from 10 or 12 countries. The students are very motivated, they come well prepared. The logistics of the programme is externally smooth. I have participated in programmes all over the world and the quality of the students, their motivation and the logistics are all excellent, so I compliment the administration, they really have done a fantastic job.

Professor Singh: This is my first visit to this summer school and I did not know what to expect. But there are three nice features of the programme I really like. The first is the diversity of the students, who come from different places, different countries and it is nice to see them work together. In my class, they work in teams, so it is wonderful to see how this collaboration can occur in such a short period of time. The second thing is that is it very condensed. There is a high level of strong activity during the programme and it may seem very challenging, but it actually gives the group a lot of focus to make many things happen in a very short period. I am always impressed by how such external constraints can be so powerful in building that collaborating spirit. So, initially I thought these five days would be too tight and I wondered how this would work, but the students have been very responsive, active and focused to keep up with what we need to do. The third thing is the arrangements, which are very convenient for me and very efficient.

Professor Žabkar: In short: compact classes, very interactive, plenty of opportunities for exchanging ideas, social events in the afternoon to enable networking, and a lot of quality time spent with other participants in the summer school.

How do you see development of the research network through this Summer School and what, in your opinion, is the programme’s greatest value?

Professor Rai: I think this type of programme provides significant opportunities for people, not just to learn from classes, but to get to know each other at a personal level and also in terms of common research interests and potential collaborations. I see this happen with the number of students who have talked with each other, exchanging contact information. So, I think there is a lot of that happening already. I am right now working and helping some of the faculty I have met and, in my stage of career, I find it rewarding to meaningfully help young faculty members who are very enthusiastic and energetic.

Professor Singh: In my class, many of them have not worked together until now and others came from the same schools with an already existing mutual research network. For several of them, this is a new mix, and it is up to them to what extent that network remains strong and powerful to keep them connected.

Professor Žabkar: Certainly, the participation enables a deeper understanding of research approaches and some hand-on experiences with analytical tools for use in my future research and mentoring.

What would you define as your biggest personal takeaway, what are your suggestions for improvements and to whom would you recommend this educational programme?

Professor Rai: I would say, just continue doing this fantastic work. I think this is my fourth time around here so I’m a veteran at this point and I think they have already made a very distinctive impact on the community, not just at the University of Ljubljana, but much more broadly. So, in my mind, this is helping the research impact or reputation of the university and I think this is a fantastic thing, this is what higher education should strive to do on the research level.

Professor Singh: My takeaway is that this should continue, that more of this bringing together of different people from different countries is the kind of thing we need for our field to be vibrant, to be active. And this is another example of how we can be more effective in the research we do. And today’s research is very different because it requires different types of people to collaborate and develop a strong idea for publication purposes or to advances in social and economic lives. I also enjoyed Ljubljana for personal reasons because I got I bike, visited Tivoli Park and was quite happy with its bigness and how popular it is with the local residents. I will definitely go back with the idea that this city is good for keeping healthy, strong and enjoying nature.

Professor Žabkar: Its value arises from the intensity, the interaction with lecturers and the networking possibilities. Summer is a good time to attend such programmes that would not be possible in other periods of the year. In terms of improvements – I interact with participants a lot and we immediately solve any issues that can be resolved easily. Other than that, I hear a lot of very positive feedback from our participants. I am very glad about the way the Ljubljana Doctoral Summer School is running and would recommend it to any young researchers in business and economics to delve deeper into research methods and approaches and be better prepared for the competitive research world.

Iva Drvarič, Efnews


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