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“Taking academic knowledge into the industry” – The PhD story of Aleksandra Zivanovic   

2023-04-05 15:12:21

In the following weeks, we tell the stories of PhD students who have received the Creative Research Idea Scholarship and are successful in their fields of research.

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Aleksandra Zivanovic is a third-year student at the Doctoral School of Sociology and Communication Science at Corvinus University of Budapest. She is passionate about sustainable fashion and education.  

Aleksandra started her PhD studies because she realized that she wanted to do an own project. “When you work for a company, you work for its missions and goals. During PhD studies, you can explore the topics that interest you” – she told us.   

She comes from Serbia but lives in Budapest for many years now. “Budapest offers a lot. It is a very vibrant city” – she tells us. “You can sit in a coffee place and meet people from all around the world. I feel like the whole world is in a small city”.  

Since the beginning of her bachelor’s studies, she is a student at Corvinus University. She has a BA degree in communication and media studies and an MSc in marketing. Since the beginning, she appreciates the international environment at Corvinus. She thinks it means an opportunity to learn about other cultures and collaborate with people who have work experience from all over the world. After finishing her master’s studies, she realized that she is particularly interested in sustainable fashion. “I knew that I would get full support at Corvinus to explore this topic” – so she started to think about which doctoral program she should apply to.   

“I wanted to return to communication science because I loved the atmosphere of that department, and I had a great thesis supervisor during my BA studies”. Gábor Kovács continued to be her supervisor during the PhD. His support is very important for Aleksandra. She really values their relationship because the supervisor is the only person who closely follows the whole process of doctoral studies. Besides valuing the support from the university, she doesn’t have illusions about the hard work of being a PhD student: “In the end, it’s your own project, so you should be the one who puts the most effort into it”.   

Researching sustainable fashion communication  

Luckily, Aleksandra has a big amount of intrinsic motivation that keeps her going. It stems from her curiosity and passion on her research topic, sustainable fashion communication. “Every time you put on a piece of clothing, you become a consumer of a trillion-dollar industry. Over the last few decades, the production process has accelerated like never before due to globalization, industry competition, and the instant gratification mentality of today’s consumer culture” – she explains. The concept of sustainable fashion is becoming popular, and studies show that we are starting to take into account the effects of fashion on the environment and society. “When you explain what sustainable fashion is clothing that not only reduces the impact on the environment but is also mindful of the people who work to produce the garments, people like the concept, but then they end up spending money on fast fashion. (Fast fashion is cheap, trendy clothing that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture.) Their positive attitude towards sustainable fashion does not translate into a purchase. That’s called the attitude-behavior gap”.  

In her research, entitled “Green is the new black”, Aleksandra investigates how companies could bridge the gap between consumer attitudes and decisions. She assumes that this can be achieved by creating suitable and effective communication messages that convince the consumers. To construct these messages, cultural differences should also be considered. The young researcher has noticed that most of the studies that tackle this issue consider consumers in Western Europe or Scandinavia. “A unique aspect of my research is that I am focusing on Visegrad 4 countries because this region is often neglected in academia”.  Thus, she aims to create a collaboration between researchers of the region and bring fresh insights on the behavior of consumers in these countries.   

She has noticed the importance of networking during the past years. “I was very surprised about how open people are to talk about a topic of shared interest”. She started to build a network consciously online. That is how she found the opportunity that lead to her biggest success yet. “I was one of the reviewers for the United Nation’s Environmental Program. They created a sustainable fashion playbook, and I had the chance to read and review it before it was published” – she told us.  

Becoming a professional expert  

By the end of her studies, Aleksandra would like to become an expert on sustainable fashion communication. She thinks that the degree could provide her advantage in the industry. Additionally, the results of her research and her up-to-date knowledge of the field could be useful for companies. “I really like the approach of taking academic knowledge into the industry”.  

The long years of doctoral studies could seem frightening, but she thinks of them as a huge investment into the future. 

Besides carrier aspects, she is also motivated by the learning process. “I want to educate myself on how to become a more sustainable consumer. This means that I am also educating the people around me”.  She finds it important to show younger generations the problems of the fashion industry and the alternative ways of consumption. Her dream is to introduce a course on environmental communication at the university that could prepare students for the newest challenges in the industry.  

To reach all of these goals, Aleksandra developed a specific mindset and tactic. “Even though PhD is a long journey, I just do one step at a time”. She sets rather small, achievable goals for herself than thinking a lot about the future. For example, reading one journal article every day motivates her more than thinking about how she is going to write more than a hundred pages for her doctoral dissertation. She learned from the book The War of Art how to overcome creative block. “The book explains the concept of the amateur and the professional. I understood that the amateur is someone who does something because he loves it. But the professional wakes up and comes to work every day.” 

I think being a doctoral student means becoming a professional. 

Written by Tünde Taxner  

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GEN.:2024.05.23. - 19:18:15