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The community was very welcoming from day one” – The PhD story of Anna Freund

2024-03-21 09:43:00

During her doctoral programme, Anna Freund had the opportunity to teach, work as an Assistant Lecturer, join a research group and become part of a close-knit professional community at Corvinus University. Her recently defended thesis proposal is on the digitalisation of the food supply chain.

Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem

Since she started university, Anna has been interested in supply chains. She completed a Bachelor programme in technical management and a Master programme in supply chain management, the latter at Corvinus. This was when she met her future doctoral supervisor, Dr. Judit Nagy, Associate Professor at the Corvinus Institute of Operations and Decision Sciences. As a result of their collaboration, Anna was also able to participate in a research project during her Master programme. Her lecturers at the time, the staff members of the Department of Supply Chain Management, recommended her to start a doctoral programme.  

“I had a certain curiosity about the academic field and the idea of getting to know a lot of people in the process was very tempting. The students come from a very wide range of backgrounds, and I am constantly expanding my network of contacts in the course of my research. For me, flexible working hours are also an important factor, they suit me very well,” says Anna. She has now completed more than four years as a student at the Doctoral School of Business and Management, and obtained the final certificate of  the Operations and Decision Sciences Doctoral Programme in August.  

Research group and networking 

“The community was very welcoming from day one,” Anna recalls of the first year of the programme. It was at this time that her supervisor founded the Food Supply Chain Research Group, which Anna joined. “As a PhD Student, when I was essentially at the beginning of the process, it was a great advantage to be part of a workshop with an approach that helped my research.”  

Beyond the research team, she also got to know her fellow students. “It was helpful to get a lot of advice and good practice from the students in upper years. I would encourage everyone to make contacts not only within their own cohort, but also to try to talk to students higher up the ladder.” One of her colleagues, for example, defended her dissertation two weeks before her, which was a good example for her. 

Skills development and study visit abroad 

During the first two years of the doctoral programme, students study in small groups. “I was able to complete my professional subjects with colleagues whose work I have looked up to for a long time. What I see is that lecturers at the doctoral school are  unquestionable from the professional point of view and you can absolutely learn from them,” says Anna. Professional subjects are linked to each other, and students can usually work on their own topics. Anna particularly liked the fact that most courses have a tangible outcome, such as a manuscript at the end of the semester. 

“Very soon I also started working part-time as an Assistant Lecturer, and I was given tasks that also helped my professional development”. Anna had the opportunity to teach classes from the beginning of her programme. She also taught business economics and operations management. She feels that the challenges have improved her communication skills in recent years. She also learned how to communicate and present scientific topics in an understandable way during her programme. 

“I also had the opportunity to develop a skill that was not part of the department’s portfolio before,” says Anna. She was able to take part in a one-month training abroad, where she learned the method of bibliometric academic literature analysis. This proved useful not only for her dissertation, but also added to her academic knowledge base. Since the programme, her colleagues have had the confidence to turn to Anna when they need this method. 

Dairy-farm and management 

The Easter Kinder scandal or the controversy over the export of Ukrainian grain show that problems in food supply chains are constantly on the agenda. The food industry is ranked fifth out of ten critical infrastructures at EU level. According to Anna, digitalisation can also help to increase traceability and thus security in this industry. “When I started the research, my initial assumption was that the food and agribusiness industry is lagging far behind the automotive industry in terms of digitalisation. I wanted to see the whole chain, to explore the domestic situation”.  

Anna has carried out a comprehensive study that approaches the topic from a management perspective. She worked in a dairy-farm, with farmers, then in a processing plant, as a cheesemaker. Finally, she went all the way through the chain to the retail sector to see the digitalisation solutions and levels of development. “Perhaps the closest to my heart is the dairy industry – it was an exciting research experience all round. I think I visited three dairy farms at the beginning of my doctoral programme, and that left a deep impression on me”. In addition to the case studies, she has also conducted a comprehensive literature research on the topic, and her dissertation will eventually consist of three articles published in top-ranked journals. 

Written by: Tünde Taxner 

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GEN.:2024.04.15. - 22:54:44