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Interview with Liudmila Chambers

Former oikos PhD Fellow, Liudmila Chambers, has won the Best Management Thesis Award 2014 from the University of St. Gallen. The oikos Newsteam has interviewed her to celebrate her achievement and discuss her learnings. 


How would you describe yourself as a person? What are your drives and passions? 

It is probably not surprising that the first thing that came to my mind when I was thinking how to describe myself is my strong belief that the nature is too beautiful and people are too valuable to destroy them with irresponsible businesses practices. I truly believe that an alternative approach to business is possible and that it is our responsibility to find it. So I would describe myself as an engaged researcher and teacher who is passionate about sustainability and who hopes to make a difference through my scholarship.


Can you recollect your first interaction with oikos? How has your relationship evolved and how do you feel about it? 

I joined oikos in 2009 as an oikos PhD fellow, which is a 3-year programme to conduct research on a sustainability-related topic. As part of this fellowship, I was also managing oikos Case Programme. The 3 years that I spent with oikos were amazing and I feel that I was really lucky to have had this opportunity.


How has your association with oikos benefitted you on the professional front? 

One of the features of the oikos PhD Fellowship is a combination of research and practice. It is often difficult to maintain focus on and commitment for a project that lasts 3 years (or potentially even longer as in the case of most PhD programmes), so it was great to have an opportunity to switch between academic research and hands-on management experience while running oikos Case Programme.


How integral is teaching as a facet of your personality? What do you enjoy most about teaching? 

I really enjoy interaction with my students and their inquisitive questions. It is only natural that I don’t always have answers as there are always limits to our knowledge. Some of these questions make me think about those aspects that I wouldn’t otherwise have thought about. For instance, the course that I am doing now is structured in a way that it answers one particular question that a student asked me last semester and I didn’t have a well defined answer.


As a teacher and a proponent of sustainability, what would be your message to the current as well as the future generations of students?

Stay positive and keep on asking questions. As the University of Bath, we aim to help our students develop critical skills, rather than simply learn something by heart. However, by doing this we run the risk of turning students into cold-hearted sceptics, which isn’t very helpful for those who work in the field of sustainability. In our field, we need bold, innovative solutions, so stay positive and inquisitive. Only by staying positive one can make a difference.


 Tell us a bit about the PhD topic and the award too. 

In my PhD I looked at sustainable entrepreneurial businesses and their growth strategies. One of the problems associated with business growth is that it often results in mission drift, or in other words a refocus of attention from social or environmental mission to profit generation. I was intrigued to identify business models that help sustainable businesses avoid mission drift.

It was a real surprise but also a real honour to receive an award for this research. It was a prize for the best dissertation in management studies granted by the Peter Werhahn Foundation.


What are your future endeavors in association with your PhD topic? 

Over the next year I will be trying to publish my PhD dissertation in academic journals as a series of articles.


Your message for the oikees. 

Stay positive!


Interview by Nimisha Ghorpade and Saurav Kumar Das