Doctoral Program

8 Questions with Doctoral student Stephanie Querbach

We met with Stephanie to talk about her experience as a doctoral student at WHU, her interest in the field of family business, and her reasons for choosing to do her doctoral studies at WHU.

Stephanie Querbach is a doctoral student at the Institute of Family Business of WHU. She is active in the WHU community and served as doctoral representative and member of the Senate in 2017 and 2018, member of the Committee for Safeguarding of Good Scientific Practice from 2016 to 2018, and member of the Doctoral Colloquium Team and Doctoral Event Team in 2017 and 2018.

Why did you decide to start a Doctoral Program?

The topic of family business has fascinated me for a long time. Within my bachelor and master theses, I looked at family businesses scientifically. While working in a family business, I gained practical insights and this experience strengthened my desire to explore the area further. A doctoral degree achieves this perfectly by allowing self-study of specific topics within the family business domain.

Why did you choose WHU’s Doctoral Program?

WHU was my one and only choice for a doctoral program based on three criteria.

First, WHU’s reputation as a private business school is proven through its rankings and extensive network. The school is known for high-quality education based on future-orientated research that is transmitted through its renowned and international faculty. 

Second, my special interest revolves around family businesses, and WHU is a university with an international family business research focus. Professor Dr. Nadine Kammerlander is a leading scholar in this area, and she heads the Institute of Family Business at WHU. Being affiliated with this institute has allowed me to gain access to excellent support and a highly relevant research network. 

Finally, the doctoral program at WHU focuses on each individual by allowing students the flexibility to choose from a challenging course portfolio without having to follow a fixed curriculum. Students are able to focus on complementary skills, theoretical content, and methodologies that are necessary for research projects, special interests, and future ambitions. This helps a lot in the way of writing scientific publications within international journals.

What does an average day look like for you at WHU?

My daily life varies depending on the academic season. I enjoy the diversity of my research projects and tasks at the institute. As well as preparing lectures, organizing guest talks, coaching students in project work, grading, giving presentations, and supervising exams, I also have intense research phases that include lengthy discussions with my supervisors and peers. 

As part of the Institute of Family Business, I’m also involved in tasks related to the organization of events such as the yearly Campus for Family Business, workshops, trips with students and alumni to family businesses, and the organization of group meetings and research seminars. 

What have you enjoyed the most so far?

I really enjoy the family culture of WHU, which makes working here both fun and helps to achieve outstanding results. The atmosphere of mutual trust translates into excellent support and collaboration with professors, administrative staff, and students. 

WHU is an ambitious, committed, and never-resting community and I appreciate the dynamic and performance-orientated environment. Interesting opportunities such as guest lectures, company presentations, workshops, and speeches often take place on campus. Moreover, I have been fortunate enough to attend several international conferences to present my research and engage with well-known scholars. 

What have you learned so far?

I think one of the main learnings within academia is how to deal with uncertainty and critique. When carrying out your research, you won’t know when or if it will pay off, and publishing the research to wider audience means extensive peer review processes. From this, I’ve learned to have my end goal in mind and to pursue it with dedication. 

A doctoral program also offers the unique opportunity to build up expert knowledge. Discussions with scholars from other areas of interest are extremely useful. I’ve recognized that there is not just one solution to a question or methodology.

Focusing on a research project means setting your own time schedule, which of course improves time management skills. Working efficiently, delivering preliminary results, and asking for feedback are key in driving the project forwards. 

How would you describe your relationship with your supervisor?

Throughout my doctoral studies, the support of my supervisor has been invaluable. We make the time to talk about my research through lively discussions, workshops, bi-monthly seminars, and over the phone, all of which provide the opportunity for feedback. My supervisor’s experience within academia, in-depth subject knowledge, and great network help me to focus on contributing to theory and practice.

How would you describe your relationship with the other doctoral students?

The doctoral community at WHU has been strengthened through numerous social activities that we organize during the year. For example, the weekly football training and the ladies’ lunch, cycling tours within our region, and running dinners are not only great fun, but also help to settle at WHU, build a great network, and make new friends. We also organize the annual Doctoral Colloquium, which allows us to get to know other research areas and methodologies.

The wide range of activities gives everyone of us the opportunity for involvement and commitment within the doctoral community. I enjoy actively participating in the social and political university life, contributing to decisions that shape the future of WHU.

What do you expect to still learn in the program?

Although I am already in the later stage of my doctoral studies, there is always more to learn. I hope I will continue to experience ‘eye-opening’ moments, which have happened several times in the past. Even when I assumed I had already been extensively involved in a topic, discussions with others repeatedly led to new approaches and research directions. This has completely influenced my thinking and comprehension skills.